Thriving cities depend on the adventurous among us, who alter the urban landscape when they forge their own successful paths.
Each month, we ask an influential San Diegan: What was it like for you in the beginning?
Live: SDSU College Area
Work: Normal Heights/North Park
How Long: Since '86
What was the defining moment that led you to open Blind Lady Ale House and later to expand? Sitting in Live Wire after an indoor soccer game talking to my future partner, Lee Chase, about life and beer. We both had quit really good jobs (Lee quit as Master Brewer at Stone and I quit as Creative Director at Acerbis Italia) and wanted to simplify life. Opening a business didn’t really simplify anything, but it makes it way the f*** better. The expansion of opening Tiger!Tiger! was totally by accident. We weren’t looking to open another place–especially one so close to BLAH–but when we heard about the opportunity we were sucked in by that amazing wood oven and the idea of being on The Boulevard down the street from our favorite bar.
What struggles did you face starting your own business? There are four partners (Lee Chase, Jen Chase, Clea Hantman and myself), but none of us had any real restaurant or bar experience other than eating and drinking. So, everything about starting a brewpub was a struggle. Hiring good people–that’s the hardest part of running a business. Oh, and Yelp. Yelp was a huge pain in our asses. 1-star reviews because we’re too far from their house or because we make you stand in a line or because we don’t sell slices or because we aren’t NY style pizza.
What was the riskiest move you ever made? Signing a 20 year lease during a horrible economy. While businesses were closing their doors all over the place we signed for 10 years with two 5-year options with personal guarantees. That was nuts. There was a lot of talking ourselves in and out of it and lots of crying, but there was also lots of excitement about doing something awesome and something positive in our community.
If you could change the past, is there anything involving in your career that you would do differently? Nope. I feel like every job I’ve ever had has helped me get to this point. I’m actually pretty damn happy with the way it’s all worked out so far. Ask me again in a couple years.
Could you ever go back to a “normal job” working for someone else? For about a day and then I’d get fired. I’d be a horrible employee.
What personality traits must a successful restauranteur possess? Passion. That sounds totally lame, but it’s true. Don’t start something because you think it’s a good idea and will make money. Do it because you want to do it every day of your life and if it makes money that’s a total bonus.
If you could look back to the beginning of your career, what three words of advice would you now give yourself? Pay attention jackass. Lots of people think they know it all by the time they’re 25, but I feel like I learn something every day. I just wish I was more open to that when I was younger because I was one of those punk-ass-know-it-alls who probably drove my employers crazy.