That’s the question for tenants and management alike as everyone awaits the appointment of a receiver following Tuesday’s ruling by Judge Vicki Robertson that the owners, lead by Milbank Real Estate CEO Aaron Yashouafar, are in default on a $19 million mortgage with Capmark Bank.
Tenants want to know what’s going on. Tenants are anxious. That’s understandable. One thing to keep in mind as some of you out there contemplate storming the gates of the management office is that they’re just as much in the dark as anyone else. Today they work for Milbank. Today they have to follow orders from Los Angeles (where Yashouafar is based). The management team doesn’t know who they will be working for next week. They don’t even know if they have jobs.
Don’t be surprised if the vows of continuing the fight give way to something different. Over the next day or two I’ll be delving into Milbank’s actions elsewhere and what we might learn from this recent history. I don’t think the tower is in danger of going dark – there are far too many influential tenants in this complex, most notably Devon Energy, and enough interest by local players in acquiring this property and restoring it to its former glory.
For now, the best move tenants might have is to relax, stay vigilant, watch, listen, and of course let me know of any big changes!
Alright, I’m going out on a limb here… but what the heck.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the advent of social media – where it works, where it’s more hype than reality, and where there’s a lot of plain old “faking it until you make it” going on.
As many of you know, I was a reluctant convert to Twitter. I’m still not convinced it will be around forever – just witness the rise and fall of MySpace. But it’s certainly a factor right now, and downtown has seen some huge success stories thanks to Twitter and Facebook, most notably Big Truck Tacos, the Iguana Mexican Grill and Coop Ale.
What do the most successful business social media accounts have in common? They are all reflective of strong personalities – people actually running the business – creating and maintaining their own social media. There was no magic provided by a consultant, no person with 5,000 followers suddenly bringing fame and wealth to a client.
I know, this won’t be popular with some friends of mine in public relations who think big bucks are to be made with social media, either through seminars or representing clients on Twitter and Facebook. I’m sorry, but look at what we’ve seen to date – there is no magic. The best locally-owned businesses excel because they have an owner who is emotionally invested in that success – and they’re often out front, interacting with their customers. And that’s what we’ve seen with the Iguana Grill, Big Truck Tacos and Coop Ale. Why would social media be any different?
Don’t get mad at me for the headline on what is a night of triumph for Big Truck Tacos. I say “misfits” with only the utmost respect and yes, a fondness, for the intended subjects of this blog. It’s crazy to think that little more than a year has passed since I first met the “twins” at Big Truck Tacos. The restaurant at NW 23 and Dewey wasn’t open yet. But I had spent a few weeks following their Facebook page, which documented their efforts to create something different for Oklahoma City.
I was eager to meet Kathryn Mathis and Cally Johnson. I was familiar with Chris Lower, the experienced restaurant operator who had introduced the two veteran chefs. But Mathis and Johnson were complete strangers to me.
The restaurant hadn’t yet opened when I took the above photo. The walls were still being painted, the kitchen was still being set up, and the truck … well, it was big, but looking at it I wasn’t quite convinced it was entirely road-worthy. It was apparent early on that Cally was the daring extrovert and Kathryn was the more reserved thoughtful introvert. Kathryn and Cally took a building that was the ugly duckling along NW 23 and turned it into an inspiration for anyone seeking to revive the urban core. They took an ugly truck and turned it into a roving piece of art eagerly greeted throughout the metro area.
Mathis and Johnson didn’t pretend to be people they were not; indeed, their approach to running the restaurant often involves faith. You’ve got to believe that they will keep the long line moving. You’ve got to believe that if you order “the fifth,” that it will be damn good even though they won’t tell you what it is. You’ve got to believe that the communal tables you may have to share with complete strangers (seating is limited) might result in some great new acquaintances.
Some people are born with money, born with being naturals to be the coolest kids in school. And the rest of us? At some level or another, we’re misfits. We don’t fit neatly into ideals of what it means to be cool, to be perfect. And when you meet Cally and Kathryn, you see two people who had to work hard to get their shot at success. Credit Chris Lower with recognizing their potential. More than 14,000 people are “fans” of the taco twins. They’re fans of the cast of fellow “misfits” who work behind the scenes to make this restaurant the huge success it is.
It’s quite fitting that our local rock star celebrity, Wayne Coyne, stopped in at Big Truck Tacos on Thursday night before heading out of town for another concert series. Coyne himself relishes the life of the underdog. He lives in Classen-10-Penn – the same impoverished neighborhood where he got his start so very long ago. Despite the polling of the local weekly newspaper, Coyne and his fellow Flaming Lips are most likely to be seen in the upstart Plaza District, where as one friend recently noted your average retailer or artist is most likely subsisting on about $25,000 a year and living in the back of their shop or studio.
So tonight we now know that Wayne Coyne will soon be joined by the “taco twins” (a fun bit of irony aimed at the obvious and wonderful differences between Cally and Kathryn) in becoming the new cool kids in town. They knew they had a loyal following. Now they know that following was strong enough to win them $10,000 and a shot at appearing in a Food Network series that is televised nationwide.
Congratulations ladies. Just remember, don’t apologize for the bones, don’t hide the tattoos, never reveal what’s in the Fifth (well, you might be nice to me just once…), and bring back the Big Johnson just one more time. And whatever you do, remember how Wayne Coyne has stayed planted in Classen-10-Penn and don’t even think about abandoning that wonderfully small, worn-out former hamburger stand at NW 23 and Dewey. (History note: records indicate this building was erected in 1965 by B.D. Eddie. Building permits showed the cost of construction at $15,000 and it was first home to a Sparky’s Drive-In, which at one point had three locations in Oklahoma City.
I really enjoy seeing images like this at www.newsok.com/okcskyline
Light week for blogging, granted. I’ll have some interesting material later this weekend. For now, I offer nothing but flowers…
Somehow the link broke to my story on Sauced. Here’s the story:
Joe Jungmann and Lesley Rawlinson say they’ve spent most of their lives in the restaurant business and they’ve learned some lessons along the way to owning their own eatery, the Paseo Grill.
One lesson is on their minds a lot these days as the pair have watched Sauced – a popular pizzeria across the street – shut down and then become part of an expansion for their own business. The restaurant started with great fanfare in early 2007 – just months after the opening of the Paseo Grill – but online reviews reflected a drop in service and quality within the next two years.
The restaurant closed on Sept. 4, and that’s when landlord John Belt approached Jungmann and Rawlinson about buying out the restaurant from the prior owners.
“When you’re a small owner like us, and like they were, and when you’re successful, or not successful, the passion goes away,” Jungmann said. “And when the passion goes away, the quality goes away quickly.”
The pair, along with manager Elise Fischbein, say their acquisition of Sauced and the opening of The Whole Enchilada (next to the Skirvin Hilton) earlier this year are part of a grand plan designed to maintain their passion and prevent the sort of burn-out they witnessed across the street.
“Our goal is to have three or four concepts going,” Jungmann said. “That was our goal going into it. We believe we know how to run a restaurant. Now we’re learning how to own a restaurant. We have passionate people who care, who want to grow with the company, and they see we’re growing with Sauced, The Whole Enchilada and the Paseo Grill.”
Jungmann had a background managing the Red Rock Canyon Grill and before that was working at the Across the Border chain. He and Rawlinson dreamed of owning their own restaurant but found making the transition from management to ownership wouldn’t be easy.
“The hard part about going out on your own is not having A-plus experience that is expected by those who have space to rent along prime corridors,” Jungmann said.
They got their opportunity in the Paseo at the one-time home of El Charitto (later El Chicco). The building at 2909 Paseo was turned into a community center for several years before it was turned into a botique by owners John and Kathy Jacobson. One restaurant had attempted a short-lived go in the building when the space was offered to Jungmann and Rawlinson.
With the Paseo Grill doing steady business, the pair opened The Whole Enchilada several months ago in the ground floor of the Santa Fe Parking Garage – a space that had seen a series of restaurants come and go without success.
Rawlinson says the new restaurant is doing well, and they are testing out a kiosk and soon will add online ordering to handle the lunch-hour rush.
“Really, in that location we only have two to three hours where we can do business, so the more we can do to help people avoid lines, the better,” Rawlinson said.
The pair also are looking at tweaking the operation at Sauced.
Rawlinson said the years spent observing Sauced from their own restaurant have led them to conclude that killing lunch service, and opening just for dinner, is the right move starting out.
They also will be creating a glass enclosure for the patio and converting a room used for bands into more inside dining (previously inside seating at Sauced was limited). Such changes will expand seating to about 85.
Another perceived quirk with Sauced was its menu – part coffee shop, part pizzeria with a generous selection of handcrafted beers and wine.
Customers who complained about either poor service or inconsistent quality, Jungmann said, probably didn’t realize such situations arose from one of the pizza ovens being broken and the limited menu.
“We don’t want pizza taking forever,” Jungmann said. “So we’re putting more varieties on the menu so there will be other options.”
The changes, they say, play to their goal of keeping people happy.
“There is amount of time people have, and when you break that time they get upset,” Jungmann said. “And why upset people when they haven’t even had a chance to eat?”
Sometimes I run into a bit of confusion. Encyclopedia Britannia says it is in the southwest. Here’s their map.
Got this from the Bricktown Red Dirt Marketplace and Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium – what do you think?
Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium and Bricktown Marketplace want you to shop with them, so they will give you a parking rebate of $1 per $10 spent for parking when you present your original parking ticket for that day. The total limit is $5 on $50 (spent at either shop). The Red Dirt Emporium, which opened in 2007 on Canal Level, features Oklahoma made or themed goods that appeal to locals as well as visitors to the Bricktown entertainment district. The Bricktown Marketplace, opened in June of this year, is home to 42 locally-owned mini-stores with everything from Barons hockey pucks and apparel to antiques, art to clothing and gifts. The Marketplace is adding new vendors all of the time so be sure to check back regularly.
Tuesday marks two weeks since the Oklahoma City Council voted 6-2 against fronting $6.9 million for OKC Grand Prix LLC to start racing downtown in 2011. As the deal went down in flames, promoter Trent Ward told the council he had two weeks before his arrangements with the American LeMans organization would fall apart.
After the deal went down, Trent Ward and partner Brad Lund were anything but clear in what their next step would be. Ward indicated a second run would be unlikely. But Lund, who didn’t stick around for the press interviews after the vote, joined Ward in a canceled, then rescheduled press conference (90 minutes after the original was set) in announcing, well, I guess that maybe something else would happen. Or maybe not.
What we now know is that the partners have nothing on Tuesday’s city council agenda. And a glance at the pair’s Twitter account and Facebook page show they were gearing up a campaign (post on Sept. 7 – four days ago) to contradict a city staff analysis that showed American LeMans Grand Prix racing had a record of failing on temporary street tracks.
I’d love to see their take on these races, but the posts from early last week were apparently then wiped off the Internet.
Interesting. What did they have?
They might have had a report on all sorts of street-courses similar to what was posted about the same time on OKC Talk. But there’s a problem with that sort of counter-punch if that’s what it was. Consider that the information posted at OKC Talk was not limited to American LeMans Grand Prix. Read the resulting conversation here.
From what I’m hearing from City Hall, this deal is dead, especially in light of perceived insults by the Grand Prix promoters of the city council. But do Trent Ward and Brad Lund know it’s dead, if that’s indeed true? One good bet is their heads are still spinning from what they clearly thought was an easy slam dunk.