In a time when brick-and-mortar stores must compete with trucks in an industry that's less predictable than North Korea, restaurateur/sommelier/chef Patrick Mangold-White has managed to thrive with fresh and affordable fare on South Pearl Street. He started with sit-down breakfast at Gaia, which he and Jon Edwards opened in 2006; then added high-end pizza at Kaos and street tacos at Uno Mas. Pretty soon, he'll be bringing doughnuts, ice cream and waffles to the area -- and also taking his brand to Berkeley. Here's what Mangold-White has to say about his growing business, surviving tough times and the neighborhood that grounds him.
Westword: Gaia, Kaos, Uno Mas. You've got a supremely delicious corner on the Old South Pearl Street food market, and we hear there's a fourth place in the works.
Patrick Mangold-White: Not just a fourth place. I'm opening a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place -- all in the next six months!
Care to elaborate?
A few of the guys who broke away from Avery Brewing Company rented the 10,000-square-foot warehouse at 4526 Tennyson that used to be John's Garage. They approached me to put a Kaos and Uno Mas inside the new brewery. It will be a symbiotic place with delivery and in-house dining opening in May.
What about the sixth and seventh restaurants?
At 1468 South Pearl, we're doing a concept called DIP -- that's an acronym for doughnuts, ice cream and pastries. Morning, it will be all doughnuts. During the day will be ice cream, doughnuts and, who knows, maybe even ice cream in doughnuts. We'll attempt to capture the night crowd with coffee and sweets -- that's where the pastries come in. This is also scheduled for May.
And number seven?
On top of DIP, the long-term plan is to do a chicken concept. Treehouse Chicken: fried chicken and twelve sides rotating seasonally. That's it. It will be reservation-only, sixty seats, an hour and a half to eat -- really affordable, really desirable and, yeah, a little pompous.
Five restaurants on South Pearl. That's half of the eateries in the area. Why Pearl Street? What does the neighborhood mean to you?
I've been been a neighbor here for almost twenty years now. South Pearl is my livelihood. I've put my life savings and my life effort into it. I employ 75 people, and out of all this, that's my biggest joy. Most of my staff has been with me for three or more years. That says a lot for my corporation and how willing we are to elevate our people. I don't want to lose great people because they are stagnant, and that's a lot of why we are growing so fast this year. Continue reading for more on Mangold-White and how he thrives in a volatile industry.
You're growing fast. But let's back up. It all started with a simple breakfast concept, right?
Breakfast and brunch. My business partner, Jon Edwards, and I were looking everywhere in town to find a place for Gaia. We found out from the owner of the Village Cork that Gaia's space was going to be available. That was eight years ago. We built a breakfast place because we thought the neighborhood needed that. We're recently extended the house and hired a new chef, Richie Stothard, from Sessions and Table 6. Now we have the best, most affordable dinner on Pearl. I eat there four nights a week.
How have you managed to not just stay afloat but thrive in a time when others flounder?
It's community first within my buildings. We do things a little different. We give a lot of power and autonomy to our employees; we make people feel ownership in the business. Patrons come because they feel the vibe. A lot of owners don't get wet and dirty like we do, either.
Has it always come naturally?
No. It was really hard at first. It hit my family pretty hard opening Gaia. I actually built Pajama Baking Company, and it turned into a bad business deal that I ended up leaving. And take Kaos: We opened in November 2009, and they only had that little nosh house. We did delivery only, and we struggled all winter long. Then the wedding photographer in the house next door saw our patio filled the first day of March 2010. She came to us and said she was moving out, and I could take over the house in May. So we built that out. From the stroller to the walker, Kaos has a broad appeal, and higher-end pizza with the best ingredients available is what the neighborhood needed. It's the best I could replicate of what I ate down in Naples.
And you managed to stay married through all of the... chaos?
I've been married nineteen years. My wife owns a massage practice, and her father is Robert Mangold, the sculptor. Their family has been on this block for fortysomething years doing business, and they've owned a fair amount of property on tje 1200 block, too.
Mangold-White, huh? So you and your wife both took combined names?
I didn't want to take my wife's identity like that.
Continue reading for Mangold-White's food-buying practices and his three vices.
So you had breakfast and pizza. How'd you come up with the street tacos at Uno Mas?
It had been a dream for a while. The best tacos I ever had were in San Diego. There was this Mexican guy who would come to the beach with a trash can and a backpack. He takes the can off of his back, lights it and cooks tacos right there on the beach. Fish tacos. That's all he sold. After a few minutes, there would be thirty surfers lined up. He sold everything he had, packed up and left. I tried to replicate that by sticking to authentic Mexican food. Everything except the fish gets smoked then it gets braised and, finally, cooked on a cooktop later. The taco is a little bigger than what you'd get in Mexico. That's why we serve them with two tortillas -- so you can make two tacos with the one.
And that's just it, isn't it? You've gained a hearty following because your food is a value. It isn't expensive, but the quality's there. How do you accomplish that?
With good, fresh food. We have an arms-length distance relationship with our fishmonger and with our farms. Our fishmonger is a guy who has a boat down in Louisiana. We don't know what we are going to get until he calls and tells us days before it arrives.
You mentioned a past life as a surfer in California. How do you get from surfer to entrepreneur?
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I grew up in the '80s in San Diego, and I had to get away from drugs. After thirteen months of being homeless there, my sister convinced me to come to Denver. I decided to get my shit together, and I don't drink now. My three vices are marijuana cigarettes and coffee.
That gets us to Denver. What gets us to your Pearl Street empire?
I started out as a chef, and went into the wine business by mistake. I loved it at first. I did mostly sales, and traveled the world in wine. I went to the point of owning my own import and distribution company, and I suddenly felt stuck in a box. After my 401K lost money in 2008, I decided to control my own destiny.
Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.