With Postino, new 'taco house,' unlucky Gilbert corner sees fortunes changing - East Valley Tribune: Business

From Grainbelt to gold standard With Postino, new 'taco house,' unlucky Gilbert corner sees fortunes changing

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Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013 11:12 am | Updated: 7:21 pm, Fri May 24, 2013.

After a successful launch of Postino East, Upward Projects will open its second restaurant concept, Joyride Taco House, June 3 in the Heritage District in Gilbert.

“We had felt the building had significant potential given its location, if designed and renovated property, it could fit perfectly into the downtown Heritage District,” said Mike Bennan, owner of Oakmark Development, which owns the property.

The location for the new restaurant, known locally as the GrainBelt building, saw five restaurants open and close within a decade, the last of which closed in 2008.

“It almost looked like a bank more than it did a restaurant,” Bennan said of the original building. “Our vision was to open the building up to the street, to be visible from the sidewalk.”

The building, which has gone through extensive remodeling, was split in two smaller locations. The entrances were changed and the addition of a bocce ball court was installed in the back patio of Postino.

“Our goal was to transform it, to make it unrecognizable,” he said.

Upward Projects, owned by the two husband and wife teams of Craig and Kris DeMarco and Lauren and Wyatt Bailey, began bringing different dining concepts to the Phoenix area more than a decade ago, with their first Postino location in Arcadia.

The original 6,300 square-foot building has been split into a 2,700 square-foot section for Postino and 3,500 square-feet for Joyride. The property also has space for another building that Oakmark Development and Upward Projects are currently negotiating.

“We’re working with him on a deal to put another restaurant, but we’d love to have another one there,” Bailey said. “It goes along with our cluster model.”

Part of the plan for success was changing the location to what makes the other Upward Projects — Windsor, Chum and Federal Pizza, in addition to Postino — locations a success.

“A big thing splitting it in two — it was huge,” said Lauren Bailey, owner of Upward Projects. “It had a waterfall and burning torches inside.”

The other eateries all try to create a more intimate experiences that can’t be replicated anywhere else, she said.

“One of our passions is to adapt, reuse, repurpose,” said Craig DeMarco, an owner of Upward Projects.

Their projects are meant to become part of the neighborhood, surrounded on four sides by neighborhoods, Bailey said.

“It had to fit in, but not look too plain,” she said.

Bailey and Kris DeMarco, Craig’s wife and business partner, are in charge of creating a design for the restaurant that will be simulatiously

Nearly all the decorations were either designed especially for the space or are one-of-a-kind pieces, Bailey said.

Additionally, they try to cluster their stores in one location — the Phoenix Postino is just around the corner from Upward Project’s Windsor, a neighborhood bar, Churn, a nostalgic ice cream parlor, and Federal Pizza, Bailey said.

“Our customers have been requesting something in this vein,” DeMarco said about the choice to open a Mexican-inspired restaurant.

After conducting extensive research in California and Mexico City, the group decided to develop a bright colored palate with great food, Bailey said.

Currently, the restaurant is set up to be successful, Bailey said.

“It’s the busiest store in our company — it’s packed all the time,” DeMarco said.

But the success is linked the synergy of the downtown area, he said. If you looked at a regional mall, there would be dozens of restaurants that line the outside, so having this food density is similar to other regional attractions.

“Clearly the success of Joe’s (Real BBQ) and Oreganos, Liberty Market, and others, the pedestrian oriented feel the water tower, the infrastructure that the town of Gilbert has put in to,” Bennan said. “It was apparent to us that this area would become very vibrant.”

The condemning of abandoned property, renovating the water tower and putting a park area underneath, while also updating utilities like street lights and drainage systems have made the area a prime place for development, Bennan said.

“I just want to stress, how grateful Lauren and I are to the economic development team,” DeMarco said. “The town of Gilbert was so helpful. They were always on the site, always open to us. They’re really trying to create a synergy between the businesses in the town.”

The town was “super fast,” DeMarco said. They received their permitting in about 10 days.

“That’s very not normal in the other areas we work in,” he said.

Price points for the restaurant will be similar to its other locations, with entrees and appetizers running about $10 to $12. However, expect to see their $5 until 5 p.m. special at the restaurant.

The location is expected to appeal to customers from all walks of life, Bailey said.

“Bring the whole family, the kids,” DeMarco said. “But we also want it to be a great place for busy moms to meet with girlfriends for margaritas or a guys’ night for Coronas.”

“We’re really hoping we’re going to touch a bunch of different demographics,” Bailey said.

Expect hours for Joyride to be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Joyride Taco House will be located at 302 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert and additional information can be found at www.Joyridetacohouse.com.

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