- Pizzeria Locale plans West Highland restaurants.
- The pizza joint will take over the Common Grounds space.
- Chipotle is Pizzeria Locale’s partner.
The highly acclaimed Pizzeria Locale will replace the former Common Grounds space in the heart of West Highland.
The 2,000-square-foot space has been vacant after the original owners closed it almost a year ago after 21 years at 3484 W. 32nd Avenue, just east of Lowell Boulevard. When it left, it Common Grounds opened another store at a building at 2139 W. 44th Ave. in Sunnyside.
The space is across Lowell from a Chipotle Mexican Grill. Denver-based Chipotle is an equity partner and could become the majority owner Pizzeria Locale over time.
“I went with them for a couple of reasons,” said Ken Wolf, owner of the building.
“No. 1, I think they will be a great tenant,” said Wolf, who was unable to reach an agreement with a lease renewal for Common Grounds, which left the space in April 2013 after opening it in 1992.
“No. 2, I think they are going to be a great contributor to the neighborhood,” Wolf said about Pizzeria Locale, which was founded by Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey. They opened its first Denver Pizzeria last May at 550 Broadway in Denver and own one at 1730 Pearl St. in Boulder. They also own Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder.
“They have got a great reputation,” Wolf said. “They serve a great product.”
Stuckey said he has wanted to be in the neighborhood for quite some time. In fact, they considered the area for their first Denver store.
“We always wanted to be in the Highlands,” Stuckey said on Wednesday afternoon.
“We looked there 18 months ago and space was difficult to come by,” he said. “Then, this space became available.”
He said Chipotle, which has a store just to the west of their new space at Lowell and 32nd, found the space for them.
“Chipotle has guys on the ground looking for real estate every day,” Stuckey said. “Look, I’m not a real estate guy. But Chipotle, our partner, has been doing this for 20 years.”
Going forward, he said he could imagine future Pizzeria Locales also being close to Chipotles.
“It’s just the law of averages,” he said.
He expects the West Highland store will open before the end of the year.
“We haven’t even pulled our permits yet, but I think we will have it open in late fall,” he said.
Sarah Semple Brown of Semple Brown Design will design the space for them.
“We work with Sarah on all our stores,” Stuckey said.
He said the rent Wolf is charing is “really, really fair. For us, Denver is a little less expensive than Boulder and we get more people coming in. I’ll take that deal any day. Sign me up.”
He said he know parking will be a challenge in West Highland.
“Every restaurants and retailer along 32nd realizes parking is an issue; it just comes with the territory,” he said
“I think a lot of people will walk there, but it also is a neighborhood where a lot of people like to drive to and hang out,” Stuckey said.
“I think we will get a combination of people who live in the neighborhood and people driving there,” he said.
Just to the north, there are three parcels that could be developed into four- or five-story apartment buildings.
“I bet every single person who lives there likes pizza,” he said. “That will be good for business.”
There already are a number of pizza places in the area, but he said he thinks Pizzeria Locale should do well, despite the competition.
“I just think if you create a nice shop where people want to spend time and you have great employees that serve great food, you will do fine,” he said.
A pizza place was not Wolf’s first choice.
“I initially was looking for someone to replace Heidi’s (also a former tenant that was replaced by the Matador) and Common Grounds,” Wolf said.
“I thought I had that with Ink! I actually had a lease with Ink! and that lease was cancelled,” Wolf said.
He also had the space under contract to a breakfast place, “but they just weren’t able to pull it together financially.”
Last year, Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, which now has a market cap of about $18.3 billion, announced the leader in the healthy, fast-food casual business was investing in Pizzeria Locale.
Master sommelier Stuckey and executive chef Lachlan met while working at the Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry restaurants in Yountville, Calif. and Napa Valley.
The two are “extraordinary restaurateurs” and Frasca is “nationally acclaimed,” according to Ells.
Ells said he has been trying to do something with them since he met them more than 10 years ago at Frasca.
“We have had recurring conversations about how we can one day work together,” Ells said in a fourth-quarter conference call with Wall Street analysts.
“When that conversation led us to the possibility of developing a fast casual version of Pizzeria Locale, we knew that was the right opportunity,” Ells said.
He said the arrangement “gives Chipotle the ability to become a majority owner of Pizzeria Locale should the concept begin to see success in multiple locations.
“In addition to providing capital to open additional restaurants, Pizzeria Locale can also draw on Chipotle’s resources and expertise in other areas such as real estate, finance, purchasing and marketing,” Ells continued.
Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson are calling the shots in West Highland and future locations, said Chris Arnold, spokesman for Chipotle.
“We are helping Bobby and the team at Pizzeria Locale with real estate selection, but they are driving the operation and really have control over how things play out,” Arnold said.
“As for investment, we are partners with them in the fast-casual version of Pizzeria Locale (we have no involvement in the original restaurant in Boulder), but haven’t gotten into the details of what that investment/partnership looks like.”
Arnold said Pizzeria Locale has a great site in West Highland.
“Bottom line on that location is that it’s a neighborhood you want to be in in Denver, and that great space was available.”
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