In 2001, Matt Robinette sat with his wife, Roberta, brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Cristina in a Tahoe cafe, where they pondered selling Roberta's Pueblo-style green chile in California, an area of the country that wasn't familiar with the stuff. It took nearly a decade -- as well as a move back to the Rockies -- but last year, Matt and Roberta opened Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl, a mobile cart slinging verde at farmers' markets and events all over the city.
And since first rolling onto the pavement, the company has moved quickly to keep growing.
"We've been in a mobile unit for a year," explains Cristina who, along with Jonathan, joined the company as an owner in January. "We were testing at farmers' markets and had great response, so we outfitted a mobile kitchen and started focusing on big events in the area, like Big Air and PrideFest. We had such great response there that we really wanted to take the concept into a permanent place."
The partners picked up a lease in Quebec Square in Stapleton -- at 7305 East 35th Avenue -- and began outfitting it, doing most of the work themselves and keeping the decor consistent with the appearance of the truck. The restaurant, which will feature a quick-serve line, a la Chipotle, will have green mountains painted on the walls along with catchphrases and the names of ski-area bowls. And the interior will preserve the brand focus on extreme sports and the Rocky Mountain lifestyle, complete with a flat screen that will be tuned to events like the X Games.
The menu, however, will expand. "Since our first location is in Stapleton, we'll be doing a lot of stuff that's family-oriented," explains Cristina. "We'll have mac and cheese for the kids, chili mac, chili cheese fries and a few more bowls. We'll also listen to our customer base. We'll definitely take feedback."
In addition, the new restaurant will serve wine and beer, with a focus on Colorado craft breweries. "It's been really fun deciding which ones we're going to go with," says the owner. "It's been a blast getting to know all the craft brewers."
Once the new space is open, the foursome will continue to look for other opportunities: "Our business model has always been keeping things small until we could take the next step," explains Cristina. "We've bootstrapped all of this. It's old-fashioned, grassroots growth, but our business plan definitely calls for more Rocky Mountain Chili Bowls." In particular, she cites future collaborations with ski areas and talks with Echo Mountain, which may include use of the mobile kitchen.
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Speaking of the mobile kitchen, the cart won't be parked. "We'll continue to do large events and use it for marketing purposes," she says.
The brick-and-mortar Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl is slated to open sometime around the beginning of November; check out the restaurant's Facebook page for updates.