Here is part 2 (of 2) of my interview with Yolo Eats’ General Manager, Brett Gardenhire. Yolo Eats manages three entities; BlackPine Catering & Events, Maria’s Cantina, and Morgan’s On Main. Additionally, Yolo Eats manages the event venue at Windmill Farm & Vineyard. As a side note, Morgan’s On Main is open for business Monday through Saturday 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
My conversation with Brett continues as he expands on why Woodland will become a destination for visitors, gives us an introduction to Morgan’s On Main, and shares the challenges he faces, but welcomes, on this road to success. Read part 1 here.
How can Yolo Eats contribute to Woodland’s quest of being a destination?
We can be a brand to where others can look to it and think, “If they can do it, I can do it as well.”
For Winters that would be the Buckhorn, right?
The Buckhorn is a perfect example. And you have Preserve, which is another layer to add to the Buckhorn. But look at the gestation period of the Buckhorn. That’s decades; we don’t have decades. We need to move this thing quickly, NOW.
How can our town believe that we’re worthy of being a destination?
You go to towns that have a mix and match of world class brands, but they maintain that home-town feel. You can do it elegantly, with plan and strategy. But you have to do it with a strategy that will allow you to have a variation of businesses and offerings along one stretch of road. Let me put it this way, one of the things I love to do is look at portions of the great cities in the states that have a design, and with that design have thrived. Execution of a grand strategy; and Woodland has that chance. We have the right players involved, where everybody can make their money and grow, but we do it within the grander strategy.
When you joined Yolo Eats were you prepared for this work, this uphill charge?
Absolutely, this is what I’ve done in my previous three roles. The lodge had the same issues we’re facing now. I love how the community, in combination with the businesses, grow together. They are symbiotic with each other. You have to be able to grow together and that’s what small communities can achieve. Woodland is in a unique situation; it’s a village that in many ways is self-productive. Woodland can feed itself, something that can hold it’s own. So, it can only grow into better things by having people come and visit, from a tourism standpoint. From the outside, knowing I would be running a premium artisan business, what convinced me of what could be done was Nugget Market. Nugget thrives here.
Explain that line of thought? How does Nugget’s success prove that our town can be a destination?
Nugget is an artisan situation. You walk in there and they aren’t making excuses for being a cut above. They aren’t asking you to consider them to another alternative. Nugget may say, “We have a few things that other stores provide, but that’s not really why you come here.” It’s not necessary. Granted their headquarters is here, granted they’ve been in business for a very long time; but they could have moved somewhere else and said, “We just can’t make it here”, but they didn’t.
Nugget has provided the experiential service you talked about earlier.
They provide a multi-tiered experience and platform. They also have Food-4-Less. So, there is something for everyone. The fact that Nugget thrives here immediately told me, from a marketing and demographic standpoint, Woodland is ready to go.
Changing gears, tell me about Morgan’s On Main, Yolo Eats’ newest venture.
Morgan’s On Main is in response to the last four year of us serving our guests. We’ve been listening to what they want. We heard everything from steakhouse to just a place where everyone knows my name! So, Morgan’s On Main came from this idea of the guests wanting a touchdown point. What has pushed me to open this restaurant is to have Woodlanders walk in and say, “This is ours.” Especially since we are in the Cranston building, essentially hallowed ground. To perpetuate that we have to give the cuisine people want. Morgan’s On Main is a California Comfort Grill restaurant. For the ‘California’ feel, we take flavors and collide them together, mostly in our appetizers and sides. Then we have the ‘Comfort’ aspect, which means you’re at home. When you sit down, you should feel you are with family. The ‘Grill’ aspect lets Chef John spread his wings in ways of protein. He can do anything; one night our special may be sushi, but we also have seven types of steak on the menu.
What do you want Woodland to know about Yolo Eats?
Yolo Eats is here to give Woodland a calling card to the rest of the world. We know how to give you something experiential and different. In fact, Woodland in itself is an experience. Woodland is a proud place, and it should be a proud place. I want people to know that Woodland knows how to take care of you; you should visit us sometime.
Photos courtesy of Yolo Eats and Farrell Scott.