Francis Scheuer is the smiley brand ambassador to 96.5 FM WSLR with a deep investment in our community. From the farmer’s market to Fogartyville music events, you can find Francis spreading the word about the rich mission of WSLR to present cultural, artistic and political programming in our community.
Are you from Sarasota, if not what where are you from and what brought you here?
I was born and raised in Detroit. I first came here in June of 1965 when my mother married into a well known Sarasota circus family. My wife and I moved here that summer and traveled around with the carnival. That’s when I fell in love with Sarasota.
When you moved to Sarasota, did you plan on working in the broadcasting industry?
Not really. I earned degrees in geology and literature. Then I went off to teach at the University level and traveled a lot. I did an apprenticeship in auto body repair, then moved to Hollywood. There my wife and I had a business which was a home and apartment sharing service. My wife wanted to move back to Europe as she had already lived there before and loved it. She convinced me to move and take our business with us so we left and moved around Europe. We had a home in Paris, another in Frankfurt and one in Valencia. We traveled through about 13 different countries. We stayed in Europe for 15 years.
How did you get your start with the radio station?
After our travels, I came back in 2002 to take care of my mother and stepfather. I met Arlene Sweeting at a political party event and we connected. I found out later that Alrene and station manager David Beaton had started a place in Bradenton next to the baseball stadium, a 60’s coffee house where you could listen to music, eat and socialize. It was called the Fogartyville Cafe. After running the cafe for a while and wanting to expand, the FCC made another frequency available here. Many groups were interested, however, we collaborated with New College to win the franchise for the station and it’s been ours ever since.
Fogartyville is an interesting name. How did it come about?
One day Arlene and David were out walking their dog (and station mascot), Rascal, when they went by the Fogartyville cemetery. David liked the way it sounded and told Arlene that’s what he wanted to name the cafe. After some research, he found out that in Bradenton there were outlying districts named for families. Fogartyville was named for the Fogarty family. After the cafe, the station name followed ensuite and now everyone knows us as Fogartyville.
How did the station end up in the Rosemary District?
Like I mentioned before, we collaborated with New College, so our very first station was a small room in Hamilton Hall on campus. After that we acquired an old house and worked out of that for 5 years until we saved up enough to buy this place on Kumquat. It used to be an old run down auto repair shop, but the building itself had a ton of potential to be great.
Sometimes the relationship between WSLR and Fogartyville can confuse people. How are the two connected?
They are actually separate entities, but we’re working on merging them in maybe a year or so. We’re looking at integrating their board structures and finances. We promote shows on WSLR at Fogartyville events. The station promotes events at Fogartyville so the two work hand in hand. Fogartyville provides the opportunity to go to events that have music that people wouldn’t usually see or hear and these events financially help support the station. WSLR and Fogartyville are separate 501(c)(3)’s, however, they were founded by the same people and mutually benefit one another.
What are some of the goals of Fogartyville and WSLR? How have they established a role in the Sarasota community?
We had to build a specific community within the community. The mission statement reads, “WSLR is non-profit FM radio station dedicated to serving the Sarasota community. It features locally produced programming and events that present cultural, artistic and political events that are underrepresented in the media. The goal is to inform and empower listeners to play an active role in WSLR and in their community.” We promote equality, peace, democracy, sustainability, health, social and economic justice and WSLR has been a very progressive station. We’re showing people what things can be done. We started with an idea and made it manifest. We’re trying to show the community the importance of using resources responsibly. Recently we installed solar power panels on the roof with the help of the community. We also collect rainwater in barrels and reuse it to water our foliage.
You told us a lot about the station’s role in the community but what does your role as station ambassador entail?
We didn’t have a person to promote our events and I understood enough about marketing and public relations, so I decided to take on the role of ambassador. I try to talk with every single person who attends our events. I try to build relationships with loyal attendees and new people as well. Right now we have a couple thousand people who we send emails to about the shows, it continues to grow. We’re always selling out.
Do you have a favorite past musician or a favorite talk show?
My favorite talk show is Surreal News. It’s been around for 10-11 years. It plays every Friday morning from 9-10 a.m. The show’s content is consistent, hard hitting and the hosts always have important people on their show. My favorite music is a jazz show that plays every Sunday from noon-3 p.m. It’s run by George Poconos who has all of this jazz knowledge and gives listeners an intimate feeling with the show.
What are some of your favorite places in the Rosemary District?
For restaurants, I like the Blue Rooster and The Rosemary. Also Mandeville Beer Garden– we’ve hosted events there with Rebekah. A lot of times we’ll order food after shows for our attendees. I also the like visiting the Farmers Market and the different theaters in the neighborhood.
You live around the corner from WSLR, what made you decide to move to the Rosemary District?
I can walk to work in 5 minutes. When I came back to look after my mother and stepfather, they passed and then I got the house. I was spending a lot of time coming to the station and had been reading about a guy in New York who moved close to his office and sold his car. He rode his bike to work every day and I liked the idea of that. One night I left my house in Kensington Park to go to the station for a show and it was dead quiet. I looked around and I could see about 20 houses with not one person outside. I was disappointed and figured there wasn’t going to be anything going on downtown. I parked outside the station and to my surprise, there were people all over. That kind of tipped the scales. I decided to move to the Rosemary District.
What does the future of WSLR and the Rosemary District look like for you? What are you most excited about?
WSLR is very innovative. Internally we’re trying to incorporate video into the studio. WSLR and Fogartyville are merging which will make us more flexible and powerful. We already have an affiliate station in Bradenton called WPVB and are in collaboration with Ace’s lounge. There are all kinds of other tweaks being done inside of the building. With all the people moving in there’s a whole new public, which just means more dynamic survival for us.