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Brothers balance personal, business lives as restaurateurs

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Harold and Brian Culmer always have shared a laugh when it comes to rivalry.

Harold, a University of Florida graduate, always laughs at Brian whenever the Gators defeat Florida State University, Brian's alma mater. The roles are reversed whenever the Seminoles come out on top.

Despite going to rival colleges, Harold, 38, and Brian, 35, both found an appreciation for Hungry Howie's Pizza when they were college students.

"It got me through many a long night of studying," said Harold, a resident of Stockbridge.

In October 2007, Harold and Brian opened a Hungry Howie's location at 10237 Tara Blvd., Jonesboro. It is their first business venture.

The brothers discussed the idea of going into business together for nearly three years. Each came from a different background. Harold worked in management for AMC movie theaters for 15 years, and Brian worked in the banking industry. They spent the first two years trying to determine which business to tackle.

Thinking back to their college experiences, they decided on Hungry Howie's.

During the next 12 months, the brothers established Culmination Holdings, LLC, to operate the facility, and spent roughly $300,000 on expenses, such as travel to training sessions offered by the Hungry Howie's Pizza company, purchasing equipment and leasing a location. They chose their location in Jonesboro by using the philosophy of "location, location, location."

"Jonesboro has a good mix of commercial and residential areas," said Brian. "We got a very convenient location on Tara Boulevard. The road is a busy thoroughfare and we are visible from the street."

Brian Culmer, who lives in Miami, handles the financial side of the business, while Harold oversees the day-to-day operations.

"We felt like we each knew different aspects of the business which would work well together," said Harold. "He brings the numbers to the table, and I'm responsible for getting the people excited about our pizzas."

Harold Culmer said the advantage of working with his brother is the pair knows each other's strengths and weakness. "It's like you're facing adversity with your greatest ally," Harold said. Brian cited his trust in his brother's abilities as a manager as an advantage.

The family aspect of their relationship results in the brothers injecting a high premium on respect into their business philosophy. "My brother and I share the same core values - treat each other with respect," said Brian. "We treat our employees and our customers with the same level of respect."

The brothers still have to find ways to balance their personal relationship with their business relationship as co-owners of a business. Both said the key is to keep the roles of relatives and businessmen separate.

"The main thing is you have to stay focused on the task," said Brian. "You have to take care of your employees, customers, and then your family. You have to remove the personalities from the equation sometimes."

The brothers eventually see the business as something their children could take over. Harold has two daughters, ages 4 and 6, and Brian has a son, who is 3.

"We intend to grow this business, and hopefully someday - If our children want to take over this business, they will," said Harold.