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Photos by Laura Jane Pittman - The Comedy Zone hosts comedians Tuesday-Saturday, ranging from up-and-comers, which Pozin finds through working with other clubs around the country, to big-name acts. Tom Arnold and Henry Cho were recent headliners and h...
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 13, 201312:00 PM EST

Workspace: Fred Pozin, owner and general manager, Ramada Conference Center Jacksonville

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by: Laura Jane Pittman

As owner and general manager of the Ramada Conference Center Jacksonville, Fred Pozin operates four businesses under one roof.

The 3130 Hartley Road center comprises the Ramada Inn Mandarin, Gigi's Restaurant, The Comedy Zone and a banquet and catering service.

"I like to say it's a clown in the circus spinning plates on a stick," said Pozin. "Each one has a different dynamic and its own needs. It takes a lot out of you and requires a lot of hours."

Despite the demands, Pozin said he loves his job. He knew from the time he was in middle school that he wanted to enter the hotel business — he was weaned in it.

"My parents owned a Holiday Inn in Orange Park, where we lived. I spent many a night running ice buckets and rollaways to rooms," said Pozin, the youngest of six children and the only one to enter the family business.

He said that after high school, he attended Florida State University because it had "one of the best hospitality schools in the country."

After working for Hyatt for several years after college, Pozin had the opportunity to join his father at the Ramada. The family has owned it since 1984.

The Comedy Zone is a dedicated comedy club and "part of the fun of the job," Pozin said. It originally was a live dance room, but Pozin said he saw the potential for a different kind of entertainment –– and one that did not have much competition.

After 25 years running The Comedy Zone, Pozin has hosted many major acts on the comedy circuit. It has shows Tuesday-Saturday.

Pozin conducts an eight-week training class for budding comedians who are able to work with and learn from his "farm league" of about 35 local comedians who regularly open for his main acts.

Pozin gives them a crash course in the business side of the industry. There are about 20 headliners on the comedy circuit around the country who started from his club, he said.

"Comedy is an art form that I think is unappreciated. To be able to walk on stage, craft a joke, and perform it in a way that is truly funny is a gift," said Pozin. "One of my biggest frustrations is convincing people to not wait for the big name, although those are certainly fun to see. All of our shows are good, including great up-and-comers."

Away from the building, he also serves on the Duval County Tourist Development Council, the governing body that oversees the collection and distribution of the local-option tourist development.

He also can be seen as an anomaly in the hospitality industry, where management can often be a revolving door. He said one of his secrets is putting together a team of employees who treat customers as friends.

"Many of my staff have been here for years and I push my people to get to know their customers," said Pozin. "Because we're not the new kids on the block, we have to constantly remind people we're still around," he said.

(904) 356-2466

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