PHOENIX (KSAZ) - It opened on a whim, Postino Wine Bar in Arcadia is off the main road and tucked away in a residential neighborhood. It's success has started a restaurant revolution. Now hear the story of a local guy and his smart side kick partner.
It was once a post office, but now it is a wine bar. It is a creation of ASU graduate and native Craig DeMarco and his wife Kris, but not everyone was on-board.
"We had the largest opposition to a restaurant use permit in the history of the City of Phoenix... because they had residential on all four sides, and they saw a young couple with a liquor license," said Craig DeMarco.
They got Postino off the ground in 2001.
"We ran out of money in the furniture budget, so we took the couch out of our house and brought it down to Postino," said DeMarco.
The improvising paid off, Postino caught on bug. People wanted a cool place to meet up and drink wine.
"It proved that demographic was ready for that experience," said Lauren Bailey.
Bailey came to work for Postino with plans to open her own place. Craig talked her into being his partner instead.
"We work like wife and husband, or brother and sister, it just works," said Bailey.
And it works well, food, people, and wine, and more wine.
"If you look around our restaurants at lunch there are very few tables without wine on them," said DeMarco.
Sipping wine is a sport here.
"We have a famous bumper sticker that says drinking wine at lunch is not a crime," said
"It's important for everyone to know this $5 wine for lunch has been doing on since day one, it wasn't a promotional thing. We just decided we wanted people to experiment and enjoy drinking wine at lunch, there was no stigma associated with it," said DeMarco.
Now the power team of DeMarco and Bailey, along with their spouses own 11 restaurants under the name Upward Projects.
"We like re-purposing old spaces," he said.
And they did that in a big way in North Central Phoenix, within a stones throw of four popular restaurants. Postino Central, Windsor, Churn, and Federal pizza. Many of them opened and thrived during the recent recession, proving people still wanted what Upward Projects had to offer.
"They were spending a little less money, but they were still coming. People got scared, they wanted to stay close to home. People were watching their pennies a little tighter, we never had a scary moment," said DeMarco.
They've come a long way from their ASU days working in restaurants and bars to pay their rent. And they've grown up, but not too much.
"We've come a long way," said DeMarco.
They've got the Midas Touch for sure. DeMarco is also a founding partner in the extremely successful La Grand Orange Grocery which has grown into numerous other successful restaurants through Arcadia.