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The Passion of Chili

The Passion of Chili

This is not a story about a passion for Chili, it’s about the passion of the chili. A fervor that encompasses more than a desire for just a hearty bowl of meat stewed in spices. And it doesn’t matter whether there are beans involved or if there’s a specific condiment to dress the potion. Because in the world of chili created by Brian Walusis and his partner Mason Downey in the small river town of Miamisburg, Ohio chili is elevated and celebrated as a locally inspired craft no less involved or honored than any other culinary artisan craft.

There are several meccas of chili in the United States. The few that come easily to mind are Albuquerque, New Mexico for its green chile and pork version. Then there’s the red chile and beef potion sold on the plazas of San Antonio for nearly 200 years by the Chili Queens. Why there’s still a reverent following of the hand chopped beef and pork version simmered with spices, tomatoes and beans once found only at the Hollywood restaurant of Dave Chasen. These are all examples of how great food can and will pop up in the most unimaginable places. So, to find a restaurant in the small hamlet of Miamisburg, Ohio dedicating itself to chili is not a stretch at all.

Miamisburg rests just south of Dayton and a short drive north from Cincinnati. And to chili fans, the mention of Cincinnati elicits visions of the famous Skyline Chili uniquely spiced and offered several different “ways”. There’s the 3 way, embellished with cooked spaghetti and cheddar cheese, the 4 way where either cooked pinto beans or diced onions are added, to the deluxe 5 way with the works of spaghetti, cheddar, onion and beans.  But Rivertown Chili has unabashedly looked past this homogenized “corporate” version to the long-standing traditions of the region brought to life by the Brian’s father who lovingly labored over his distinct style of chili, testing it often at cook-offs and other chili clashes. It now holds a place on the menu simply as John’s Chili.

Chili parlors have had a fortifying place in our culinary landscape for well over a century. But even though this eatery on the cinder path of the old Miami and Erie Canal is much more than just chili. Even though it still carries on the traditions of the old dedicated chili emporiums. The other side of this sometimes-dual personality restaurant are the fine dining breakfast additions by partner Mason. Together, Rivertown Chili and Breakfast is finding a place in the hearts of many in Southeast Ohio.

 

Some More Info;

Rivertown Chili and Breakfast

https://www.rivertownchili.com/

 Skyline Chili

https://www.skylinechili.com/

 Empress Chili

https://empresschilialexandria.com/

 Camp Washington Chili

http://campwashingtonchili.com/

 The Story of Cincinnati Style Chili

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnati_chili

Passion of The Chili Transcript

Brian:                    And she said, "The way you need to approach this is, within a year of launching that store, you need to be able to run for mayor of that town have a reasonable expectation of winning."

Tobie:                   I love that. That's great.

Brian:                    Yeah, and she said, "If you can't run for mayor and think you have a chance to win, you're not doing something right."

Tobie:                   All right, so when are you running for mayor?

Brian:                    Well, as a matter of fact, the mayor of Miamisburg is retiring next year, so ...

Tobie:                   Well, that was Brian Walusis of Miamisburg, Ohio, and we'll have to get back to his political aspirations later. Hi, my name is Tobie Nidetz, and this is Legends and Lies of Launching a Restaurant. Yeah, I know it's been a while, but I'm back, and I think we'll have a few more coming up here pretty soon, but still not promising anything. This podcast thing was a little more difficult than I thought it would be, to try and get people to actually sit down and talk to me. Anyway, if you have friends that you think would be great stories, please let me know. Send me a little note via my website at launchingarestaurant.com. Or if you just want to spread the word and help me create a Legends and Lies universe, that would be even better.

Tobie:                   This podcast today is, like I said, with Brian Walusis of Miamisburg, Ohio. He and his partner, Mason Downey, have created a restaurant called Rivertown Chili and breakfast. Brian is passionate about his chili, and Mason is passionate about fine-dining food, and they married the two together in an interesting location, right on the cinder path of the old Miami Erie Canal. Now there aren't any more mules passing their front door, but I think what they have created is something unique for the neighborhood and gives that area a new look at what chili can be.

Tobie:                   Now, when you mention chili in that area, it's so close to Cincinnati that the Skyline Chili is what people really think of the most, but Brian decided not to go that direction. He wanted to break out on his own and stay with what he felt were the traditions of his area where he grew up, around Dayton. So let's listen to Brian Walusis tell us how he scrapped his way into the world of chili via some very interesting routes. Talk to you on the other side.

Brian:                    I've been in the restaurant business on and off my entire working life, and I've been blessed that pretty much each stop that I've made, I've made some great contacts, been able to work with some great mentors, and feel like I've kind of been in the right place at the right time. When I was 16, I started as a grill cook at Wendy's, and-

Tobie:                   Okay.

Brian:                    Yeah and when I started, Dave Thomas was still very much hands-on in the business, but I was in one of the first stores that he opened outside of Columbus. If I'm not mistaken, I think it was Store 10.

Tobie:                   Amazing.

Brian:                    Yeah, so that was really cool because getting to be there at that point in time where the Dave Thomas philosophy of running restaurants was still very, very much a part of the culture-

Tobie:                   Oh, sure.

Brian:                    Yeah, it was a fantastic time to be there. Then after college, I took a position as a GM with Waffle House. The Waffle House franchise that I worked for here in Ohio was the fastest-growing Waffle House franchise in the United States. I think we were launching a new store every six months during that time period.

Tobie:                   Wow.

Brian:                    After that, I briefly was at Taco Bell, and I was a GM there, and I got to work under Rob Savage, who's the current COO of Yum! Brands.

Tobie:                   Yeah, I've heard the name. Sure.

Brian:                    Yeah, so he was my mentor, so I learned a lot from Rob. After that, I took a short break from the restaurant business and went into financial services, worked at MetLife. After a stint at MetLife, I started a small business with my brother and sister-in-law, importing Belgian chocolate.

Tobie:                   Huh.

Brian:                    Yeah, and it's a cool story. It's named after a woman named Marie Delluc, and she was a female entrepreneur and chocolatier who started her business during World War I.

Tobie:                   Wow.

Brian:                    Yeah, so she was a real trailblazer. And the company holds a royal warrant to the palace in Brussels, and we were their sole distributor in the US under the brand name, Madame Delluc.

Tobie:                   Oh, okay. All right.

Brian:                    So I had been involved in the original launch and then the second launch in Columbus. And my other sister-in-law, who I had worked for in the past in her catering business, was getting ready to launch a fine-dining restaurant here in Miamisburg, called Nibbles, and she had asked for my help and asked if I wanted to be involved in the launch.

Tobie:                   When was this? When did Nibbles open up?

Brian:                    That was January of 2015.

Tobie:                   Okay.

Brian:                    Yeah, and that was interesting. We had a chef from Cincinnati who came up and did some consulting with us to help us with the launch. The restaurant took off. She developed a really nice core following, and there was a lot of buzz associated with it. After the restaurant had been open for I guess about a year, I had approached Maria and asked if it would be okay if I would do a popup restaurant on the day that Nibbles was closed. They weren't open on Mondays, and as luck would have it, turned out that a lot of the restaurants in the immediate area were also closed on Mondays. So I thought, hey, well that's a good day to open, because there aren't a lot of choices.

Brian:                    At this point in time, I had done enough with launches and openings where I had felt like I had played a small role in helping other people launch their dream, and I kind of felt like, man, why don't I do this for myself?

Tobie:                   Now is the time, sure.

Brian:                    Yeah, yeah.

Tobie:                   This was, you said, about a year after she opened that you started this quest?

Brian:                    Yeah, it was about a year after Nibbles opened. Maria was like, "Hey, we're not even open on Mondays. We usually don't even start our prep until Tuesday morning. The restaurant's sitting empty. Go for it."

Tobie:                   When you had this opportunity, you said there was space in the market because there was nothing open, and now you had an actual physical space to do it in, what did you want to cook?

Brian:                    It had always been my dream to do a chili restaurant, and that started way back when I was in high school and really got going when I was at Waffle House. My family had these chili recipes that they had been doing for years and years and years, and my dad was into entering the local chili cook-offs. He had won first place in several of the area cook-offs and kind of developed a little bit of a reputation as a great amateur chili cook.

Brian:                    So I was the one in the family who I guess took the most interest in it and sort of took up the mantle of wanting to learn it and do it. When I was at Waffle House, Waffle House serves a chili, Bert's Chili, and the thing that I noticed about cooking the chili was that that dish seemed to elicit the most emotional responses from people.

Tobie:                   It does. It really does.

Brian:                    People would get just crazy about their take on how the chili should be made. "Oh, it's got to be this. It's got to be that. My mom made it this way," or "I used to get it at a chili parlor that made it that way." Everyone wanted to weigh in on how they thought it should be done or what the best chili was, or had a story about where they got the best chili. And I thought to myself, man, this kind of seems like there's something here. So I had that idea percolating for a long time, probably for close to 30 years. I kind of compared the thought in my head to the craft beer movement.

Tobie:                   Oh, yeah, sure. Sure.

Brian:                    Yeah, so go back 25 years ago, 30 years ago. I think the craft beer movement may have been incubating in other places, but here in southwest Ohio, your choices were, do you want a Bud Light or a Miller Lite?

Tobie:                   Yeah, that was pretty much nationwide. There's little pockets here and there. Like here in Minnesota, there was Summit Brewing that started in the early '80s, and they were first craft brewery here.

Brian:                    Wow.

Tobie:                   They're the oldest, and it really didn't kick off until honestly less than 10 years ago. That's when it really started.

Brian:                    It's immensely popular here now, but it took a good 10 years to educate people and for people to realize that this is good beer. So I think the craft chili, it's kind of the same way. And I don't know how other cities are, but around here, I think people still don't really get it. They don't understand it.

Tobie:                   Well, I'm going to mention a probably dirty word to you, but isn't Skyline the big dog in your neck of the woods?

Brian:                    Yeah, this is very much Skyline country, but the beltway around Cincinnati is Interstate 275, and everybody from this part of the state has the belief that anything that's located within the boundaries of Interstate 275 is its own state. It's almost not part of Ohio.

Tobie:                   That's hilarious.

Brian:                    It is. Yeah, Cincinnati's a weird town. I mean, it's got a great restaurant history, a great beer brewing tradition, but people in Cincinnati have their own ideas about things. They're fiercely loyal to the things that they believe are great about their town.

Brian:                    Skyline is the most mainstream and the most corporate, but they've got just a wealth of chili parlors in Cincinnati. Empress Chili is the oldest, and then there's Camp Washington. Camp Washington is the oldest continually operating family-owned chili parlor I think in the United States. A lot of people consider that to be the best, but it only has one location. And then they've got Gold Star, which is a chain. Gold Star is very popular. And then they have Skyline, which as I said, that's the corporate entity.

Brian:                    But you know, in Cincinnati, they'll argue about which one's the best, but if you're inside the boundaries of I-275, there is no chili other than Skyline, Gold Star, Camp Washington. That's it. As far as they're concerned, there's no other chili that's even worth having.

Tobie:                   You're pretending if you go outside of there. Okay. It sounds like barbecue in Kansas City. It's kind of the same thing.

Brian:                    Yeah, it's just like that, exactly. But I think it's really cool about how you mentioned the barbecue, because chili is a lot like that. It really started down in Texas and the Southwest, and as you move north, it changes its style and its approach. Obviously, by the time you get to Cincinnati, you've got the cinnamon, the chocolate, the clove. No self-respecting Texan would ever put a spoon in that bowl.

Tobie:                   They don't go near that stuff.

Brian:                    Right.

Tobie:                   Yeah, yeah.

Brian:                    What the original concept was, was that we would do, first of all, a house chili that would really showcase what a Dayton and Miami Valley chili was all about, because just like Cincinnati has their take on it, this part of Ohio has its own take. And it's just more of a Midwestern take. It's a chili with ground beef, beans, onions, tomatoes, ketchup. It's a chili you're going to find in a lot of places, but it's my dad's recipe that had won the chili cook-offs, and it is going to ring true to most people that come in here. If they're from here, they're going to say, "Yeah, that tastes like the chili that Mom used to make."

Tobie:                   Okay.

Brian:                    Yeah, so we have that. That's our John's Dayton chili. And the we have our Clashmore chili, which is a true Texas chili. That chili is true to what's considered to be the original trail-cook, cattle-drive chili that started back in the mid-1800s, probably similar to what the chili queens would have served at a market square in San Antonio back around the turn of the century, last century.

Tobie:                   Describe it to me.

Brian:                    It's meat-based. It is just a simple chili in the sense that it is based on meat and chili peppers. It's got some onion in it, we put a little bit of tomato in it, but the meat and the chili peppers are the star. We also have a vegetarian chili, so we try to cater to the vegetarian/vegan crowd. So if you like the idea of chili, but you don't eat meat, we've got a great vegetarian chili. And then the fourth chili that we do is what we call our heritage recipes, and those chilies ... it's a rotating menu, and we try to pay an homage to a famous chili from somewhere in the United States. So yeah, we've done the Joe Cooper's chili. He wrote kind of what's considered the bible on chili, called With or Without Beans.

Tobie:                   Okay.

Brian:                    Yeah, so we do his recipe. We've done Chasen's of Hollywood. That was Liz Taylor's favorite chili.

Tobie:                   Yeah, I've used that recipe often.

Brian:                    Oh, really? Yeah, cool, cool.

Tobie:                   Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah.

Brian:                    Yeah, so we try to keep that going. And then in the heritage recipe rotation, once a month we do a wild game week here in the restaurant, and so that chili is going to feature whatever wild game is on the menu.

Tobie:                   Oh, wow. Oh, that's great. Have you ever done the green pork chili ... I think it's even got potatoes in it ... out of New Mexico? That's one of my favorites.

Brian:                    Oh, yeah.

Tobie:                   Yeah. That's a green a chili.

Brian:                    Absolutely. Yeah, we do that. We do a chili verde with smoked chicken.

Tobie:                   Do you do some of your own smoking? You mentioned smoked bell peppers earlier.

Brian:                    Glad you asked that. That's part of the whole concept of the restaurant, is that almost all of our meats are smoked in house.

Tobie:                   Oh, wow.

Brian:                    Yeah, we smoke almost everything ourselves. And Mason, who's the executive chef, he is originally from Oregon. He's a combat vet. He's got a real interesting past, but he came up through the national park system out west, and he worked in kitchens at the hotels and the resorts.

Tobie:                   Oh, okay.

Brian:                    Yeah, and he also worked in some smokehouse restaurants out west. The restaurant, as it exists today, is actually best described as a marriage between the gourmet breakfast and the American chuckwagon.

Tobie:                   So how did you and Mason get together, then, this marriage of breakfast and chili? Who brought you together?

Brian:                    Yeah, it was kind of serendipitous because, as I said, we were doing the popup in the Nibbles space, and that kind of ran its course. And I had decided, after doing it for a few months, that hey, this could work. But there were a few things that I thought we really needed to make it happen, one of which was going to be a liquor license, which at the time, there was not one available in Miamisburg to be had. So I had kind of decided to just shelf the whole thing and kind of live the fight another day.

Brian:                    Not long after that, my sister-in-law, Maria, had an opportunity to expand, so she moved down the street to a bigger space, rebranded herself as Watermark. But she still had the lease on the Nibbles space, and it was sitting empty for a few months, and she had approached me and said, "Hey, why don't you open your chili restaurant? It's a turnkey solution. The space is sitting there empty. A lot of my equipment's still in there. Really, all you'd have to do is move in and put up new signs, and you could open the restaurant." So I thought about it, but I said, "Well, I just don't know. Without being able to serve beer, I just don't know if chili can work without that." I just didn't-

Tobie:                   Yeah, true.

Brian:                    I don't know if it's enough.

Tobie:                   Yeah. Didn't your sister have one already at Nibbles?

Brian:                    She did, but she took it with her over to the new space.

Tobie:                   Oh.

Brian:                    Yeah, so I kind of told her I wasn't sure about it, and so she said, "There's a sous-chef that's working over here, Mason, and he's kind of interested in doing a breakfast place over there. I'm kind of thinking maybe the two of you could somehow put something together that makes sense and partner up on it." So I said, "Well, that could work. There isn't a great breakfast place anywhere close by." And I knew that Mason was talented, so I said, "Yeah, let's talk about that." So what Mason brought to it was more of a chef-inspired menu, more of like a high-end breakfast kind of thing, with eggs benedict and omelets and smoked salmon and ... Well, you've seen our menu.

Tobie:                   Yeah. Yeah, I saw the menu and actually went on Instagram to look at some of the pictures, and they look great. That pineapple upside down stuffed french toast looks incredible. In fact, I may steal it, so ...

Brian:                    The great thing about Mason is he has something that money can't buy, and that's creativity. He could win a Chopped competition. If you gave him a basket of ingredients and said, "Hey, in five minutes, create an amazing dish for me," he could do it.

Tobie:                   Yeah, well, get him on there. Push him there.

Brian:                    So Mason brought his take on what he thought would be a good thing to do, and I of course already had my ideas about what I wanted to do. In addition to the breakfast, he had a wealth of experience in smoking and really knew his way around that piece of it. So we married the two together, and I'll have to tell you, people at first did not get it. They were scratching their heads, and a lot of people still are.

Tobie:                   The chili/breakfast combo, you mean? That didn't-

Brian:                    Yeah, yeah.

Tobie:                   Is it because in your neck of the woods, when a chili parlor is a chili parlor, that's all it does, is chili?

Brian:                    Yeah, most people around here, when they think of a chili parlor, they're definitely not thinking about breakfast. And a lot of people looked at that and said, "Well, you're Rivertown Chili, but it says you serve breakfast. I don't get it."

Tobie:                   All right. I'm assuming ... How long have you been open now, by the way?

Brian:                    We opened June 1st.

Tobie:                   All right, so in this six, seven months, people have kind of discovered your breakfast side, I hope, haven't they?

Brian:                    Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, the breakfast probably drew more people in, especially in the beginning, than the chili.

Tobie:                   Wow.

Brian:                    I think what people were assuming or people were expecting is, well, it's one kind of chili. You're going to go, and they're going to have a large chili, a small chili, and they'll give you some crackers with it, and they might have some side dishes and maybe a sandwich or a salad, but that's it. That's kind of what I think people were thinking.

Tobie:                   So when they saw your breakfast, it clicked, obviously. Are you in a residential area or more of a business area?

Brian:                    Sure. Well, Miamisburg has an old section and a new section. Where we are, down by the river, it's the old, historic town. So we're in what would be considered the downtown area, but it's surrounded by older residential areas.

Tobie:                   Got you, okay.

Brian:                    Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. And the building we're in is cool. It used to be a hotel. It was called the [Hamilton 00:24:55] Hotel, and it was located on the towpath of the Miami Erie Canal.

Tobie:                   Oh, wow. So you have no mules going through your front door, then, do you? Not now?

Brian:                    Nope, but our signature breakfast is called The Cinder Path Breakfast.

Tobie:                   Oh, okay. Well, when they discovered that you have both breakfast and chili, you've got this unique thing going on right now, how did you decide to now carry your marketing forward? Because it sounded like you wanted to start it off as really focusing on the chili, but then you also have this breakfast thing, and there's that mixed message thing that you said people were getting. Have you really defined that now in how you market this place?

Brian:                    We have. It's taken us four or five months to do it. Honestly, when we first opened, we really didn't have it figured out yet. I mean, Mason and I kind of sketched out some ideas on a napkin, so to speak. He came with a menu in mind. I had my items. I essentially said, "See how you can incorporate what I've got into your menu," which he very artfully did. But the concept that I had created was a little wonky, really, to try to do a breakfast place. At the popup restaurant, you ordered at the bar, the person at the bar took your order, handed it back to the kitchen, you went and sat down, and-

Tobie:                   Somebody brought it to you.

Brian:                    Yeah, someone brought you your food, or if it was to go, you could just sit at the bar and wait for your to-go order to come up. But we quickly ... or I quickly realized that doesn't really work with breakfast people. They want to sit down, look at the menu, think about it.

Tobie:                   Have some coffee, yeah.

Brian:                    Exactly, get a cup of coffee and read the paper. So I pretty much figured out a couple weeks in, this needs to change, we need to hire servers, we need to get real menus printed, people need to be seated. So the thing was evolving as we went, and the people that came in the first week that came in on the third week were confused and said, "Oh, I thought I was supposed to order at the bar."

Tobie:                   Yeah, yeah, I get that. When you're learning as you go, it confuses a few people, but eventually it settles in. You think it's now settled in at this point, or do you still have some confusion?

Brian:                    No, I think ... I mean, we still get the occasion person that will come in that says, "Yeah, I came the first week, and I can't believe how different this place is," but most people now either are loyal customers who come in almost every day and know what it is, or they are somebody who was referred by a friend and they kind of already have an expectation when they come in. And I think 99% of the time, that expectation is fulfilled and they're leaving happy.

Tobie:                   Well, I'm going to get back to marketing here for a second. Do you actually have a marketing plan now in place, or are you still kind of figuring it out and doing ...? I saw you're doing stuff on Instagram, you've got a pretty good Facebook, but what else are you doing?

Brian:                    Well, my approach on marketing, or my philosophy of this kind of a thing, goes back to something that I was told when I worked at Waffle House. The lady who owned the franchise, Judy Thomas, she said to me once, "Brian, when you open a Waffle House in a community where we have not previously had a restaurant, maybe they've heard of Waffle House, but there's a good chance they haven't eaten there. All they know is waffles. The way you need to approach this is, within a year of launching that store, you need to be able to run for mayor of that town and have a reasonable expectation of winning."

Tobie:                   I love that. That's great.

Brian:                    Yeah, and she said, "If you can't run for mayor and think you have a chance to win, you're not doing something right."

Tobie:                   All right, so when are you running for mayor?

Brian:                    Well, as a matter of fact, the mayor of Miamisburg is retiring next year, so ... My thing is, unless you have an established brand or unless you are an established brand, you're going to have to get out there and sell it, because you can't just make a great chili or make a fantastic eggs benedict and think the world's going to beat a path to your door. You've got to use every means at your disposable to get out there and tell people what you're doing and, if they like it, stress to them, "Please tell a friend."

Tobie:                   Sure. Now, like I said, I've seen your stuff on Facebook and Instagram. What else are you doing to run for mayor?

Brian:                    Well, it's largely all grassroots stuff. We belong to the Merchants Association. We make sure we're at all the meetings, we talk about what we're doing, talk about our product. Anytime there's an activity here locally, a fundraiser, anything like that, we always try to participate in those. We always try to show up, have a presence, bring food, donations, anything that we can do, whether that's calling a local radio station and identifying ourselves. We entered a chili cook-off at a town nearby here, and we all wore our Rivertown Chili shirts to the cook-off. That's how we're doing it. We're just trying to, person by person, let people know we're here, let people know what we're doing. And it seems to be gaining momentum.

Tobie:                   Well, I'm going to go back into the past here, because we kind of glossed over it a little bit. When you moved from popup to actually finished store, what was your funding process like? Did you self-fund, did you go out to the bank to get some money to make these minor changes, or was it so easy that you didn't need any extra money?

Brian:                    Yeah, well, I wouldn't say that I didn't need any extra money, but it was bootstrapped. One of the things that I had decided, or my wife had decided, [Diana 00:32:17], after we did the chocolate business and we were involved in that, was that she really didn't want to risk any of our own money. So her thing was, hey, we can do this, but any funds that we put into it have to be really out of surplus, and we're not taking out any loans, we're not doing credit cards, we're not borrowing. If we can self-fund as we go, then great. If not, then we're not going to do it.

Brian:                    So luckily, because we had more or less a turnkey approach where we needed very little to get it going, and my sister-in-law, Maria, already had a relationship with a restaurant equipment company, and so she introduced us to them, and just based on that referral, they were more than happy to help us and extend us a little credit, and we were able to get what we needed. And really, all we had to do, other than buy a minimal amount of equipment, was just redecorate, and we mostly redecorated with just personal items that we brought from home.

Tobie:                   Oh, sure. Yeah. Well, and then some of the soft costs can really get to you, though, like insurance and licensing and permits and all that stuff. Was that easy to do for you, though?

Brian:                    My sister-in-law extended a small loan to us from her business to cover some of those expenses.

Tobie:                   Oh, that's nice. That's nice.

Brian:                    Yeah. Yeah, it was very nice of her. We wouldn't have been able to do it without their help.

Tobie:                   Yeah, I'm sure she wanted somebody in there that was going to pay the rent, too, so ...

Brian:                    Exactly. Yeah, the space was sitting empty, and she still had the lease on it, so it was in her best interest to find a tenant to get in there.

Tobie:                   Yeah. Well, good. What's next for you guys? Where are you going? You've got this fabulous chili breakfast lunch spot. Are you going to expand to dinner, you think? Or is this enough for you right now?

Brian:                    Well, I mean, we have ambitious plans, for sure. We want to get the liquor license, and then once we get the liquor license, we want to add a dinner service. We want to do late nights on Fridays and Saturdays. That's on the docket. We're looking at expanding. There's a small building adjacent to where we're located. We're thinking about getting that, and that would allow us to set up a patio between the two buildings.

Tobie:                   Oh, nice. Nice.

Brian:                    Yeah. And then if we can get the patio, what we want to do during the nice weather is we want to hold smoking classes.

Tobie:                   Oh, fun. Yeah, that's good. That's good.

Brian:                    So that would be fun. Mason would teach people how to smoke meat, we could serve some beer and some chili. So we're really wanting to get into that. We're also thinking about actually buying a chuckwagon and entering some chuckwagon contests.

Tobie:                   What does that mean? An actual chuckwagon, like a-

Brian:                    Yeah, just like an old-style, cattle-drive chuckwagon, and it's kind of like the smoking competitions or the chili competitions, they have actual chuckwagon cook competitions, and we'd kind of like to-

Tobie:                   I didn't know that.

Brian:                    Yeah, they do. It's a thing, so we'd kind of like to get into that. But other than that, my plan is just to ride this wave as long as we can and see where it takes us. I don't necessarily think this will be the last and final venture that I'll ever do, but I'm approaching it more as just the latest learning opportunity. And if I do it again, well, I'll have learned a thing or two from this time around.

Tobie:                   Well, what's the prognosis on the liquor license?

Brian:                    There is one available right now. We just need to complete the application and pay the necessary fees to secure it, and then see if we can get approved.

Tobie:                   Was there anything that happened along the way that said to you either, "Oops, this is the wrong decision. I should not do this," or "Whatever happened just now is not going to allow me to open this restaurant"?

Brian:                    I mean, there were times in the initial conversation where I looked at it and I said, "I don't know if this can work. I don't know if I want to do it." Obviously, as you know, it's going to consume your life for-

Tobie:                   Yeah, absolutely.

Brian:                    Yeah, but those were more just self-doubts and not any serious reservation based on facts, where I said, "Oh, this can't work." Yeah.

Tobie:                   Is there anything about the restaurant, any funny story you want to tell before we kind of wrap things up?

Brian:                    The cool thing about this restaurant is we cater to every kind of customer here. I mean, we have the construction workers that come in that just want a bowl of chili in a brown bag, grab and go, up to some of the customers that spill over here from Watermark that want the wild game and the eggs benedict and all that good stuff, and everything in between, the families, the hipsters, you name it. A lot of the people have become like family, and somebody's got a funny story every day, which is one of the reasons we like to do it.

Tobie:                   Well, yeah, it is a great business for that. It's a people business. That's why you get into it.

Brian:                    Yeah.

Tobie:                   All right, well, talk to you soon.

Brian:                    Well, first of all, let me say I really appreciate you letting me participate. As I mentioned to you before, I'm a big fan of your work and what you've done, so being able to come on, it was kind of like a dream come true for me.

Tobie:                   Well, I appreciate that.

Brian:                    Yeah, that's why I got into this business, is for things like this to happen.

Tobie:                   Sure, sure. Well, that was Brian Walusis, and like I said, it was a fascinating story about how he got into the chili business. Love the fact that he was with the Dave Thomas team early on in the Wendy's days. Anyway, thanks for listening. Again, this is Legends and Lies of Launching a Restaurant, and I hope that you become as regular a guest and a customer as Brian has. Like I said, if you have any friends who you think would make great guests, send me a note and just spread the word yourself so we can create a little Legends and Lies universe. Talk to you soon.

 

 

The Devil in the Details

The Devil in the Details