What was the process of opening Wurstküche?
I started working on the idea of Wurstküche in 2007 with my partner Tyler Wilson. I was in San Francisco designing night clubs, entertainment spaces, products, basically industrial design. I was starting to look for other areas to move to, I had been in San Francisco for 9.5 years. I was thinking about going to Austin, Texas. Tyler, who is my cousin, was at USC and mentioned that downtown LA was having a re-birth and I should come down and check it out. I came down and met him and kinda gridded the city, and we found the little cool pocket of the Arts District., which at the time was nothing like it is today but we felt like it had some sort of great energy. That’s when we decided we start a little project together. I wanted to build a bar that was my own, that I got to design.
Why did you choose the Arts District?
In hindsight it was pretty risky, but the Arts District was very similar to the area I was living in in San Francisco. I had an immediate comfort with it, you could see things like Barker Block just coming down the line and you kinda start to see this infrastructure and you could tell this infrastructure of downtown would modernize. There was no one living in these cool buildings, it felt totally vacant. It felt like behind the walls and empty exteriors there was a really awesome youthful vibe of people doing things and executing things. Apolis
, Steve Opperman
, those guys kinda key in moving this way.
Were you surprised at the success of Wurstküche?
I was surprised how the front sausage grill took such a prominent roll, how much volume it was doing. The original idea was that we would have a small sausage kitchen in the front , and the overflow would be in the back. We thought in the evening we would pull out tables and chairs and there would be a dance bar in the back. That never really took because the sausage kitchen kind of overwhelmed that. I thought we would do well, but I thought it would be with cocktails and a dance bar, but really the lunch business kinda just took off.
How do you feel about growth of the Arts District since you have been here?
So far, it’s developed really well. I get a really hesitant when I hear about bus rides of developers coming through. What I see in front of me right now I think has been awesome growth. I think there’s been a great magnetism of places, which is why I don’t think development efforts are necessary in this area. There are projects like Handsome, which was probably attracted to places like Apolis and us, and then others will come because they are attracted to Handsome and it will grow like that, and it will be a great way of developing an organic, unforced community of commercial stores.
How are you involved in the community here?
I am the president of of LARABA, the Los Angeles River Arts and Business association
. And we are the 501©(4), community betterment association. LARABA is the guardian of the dog park, and we put on bloom fest. We partner with Melissa Richardsons Banks to produce that event. We also do various other things like planting trees, etc.
Our focus is not to just make food but it’s to make experiences for people that they come in. Food is part of it, drink is part of it, meeting people is part of it, design is a part of it. If we can build a consistently good experience that is fun and allows people to meet each other, then it’s great. I love to see people who have never met meeting each other, sitting at the tables and exchanging numbers.
Photos by Nina Hans