Let me start by saying... I probably enjoyed this interview more than they did. Imagine your favorite romantic comedy. Meeting with Audrey and Mark was like being in one- witnessing it all first hand. They laughed with each other, looked lovingly at one another and exchanged multiple kisses. You could and can tell right when you meet them that they have a deep love; for their business and their family, but especially for one another.
I started by asking Audrey about her business background.
"Well that's easy, I don't have one" she smiled, telling me that she had worked in dentistry for many years, growing in her field and eventually working as a EDDA (Expanded Duties Dental Assistant), aka. the right hand woman of the dentist for the Denver Nuggets. She took me by surprise right away.
Before we got any further into business talk, I wanted to know about herself and Mark. Audrey laughed "I'm a Mormon girl and I was the only one working at the Catholic Credit Union. We met in the drive-thru and I bought my wedding dress two days later." (What!?) Surprise #2. As she and I continued to talking about herself and Mark, I learned that the two of them dated for two years, saving up for a wedding, and have now been married for 25 years. They have two daughters who are currently in college and work for the shop part time.
I don't know about you all, but I have never owned a business in my life and wanted to know a little more about what it takes to make it. Turns out, I asked the right people...
Nandi: Tell me about your journey to Paciugo.
Mark: We were looking to own a coffee shop. We thought we'd be able to spend more time together- drinking our coffee and meeting people. We looked at several places... Paciugo was the right price and we thought, ice cream and coffee, okay.
Paciugo Belmar had been previously owned for several years before they came in. Since they took over in July of 2016, Mark and Audrey are up 40% gross sales from the last owner.
Nandi: What advice do you have for someone interested in owning a franchise?
Mark and Audrey: Do your research!
Audrey: You should have a plan, have money saved up, [if] you are taking out a loan- don't get killed by interest.
Mark: If it's your first time, look into owning something that already exists in order to bypass build out costs.
Nandi: What is the build out?
Mark: Most of the time when you purchase a new franchise they give you what is called a vanilla shell. You have to put everything in and that costs a lot. Have you been to Wendy's? They are updating with new signs and they have fireplaces, its expensive! [As the owner] you have to pay for the updates. We have some flexibility because we are not Starbucks or McDonald's.
Nandi: What are some of the differences between owning a franchise and having your own business?
Mark: [When running a franchise] You have rules to follow. But they have done the research and already have products in place. Things like freight (delivery) don't cost us.
Audrey: It can be good to have big brother looking over.
Nandi: What personality traits do you need to be successful?
Audrey: People want consistency. [You need to be] on time, have your product, hardworking. Customer service; sometimes you have to cater to individuals...willing to market, go the extra mile.
Audrey makes gelato each morning so that it is fresh. Both her and Mark make the daily effort to get to know their customers, their neighbors, and they love doing so. When asked about what their favorite part of owning Paciugo is they immediately agreed "You guys!" They went on to tell me about the many couples they get to know, the marriage engagements they hear about, the about-to-burst pregnant women they meet, the regulars of the morning and everyone in between. They pride themselves on treating their staff like family as well, making sure there is a balance between work and play. Mark says "this is just a stop on their way to life", recognizing the young men and women in his shop as exactly that.
On a personal note, Tyler and I are there so often that they know us by name- and we love it! In a conversation Tyler recently had with Mark, Mark exclaimed that he wanted Paciugo to be like the television show Cheers ..."where everybody knows your name".
If you are ever in Colorado, on your way to the mountains, take a pit stop at Paciugo, you will be so glad you did.
*Belmar is considered the downtown of Lakewood, Colorado (suburb just outside of Denver)