The phrase “land of opportunity” conjures up the most noble of business ideals: innovation, perseverance, tenacity, transformation, success, and financial security. These ideals are at the heart of small business and are the backbone of economic success in our country.
At NewMark Merrill, we believe in opportunity for all and are proud to provide a lucrative and viable platform for those seeking to set out on their own and follow their dream. We value the role small businesses play in their local communities, economies and the greater good of this country. We seek business owners who have the desire to better themselves and their surrounding communities through entrepreneurship.
Approximately 65% of the tenants at NewMark Merrill properties are local entrepreneurs or small business owners.
Our company has a team of dedicated business “mentors” to provide consultation and services to our small business partners, with the goal of setting them up to compete and succeed in any business environment.
The spirit, vibrancy and distinctive characteristics of these sellers, restaurateurs and service providers add a spark to our properties, local flavor to the shopping experience and a powerful boost to our local economies. In short, they make our communities a better place to live.
There has never been a more challenging time to be a small business owner, but we as a company stand by our entrepreneurs every step of the way, and together, we forge ahead into the future.
Here are some of their unique stories:
The Mighty Axe, Janss Marketplace
After another particularly harrowing day as part of a Fortune 100 corporate team, working insane hours week-after-week, Ryan Bradley had a career epiphany. Why was he pouring his heart and soul into someone else’s dream? Why had developing and marketing medicines become his #1 priority in life? On the heels of COVID lockdowns, he realized what people really needed was a different kind of medicine — one with connections, experiences, joy and laughter. And he was the man to give it to them.
To some, Ryan’s epiphany was just plain crazy. It would require more than the sweat equity and business smarts that every startup needs. It would also necessitate a dramatic life shift and reimagining of Ryan’s career goals. But Ryan was up for the challenge. He sharpened his entrepreneurial skills and opened The Mighty Axe at Janss Marketplace — a lively entertainment venue where people gather, enjoy craft ales, and of course, throw axes like seasoned lumberjacks…seriously.
Those doubters who thought Ryan was crazy — everyone from friends and family to landlords and municipalities — warned him away from his dream. NewMark Merrill recognized the idea’s potential, embraced the vision and partnered with Ryan to make it a reality. NMC was patient, understanding and flexible during a time of unknowns, restrictions and endless complications.
Today, The Mighty Axe is that good-medicine gathering spot Ryan dreamed of. Regular customers throw real axes at wooden targets in a safe environment. They enjoy the craftiest ales in Ventura County, and dine on culinary delights from sushi to pizza to wings brought in by partner restaurants. The Mighty Axe is even certified by the World Axe Throwing League and offers competitive throwing opportunities and tournaments to his clientele. But most importantly, it’s a place to gather and enjoy time together — in a therapeutic healing way.
Ryan’s days at The Mighty Axe still require all of his heart & soul, long hours and daily challenges. But the culmination of his quest for creating something meaningful makes it all worthwhile. He’s in charge — creating community jobs, employing great people, making all the decisions and setting his own schedule. Finally, his career is right on target.
OZO Coffee Company, Village at the Peaks
For many, their neighborhood coffee spot is synonymous with a good morning. It’s the place where your coffee is fresh-roasted, breakfast is wholesome and fast, and the atmosphere is quirky and inviting. Justin Hartman has made OZO Coffee Company all of those things and a success to boot. With five OZO locations in and around the Boulder area, including Village at the Peaks, Justin is brewing up local favorites 7 days a week. Success has not been without its challenges, particularly during the recent COVID lockdowns, but Justin has persevered and achieved his own American dream.
Before OZO, Justin honed his business sense managing another owner’s successful company. The experience gave him the know-how and inspiration to branch out on his own. Like accomplishing anything great, it didn’t come easy. OZO Coffee launched with very little up-front cash, no outside investors and a small SBA loan. The stress really set in when costs exceeded his initial projections by 30% and his opening timeline shifted by 3 months.
But in the midst of this challenging journey and especially during the COVID-plagued months of 2020, Justin realized he’d found a true-blue partner in NewMark Merrill. Unlike the sense of “being on your own” at other locations, the Village at the Peaks organization exemplified a team-oriented environment. NMC regularly planned meaningful and relevant community events to drive traffic. During the pandemic they bolstered efforts in establishing additional outdoor dining areas, developed a comprehensive signage program and ensured sanitation and safety were fully supported.
Justin finds the rewards of being a small business owner to be plentiful. He’s a proud supporter of local charities, and he’s motivated daily by his desire to connect with and support diversity in the community. He’s forging his own path to success and proving that coffee brings people together.
Chick-fil-A, Melrose Park
Today the name Chick-fil-A is synonymous with the burgeoning chicken craze. That wasn’t the case in 2016 in Melrose Park, IL when Matt Rhodes partnered with Chick-fil-A to open a local franchise where only about 12% of the market had even HEARD of the now very popular chicken eatery. But Matt knew the culture and the opportunities that he and this operation could bring would ultimately benefit this tight-knit community.
Matt was raised in an entrepreneurial family. Always focused on caring for others, his parents started a local medical supply company where they provided hospital beds, walkers, oxygen equipment and wheelchairs for in-home care. Matt was witness to their strong work ethic and to the value they brought their local community.
Following in his parent’s footsteps, Matt was also driven to start his own business — to succeed, yes, but also to make a positive impact on the community. Matt describes his Chick-fil-A franchise as being in “the people business masked by chicken”. He’s big on team leadership and empowers his employees to create little moments of kindness, surprise and care throughout the day.
Newmark Merrill has been instrumental in supporting the Melrose Park Chick-fil-A. Struggling with initially-low Chick-fil-A brand awareness, Matt needed all the help he could get to bring customers through the door. NMC’s deep commitment to hosting ongoing community events consistently drove new business to the property. Matt knew once these newbies experienced their unique brand of customer service and tasted the chicken, they’d become fans. The NMC/Chick-fil-A combo was a recipe for success.
Today, the business is booming and Matt’s team members are thriving both personally and professionally. He’s already mentored one leader to purchase her own franchise and has three more in the pipeline to do the same. Watching his team members learn, grow and achieve is Matt’s true passion. And he’s pleased that the people of Melrose Park are clucking about Chick-fil-A, the best chicken in town.
BJ’s Market & Bakery, Stony Island Plaza
After graduating from culinary school, John Meyer, who had also earned a marketing degree from Chicago State University, was chef-ready to lead a kitchen. He had turned childhood inspiration (his mom & grandma’s joy of cooking) into a passion backed by classical training in French-American cuisine. All he needed now was an opportunity…but no one would hire him. It was an early lesson in perseverance, patience and self-belief that would eventually lead John down the path to entrepreneurship and his own restaurant.
Despite the initial kitchen doors that didn’t open, John (now Chef Meyer) ultimately landed a coveted spot at the prestigious University Club of Chicago, where he honed his skills with their very discerning clientele. His first solo venture came soon after — a “white tablecloth” restaurant in the historic Pullman area on Chicago’s south side. The Retreat Restaurant was a major success, garnering top reviews, cementing John’s culinary reputation, and setting the stage for his next venture – fine southern cooking at BJ’s Market & Bakery.
Now a fixture at Stony Island Plaza, BJ’s started with John’s desire to create a place where memories could be made over plates of great food shared amongst family and friends. As with any small business start-up, there were hiccups along the way. Capital, staffing issues, and more plagued the first years, but soon enough, BJ’s fell into a smooth and consistent rhythm of solid business growth. When COVID hit in March 2020, there were certainly more bumps. Menus were modified, take-out processes were streamlined and bottom line adjustments were necessary. But all along the way, NewMark Merrill was there for John and his team.
“They truly care about their properties and tenants, and it shows by their responsiveness, availability and ongoing proactive communication.”
After nearly 30 years of providing “food for the soul”, Chef Meyer has hit his stride at BJ’s, where locals have wholly embraced his home-style fare. Success is sweet, but John truly values what can’t be quantified — a daily mixture of customer smiles, long-term employee growth and development, and decisions that result in an immediate impact. He recognizes that people are the most important ingredient in his recipe for success.
Trish & Ken Church
Church’s ATA Martial Arts, Piazza Carmel
Every martial arts studio aspires to greatness by creating exceptional students, who become exceptional human beings — creating a world champion is a once in a lifetime dream. But for Church’s Martial Arts, Piazza Carmel’s locally-owned Taekwondo Martial Arts studio, that dream has flourished beyond imagination. They have created more American Taekwondo Association (ATA) World Champions than any other studio in the country! With more than 130,000 active members and 1 million+ students trained to date, Church’s is a recognized powerhouse within the industry. How do they do it? According to Trish Church, who owns the business with husband Ken, “Simply said — it’s just HARD work.”
Hard work and discipline have always been guiding principles for the Church’s. When they launched their second location at Piazza Carmel in 2002, they started with a comprehensive and precise business plan that outlined all aspects of their financial sources and goals, marketing/PR strategies and instructional operations.
With preparation like that, start-up obstacles were few, but the team at Church’s has always valued the support they’ve received from their Carmel Valley landlord, Newmark Merrill. From the monthly tenant meetings designed to gauge tenants’ performances, needs, and challenges, to the ongoing marketing support and successful events that drive traffic, the Church’s consider NMC an incredible partner. They have — half-jokingly — requested that NMC purchase the shopping center that houses their original studio — just 15 minutes north in Encinitas, CA.
Church’s Martial Arts has become an institution in the community, a trusted place where parents know their children will be taught a ceaseless work ethic and respect for all — life skills that have bolstered students’ success in martial arts and more importantly, in life overall. Former students have landed spots at some of the most prestigious universities — Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Brown, Duke, Notre Dame and many more.
“It’s important to have a good reputation in your communities.”
For the Church’s, entrepreneurship has provided an incredible sense of connection at their studios. She and Ken treasure the privilege they’ve earned of developing the hopes, dreams and minds of the next generation.
Ohana Hawaiian BBQ, Mission Marketplace
Iris Ramirez’s dad always dreamed of having his own restaurant. In 2005, when he first opened the doors at Ohana Hawaiian BBQ in Mission Marketplace, he never imagined that dream would span a generation and continue beyond his years. After he passed, Ramirez’s own “Ohana”(family in Hawaiian) took the reins, continuing his tradition of bringing authentic Hawaiian flavor to the Oceanside, CA community.
The Oceanside trade area is home to a substantial population of Islanders, and Ohana Hawaiian BBQ has genuinely become a key part of the community fabric there. The food is authentic, but it’s more than that. From offering employment and training opportunities, to supporting local organizations, to maintaining original family recipes and flavors, they have established a strong and frequent set of regular clientele who experience a “taste of home” when they come for a bite.
Over the years, NewMark Merrill’s unwavering support has helped Ohana thrive and grow. According to Iris, the NMC team consistently supports each and every tenant in truly meaningful ways. And for this, Iris and her family are truly grateful. During the pandemic, particularly, every opportunity imaginable was provided to keep tenants operating. Most impressive to Iris, NMC organized and provided donations to overwhelmed teachers and healthcare workers, and hosted socially-distanced events to normalize life for children. In Iris’ opinion, NMC is a company that has an undisputed stake in the game.
Iris and her family consider their clients extended Ohana. They’ve watched babies go from first steps to high school graduation and said sad goodbyes to those who moved away, then happily reunited when they return for a meal during visits home. Customers they’ve known for years still come from farther than you’d think for the food, fun and family. Iris says her dad made owning a business seem easy. It hasn’t always been, but he left her with his recipe for success — to be consistent in delivering greatness to the customer.
“We try our best to keep the Hawaiian flavor in our food.”
Krav Maga, Broomfield Plaza
James Hiromasa has learned so much since launching his business in 2003 that he could write a book about it — and that’s exactly what he’s doing. A journey that began when James discovered Krav Maga, a self-defense technique best known as the official discipline for the Israel Defense Forces, ultimately led to his successful multi-studio business including a location at Broomfield Plaza.
As a martial arts enthusiast, James had recognized a real void and lack of realistic self-defense training programs for adults. Krav Maga was a revelation. After becoming one of the first certified teachers in the U.S. in 1997, he decided to share this potentially life-saving skill with as many good people as possible.
Starting out provided plenty of challenges, but funding was by far the biggest.
“We quite literally built the business up from zero.”
With three young children to raise at home (including a newborn), a one hour each way everyday commute, and countless other hurdles to clear, the beginning was intense, even for this disciplined martial arts master.
James’ mantra, “effort = outcome”, was invaluable, and while others romanticize the concept of “being their own boss”, James approaches small business ownership with a different mindset. He has hundreds of bosses (clients) who he works tirelessly to please. In James’ mind, having the ability to direct real-time changes, constantly evolve ideas and goals and see the immediate impact of efforts is priceless, but what really drives him is achieving success for his students in the studio.
Although James has studios in other locations, he points out that the teams at Broomfield Plaza and NewMark Merrill have much better communication and ongoing support than his other property managers. He’s pleased to be a part of such an inclusive and caring team, where he can focus on what he does best — teaching Krav Maga to all.
Because of their years of hard work and commitment, the community has grown to view the Krav Maga team as a group of top experts in their field, delivering honest, professional training that can’t be found elsewhere. James has a lot to say about what it means to have an American dream, to start a business — too much to include here. You’ll just have to read the book.
Yolanda De la Torre
Victoria’s Mexican Food, Mission Marketplace
Looking for better opportunities for their family, the De la Torres opened Victoria’s Mexican Food at Mission Marketplace in 1996, and over the 25 years since, it has become a verified local favorite. In Oceanside, CA, where Mexican fare can be found on every corner, that’s quite a feat. Customers consistently rave about their great service, great prices and the delicious, authentic food. Yolanda De la Torre, sister of the founder, is the current owner.
Yolanda credits her team’s incredible work ethic as the key to their success. With exceptional time management, they’ve learned to consistently work smarter and more efficiently. They’ve also listened to their customers and have implemented their suggestions.
Like every business, they encountered obstacles during their start-up phase. Yolanda says the language barrier was initially their greatest challenge. Outfitting the business with the right equipment and finding ingredient suppliers was the next hurdle. The De la Torres’ persevered and thrived.
And, they’re happy to be part of Mission Marketplace.
“NewMark Merrill has supported us numerous ways over the years. From hosting customer-driving events, to providing sanitation stations during the pandemic, to always promptly responding when we have an issue or request.
“Being a small business owner is rewarding because, after working hard for the past two decades, everything is well-established. All the hard work has paid off, and our new generations can take over some day.”
—Yolanda De la Torre
Grocery Outlet, Crenshaw Imperial Plaza
After spending her entire career in retail, Patricia White found herself disenchanted on the path that had once inspired her. “I found myself hating what I once loved doing,” says Patricia. She was so ready for a change that even the paralyzing fear of failure couldn’t stand in her way. Though it took a year, she and her husband, Neason, both decided to quit their jobs and go out on their own.
Enter Grocery Outlet, a specialty market that sells affordable organic products, produce, meat, deli and wines, with a business model that promotes and fosters connection to community. The White’s took the leap in May of 2018, when they opened Inglewood’s first Grocery Outlet at Crenshaw Imperial Plaza, overcoming their initial fears and taking control of their own destinies.
The White’s are incredibly grateful to be part of a NewMark Merrill property. According to the couple, it has been instrumental in their success. Through traffic-driving, on-site promotion, and responsive management, NewMark Merrill has provided key elements to their success.
We’ve partnered with NewMark Merrill on many occasions to help bring in customers. Any time we have any issues, NewMark Merrill is there to help.
In step with the Grocery Outlet philosophy, the White’s work diligently to provide their community with quality products at amazing prices, and cherish the opportunity to give back by providing steady jobs and partnering with local non-profits, schools and churches. Customers rave about the cleanliness of the store, the friendly staff and selection of affordable organic products and produce that is hard to find elsewhere.
BurgerIM, Norwalk Town Square
Just as momentum had started to build for Roy Narvaez’s newly opened BurgerIM franchise, March 2020 put a near-screeching halt to… well, everything. Like it did for countless other businesses, COVID required a complete re-imagining of Roy’s fledgling restaurant. That’s when he realized that opening at Norwalk Town Square was one of the wisest decisions he made. NewMark Merrill immediately stepped up to support Roy through enhanced and consistent communication, financial support education and options, and allowing out-of-the-box thinking to quickly become reality. With the assistance of this supportive landlord team, Roy successfully shifted to a drive-through model within a matter of weeks.
“NewMark Merrill consistently goes out of their way to support their tenants when they need it most. Had they not so quickly agreed to my plan to pivot to drive-through service, we would have been in a much different place today. They truly have an authentic and vested interest in the success of their small business partners.”
Although Roy had prior expertise in owning and operating laundromats, his restaurant experience was limited to his Sizzler busboy days as a 17-year-old. But that didn’t stop him. He sought advice from other restaurant owners and googled constantly. He’s still learning something new daily and loving the freedom that business ownership affords him.
Now with the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Roy has gained back the momentum that was epically disrupted. His mission of serving amazing food with only the best quality ingredients has caught on in the market. And his drive-through concept is going strong. He loves making strategic business decisions and seeing the resulting success. And he knows that NewMark Merrill is always there to support him and his business every step of the way.
Caffe Tazza Coffeehouse & Bistro, Terra Nova Plaza
In 2009, on the heels of one of the worst U.S. economic recessions on record, Cesar Fuentes and his wife, Isela, set forth to acquire Terra Nova Plaza’s Caffe Tazza. Isela, a frequent Caffe Tazza customer for more than a decade, knew everything about this small gathering spot. Frequently conducting client meetings there, she was familiar with the ins and outs of the menu, the customer service and the overall operation. And she envisioned all kinds of ways to make it even better. The opportunity to make Caffe Tazza her own finally came, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.
With the economy in a tailspin and banks rarely granting loans, Cesar and Isela, along with their co-owner, Chris Madruga, boldly put forth an all-cash offer and acquired the business. This terrifying leap was wrought with potential pitfalls. Many Americans were eliminating the “extras”, and specialty coffee certainly fell into that category. The first two years were a master class in navigating uncertainty. But with financial reserves in place, they forged ahead, implementing an aggressive hands-on approach that took Caffe Tazza through the storm.
When 2020 hit, Cesar & Isela faced an even bigger challenge – the pandemic and the retail apocalypse that followed. They were forced to shutter their business for nearly two months, but their rocky start in 2009 was now fuel for much needed faith and resilience. Caffe Tazza was in the perfect hands. With a depth of experience overcoming adversity, the team turned 2020 into another successful year. NewMark Merrill was by their side through it all.
“NewMark Merrill has been absolutely awesome. They are incredibly hands-on, it seems like they’re always here on site and they’re amazingly communicative. They’re truly invested in the success of small, family-owned businesses, like ours.”
The Caffe Tazza team is relieved that the challenges of 2009 and 2020 are in the rear-view mirror, and they’re hopeful and anticipatory about continuing to be the neighborhood place to grab great quality coffee, mingle with regulars and be part of a special Chula Vista, CA community.
Wyatt’s Wet Goods, Village at the Peaks
While many welcome retirement, Dennis Dinsmore was having none of it. As the time drew near, he instead jumped headfirst into a new venture, agreeing to partner with a younger friend who could take over their business when Dennis decided he was ready to kick his heels up and finally retire.
Challenge #1: the friend didn’t last. But Dennis moved ahead anyway—and in 2014, after NewMark Merrill’s Allen Ginsborg approached him about a prime spot at Village at the Peaks (which was in development at the time), he opened Wyatt’s Wet Goods. This anchor-sized, full-service liquor store boasts the largest selection of wine and spirits in Longmont, CO. Locals flock there to find fine wines, unique craft beer and local selections from favorite wineries, breweries, and distilleries. They have it all!
In addition to going it alone, Dennis faced some other startup challenges. Navigating the intricacies of raising capital, finding the right people to manage his store, and the unexpected delayed opening of another anchor tenant all posed their own issues. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but never anticipated the extraordinary effort it would take to launch in a new market.
With his typical fortitude, Dennis employed an aggressive gorilla marketing strategy that reached customers in unexpected ways, engaged local charitable groups and partnered with fellow merchants to build his business from the ground up.
And he believes NewMark Merrill has been instrumental in his success.
“NewMark Merrill was always available and accessible. From marketing assistance, to providing intuitive feedback on market penetration to great on-site security, they’ve proven repeatedly to be a loyal partner.”
Music-Go-Round, Marketplace 99
Like most teenagers, Paul Telford was a music fan, and at the age of 16 purchased his first guitar. He had a thirst for learning just about any instrument he could get his hands on, but landed on drums as his true passion. As he started a career in IT, eventually working for one of the world’s largest companies, that passion for music went on the back burner, but the flame never went out. By 2018, Paul was a single father of high-school aged twins, and ready for a change.
Combining his passion for music with a giant leap of faith, Paul opened Music-Go-Round, a business that buys, sells and trades quality used musical instruments at Marketplace 99 in Elk Grove, CA. He knew there would be long hours and plenty of hurdles to start, but those first frantic months laid the groundwork for success. From the beginning, he has insisted on putting the customer first and the strategy has paid off. “We treat our customers as if they are our most important asset, because they are!” says Paul.
Paul believes that building relationships is another key to his success. He partners with local high schools, districts, music educators and even competitors within the community to resource all things music. He sees that sense of a positive relationship with NewMark Merrill as well. They have served as a resource to Paul from the start and are there to support when needed. Music is now a part of Paul’s daily life, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like the freedom of being my own boss and seeing something I built be successful. My greatest pride is matching a child with their first instrument and having them return for upgrades as they progress in their mastery of music.”
Cilantro Taco Grill, Stratford Crossing
No one actually knows where cilantro came from, but it’s an herb with a long and storied history. Records show it was harvested up to 5,000 years ago with mentions in early religious texts. Temoc Morfin and his family have always been inspired by this flavorful herb—so much so that they were driven to open a restaurant with cilantro at the forefront of their mission and purpose.
Cilantro Taco Grill, a fast-casual authentic Mexican restaurant, first opened in August of 2013. By 2018, when they opened at Stratford Crossing in Bloomingdale, IL, they had grown to multiple restaurants and a tortilla factory, each owned and operated by one of Temoc’s siblings! Their handed-down family recipes influenced their menu of traditional Mexican food, all seasoned with their own Cilantro House Salsa.The Morfin’s entrepreneurial spirit was inspired by their father, a businessman who told them that starting your own business leads to independence and provides jobs for your community. They all faced many startup obstacles, but prevailed with the support of family. The Morfin’s are honored by the patronage of customers from Bloomingdale and all of the other communities they serve.
“We have ten other Cilantro Taco Grill locations with nine other landlords, and NewMark Merrill is by far the best we work with. They truly care about the success of their tenants. I wish they owned more of the properties where we do business.”
Temoc and his siblings have not only realized the American Dream for themselves, they’ve also guaranteed a better future for their children. Their family legacy of success (and delectable Mexican fare) will be felt for generations of Morfin’s to come.