When I walked into Foundation, The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” was playing in the background. Peter and Alex Cohen, brothers and owners of the shop, lounged on chairs as they chatted with two customers who were flipping through their newest shipment. “We started to sell records on Instagram to fund the other stuff we […]
Over the past three years, Brendan O’Connor has grown the Bungalower brand from a news blog to a multimedia company with print, radio and digital outlets. When he’s not monitoring local happenings, he might be found painting or reading about weird Orlando history. I talked to him about his Canadian upbringing and where to get the best tacos in town.
How did you get started with Bungalower?
Well, my friend, Matt Broffman, started it. I was working at Orlando Weekly. And they needed help with their calendar, and I apparently knew a lot of events that were happening, because I’m nosy and I like to be out and about all the time. He [Broffman] was getting recruited by Darden, and the city found out, so they snatched him up before Darden got him. He actually offered the job to my boyfriend, and he recommended me instead. So I just immediately put in my notice at the Weekly and ran over to Bungalower, and I’ve been here for three years.
What is it about Orlando that makes you care so much about the city?
I’ve lived in a lot of places. I’m from Canada, and I’ve been around the world, but I think, for whatever reason, when I first got here I hated it. I was working at Epcot, and I was like the “authentic Canadian.” And I thought that was Orlando. And then I started dating the guy that I’m with now, and he introduced me to Stardust when it was actually a video store, and Parliament House, and weird cool things that don’t exist anywhere else. And I loved it.
What was it like growing up in Canada?
Had a super Canadian upbringing. We had a dogsled team. My parents ran a cross-country ski resort. I had a trap line when I was a kid.
I left when I was twenty … I did an exchange program, when I was 16, to Turkey. And then I came back and I was like, “There is a whole world. And there’s nothing to do here.”
You mentioned that you’re an artist too. Tell me about that.
When I first got here, I’d bike-chain chairs to bus stops. That was like my jam; I just thought it was so funny. And I’d art them up. I’d take chairs that someone was throwing out, art them up, and then I’d chain them to a bus stop and then run away.
I work with an art group, ArtReach Orlando, and we do free arts opportunities for kids in Orange County. We just bought a warehouse in Parramore for the McRae artists.
I paint. I like to paint weird things on recycled paintings, like garage sale paintings. I’ll paint like a merman with a beard or something on it.
How do you keep up with everything going on in Orlando?
It’s like a lifestyle. This isn’t a job, it’s my life. You’re always working. Which I’m sure my boyfriend hates, but tough. Because it’s awesome. I love being able to go to bed at one in the morning — just hammered out a cool story about something.
We’re not just a blog anymore. Now we have a radio show on real radio 104.1 which we have to do every week. We’re launching a zine this August, which we’re super excited about. PBS is using our videos that we do with our partners Studio 17 TV. So we have radio, print, online … I want all the media.
So it’s like a whole brand now.
It is. And it’s all just based on a love of community.
What are your favorite things to write about?
Right now, I’m kind of obsessed with finding weird things on Craigslist. Like we just wrote about a yurt — someone was selling a yurt. Everything has to be in Orlando. I like writing about tiny houses. I’d say weird events, tacos, tiny houses.
Where are the best tacos in Orlando?
I’m going to get in trouble if I say favorites. I think Black Rooster is amazing. And it’s right across from my house, which is dangerous. I think Tin & Taco is great, downtown.
Are you working on any side projects right now?
So we’re doing this take on a zine, which I’m really excited about. It’ll just be eight pages. I wanted something to put between the ketchups and mustards at diners all over town. [It will have] some art, stories, a recurring paragraph story called “Storied Orlando.” You can read a new chapter every month.
What are you reading right now?
I’m actually reading a lot of guides, like illustrated city guides, because we want to do a city guide for Orlando. And I’m reading this fiction book about Portland, “Wildwood” I think it’s called. I love reading. I’m always reading something.
Where do you go for a night out either on a date or to relax?
My favorite theater is Plaza Cinema downtown because there are no kids and you can get a bucket of beer and giant leather chairs, and it’s usually not full. I love that. I love doing tours, like a cocktail tour, a taco tour. I just love going to many different places in the same day. And then going to the farmers market and getting all-you-can-drink mimosas for 12 bucks, and if it’s too hot then you go to World of Beer if we’re drinking. If not, just a nice little bike ride is great, or canoeing. I like to go to Wekiva Island. I still haven’t been to Silver Springs. I want to go there and see the monkeys. Or reading at home.