Garden City’s longtime wish for a microbrewery may finally be coming to fruition if the dedication of two aspiring entrepreneurial families pays off.
Jorge Guzman, owner of Las Margaritas Mexican restaurant in downtown Garden City, and Carlos Mantilla, owner of a produce export company in the South American country of Columbia, are banding together with their wives to make use of an empty storefront in the 200 block of Main Street.
Bike Rack Inc. formerly occupied the storefront, but after the business vacated, Jorge’s wife, Carmen Guzman, came across the listing while combing over properties in her role as a real estate agent.
The stars seemed to align when Jorge, shortly after purchasing the property, met Carlos at the Gaarden City Family YMCA. The two businessmen hit it off, and Carlos offered to open a restaurant with Jorge if the opportunity ever arose. Even Carlos’ wife, Carrye Jane Mantilla, has entrepreneurial blood: Her family owns Crazy House and C Bar H in Garden City.
When Jorge told Carlos about his vacant Main Street property, Carlos asked him what he wanted to do with it.
“We can either do a restaurant here or we can do a microbrewery and a restaurant,” Jorge said.
They decided to do both.
Carrye Jane supported Carlos’ new aspiration, even after putting the kibosh on so many others.
“A lot of people have known how many times people have tried to bring a brewery into this town and then end up not doing it,” she said Tuesday afternoon while seated next to Jorge and Carmen at Las Margaritas, representing Carlos while he was away in Columbia on business. “I’ve known for the past at least 10 years, it’s been something that people have been talking about a lot. When he came to me with this idea, I was like, ‘If you do anything, that’s what you should do. That is what is going to make it,' and these guys are going to make it. They are not going to be one of those that they give up.”
Economic development officials agree that it’s a good idea, and one that has been waiting to be realized in Garden City for at least a few years.
Lona DuVall, president of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., noted that the community has long requested a microbrewery, and several brewery reps have considered Garden City as a place for possible expansion. Still, the commitment never stuck, and so Garden City has gone without, even as the microbrewery industry booms in Colorado. The closest Kansas breweries are located in Dodge City, Hays and the Wichita area.
“We were really pleased when we started a conversation with the two gentlemen that are looking to put in their current microbrewery and are working on their building for that, because they were locals already, but also because they seemed to really understand the need for a good quality product, as well as providing excellent service,” DuVall said.
The FCEDC has been helping to shepherd Jorge and Carlos through discussions with city planning officials, and DuVall says they intend to help them as the pair move into the marketing process.
Jorge and Carlos haven’t previously dabbled in the art of microbrewing, but Jorge is no stranger to tackling an endeavor without a legacy behind him and finding success by seeking out the right help.
Carmen described Jorge as “a positive man,” “always looking to go forward.” She noted that when they started Las Margaritas, they did it with “closed eyes.”
“We didn’t know exactly,” Carmen said. “We didn’t have any experience, and it’s a lot different than we thought it was. Before this business, he was working for more than a decade for an ethanol plant.”
Jorge has been a risk-taker for most of his life. Though he embodies the American entrepreneurial spirit — and says he has lived the American Dream — he made the decision at the age of 15 to smuggle himself into the country from Mexico in the trunk of a car with five other people as they made their way across the U.S. border in search of better opportunities.
Jorge became a naturalized citizen at the age of 25. Seventeen years later, at 42, Guzman owns several properties in Garden City, including his popular restaurant, and has carved a life out of taking risks, given the necessary precautions.
Carmen says that while Carlos is ready to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible, Jorge wants to take the time to make sure everything is set in place, from the best consultants to the right menu items, which could potentially include a focus on Columbian cuisine, per Carlos’ heritage.
Carrye Jane described Columbian food as being similar to the local cooking style in Kansas with a focus on meat and potatoes, or yucca, a root vegetable often used as an alternative to potatoes.
And because the produce is a little different in the southern hemisphere, Carrye Jane said Carlos is trying to finagle a way to use his export expertise to get some football-sized avocados to southwest Kansas for a unique, larger-than-life dining experience. From wine and beer to Columbian cooking, if the cards fall into place, the new microbrewery — yet to be named — could be more than just an area novelty; it could be instrumental in the ongoing effort to revitalize the downtown area.
“That’s the thing. We’re going to make sure we get it right,” Carrye Jane said. “We want to make sure we take our time so that we get the right brewer, we get the right consultants, we get all this so that we know that when we open those doors, it’s going to be the right thing and we’re going to be prepared.”
Jorge said the road to opening day could take longer than a year, but Carmen noted in her jovial way that their ultimate goal is “to make everybody happy.”
“It’s easier said than done just like anything else,” Jorge said. “There again, we’re moving forward. We’re still going forward, and we’re going to do our best to make it happen, not only for us and our family but for our community.”
Contact Mark Minton at email@example.com.