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Big rock, big food get KISS of approval in The Colony

🕐 11 min read

Where to Rock and Brew All Nite

Rock & Brews

5351 Nebraska Furniture Mart Drive

The Colony 75056


Paul Stanley prefers pretzels to investment discussion.

Asked whether the KISS front man would consider adding a Texas oil and gas venture to his business portfolio, the man who co-wrote “Rock and Roll All Nite” paused.

“I can sit here and espouse economic theory and investments, but I think ultimately it goes back to what I said before: You’re only as good as your team,” said Stanley, minutes before cutting the ribbon on Rock & Brews, a 8,950-square-foot shrine to classic rock music and classic cuisine.

Occupying part of the Grandscape mixed-use development in The Colony, the new eatery sees Stanley and KISS partner Gene Simmons stake their claim on steaks, tacos, pizza and beer: comfort food for a generation weaned on big food and bigger rock.

The musicians celebrated the chain’s 15th location at a May 10 grand opening, where military personnel enjoyed a meal on the house.

“It’s the least we can do,” said Simmons, whose love of the United States deepened after he and his mother – a World War II concentration camp survivor – emigrated from Israel when he was a boy.

“They say Israel is the promised land, but America is the promised land. We hope to give back at every Rock & Brews opening by feeding the military and giving them a check,” Simmons said.

The musicians gave a $15,000 check to the Airborne Angel Cadets of Texas, who attended the luncheon. The nonprofit Dallas-area organization sends care packages to U.S. troops deployed overseas. Some soldiers brought vintage KISS vinyl records; others simply brought their curiosity as to why the wildly successful musicians would go out of their way to pay tribute to the troops.

“We’re honored to be invited,” said Sgt. Christopher Shankland, 32, who grew up in Southlake. “It means a lot.”

The Colony location is the second Rock & Brews in Texas and the chain’s only freestanding store in the state (the San Antonio location is in the AT&T Center). Stanley and Simmons plan 50 more within three years. Imbuing each with local flavor is a critical component of their identity.

“We’re not a cookie-cutter franchise,” Stanley said. “When we go into an area, we’re well aware of where we are and have a sense of obligation to that particular community.”

For The Colony, that meant an oversized Stevie Ray Vaughan mural overlooking the spacious dining area. Other features include concert lighting, rock concert videos (a ZZ Top concert rattled the roof at the grand opening luncheon) and a Great Wall of Rock showcasing many of rock’s biggest names.

Two of those legends, Stanley and Simmons, strolled through the dining area chatting up their new business.

“With Rock & Brews, you don’t have to compromise your food or your time with your kids,” Stanley said. “As I got older, I saw that if you want to spend time with your kids, you’re usually in a position where you either get macaroni and cheese out of a box or have some guy dressed as a big mouse serve you pizza. Here, you get a chance to have a great meal somewhere that pays tribute to the music we loved and still love.”

Having added the restaurant industry to their entrepreneurial pursuits (the LA KISS arena football team and Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy among Simmons’ pursuits and Ortsbo Inc. interactive technology among Stanley’s), Stanley would not discuss potential hydraulic fracturing ventures.

Instead, he discussed dough – not money, actual dough – when asked to name a favorite menu item.

“The pretzels here are incredible. We fly the dough from Germany. You can’t get that kind of dough here.”


Fort Worth Business was granted 10 minutes with KISS founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. We would have liked much more time with the musicians-entrepreneurs, but 10 minutes are better than no minutes. What follows is the complete interview.

A. Lee Graham, Fort Worth Business: You and Gene have invested in many ventures. What led you to enter the restaurant industry, whose failure rate is rather daunting, to say the least?

Paul Stanley: Two things. First of all, we really haven’t invested in much — the two of us, that is; we tend to do our own projects, which all pale compared to what we do together.

But Rock & Brews was a concept that was just too undeniable. I was always of a belief that if you address your own needs, you address the needs of others. So trying to second-guess the public is risky. 

With Rock & Brews, you don’t have to compromise your food or your time with your kids. As I got older, I saw that if you want to spend time with your kids, you’re usually in a position where you either get macaroni and cheese out of a box or have some guy dressed as a big mouse serve you pizza. Here, you get a chance to have a great meal somewhere that pays tribute to the music we loved and still love.

FWB: Stevie Ray Vaughan is staring down on us, and ZZ Top is on the tube right  now.

Stanley: Yeah, exactly. In no way is this a funereal atmosphere where you have dead musicians in frames. This is really about today. Yes, we all have an affinity for this classic rock, but this is about great food, a great staff and also quite honestly, going into an area and not plundering it.

We’re not a cookie-cutter franchise. When we go into an area, we’re well aware of where we are and have a sense of obligation to that particular community.

The first people on the first day are the military. They make everything possible, and as much as we may have points of view as to who should be president, none of it matters without a military. People who believe freedom is free don’t have to sacrifice for it.

FWB: When did you and Gene first become committed to honoring the armed forces?

Stanley: My mom fled Germany during World War II and fled to Amsterdam and then fled Amsterdam. Our armed forces are the reason why my family exists. It was so clear that the veterans, the people who fight on our behalf regardless of what we think politically, those people are always getting the short end of the stick. 

We have a volunteer army and when those people come back, they don’t get what they deserve.

Not only are they emotionally or physically impacted, but their families are, too, their wives. It’s just not fair. So if we can draw some attention to them on opening day and make a donation, which in the scheme of things is a token thing, that’s something we feel very strongly about.

Whether it’s that or local charities, there is an awareness of where we are. I think that separates us from a lot of the [competitors]. There’s an atmosphere and attitude toward people who come here. Not customers, but…

FWB: Friends?

Stanley: Yes, exactly.

FWB: You’re somewhat of a chef yourself. Did the food here have to rise to a certain standard?

Stanley: Totally. This isn’t the slop you get at your average franchise restaurant. We don’t need to do anything [career-wise], but the challenge of doing things that are reflective of my point of view – that’s exciting.

The food is paramount. What is a restaurant without good food? This isn’t a theme restaurant that needs to sell T-shirts. Sure, you can buy a shirt, but we want you to come back because of the staff, the beer and the food. I’m keenly aware of the food we’re serving.

FWB: Do you have a favorite menu item?

Stanley: That’s so hard. Without being demeaning to the idea of kids, it’s almost like who’s your favorite child? The fish tacos are fabulous, the burgers are great, the pretzels are indicative of how much we care. We get the dough from Germany, so the pretzels are ridiculously good. You can’t get that kind of dough here.

FWB: Like New York bagels can’t made without New York tap water?

Stanley: Yes, exactly.

FWB: How do you and Gene choose Rock & Brews locations? The Colony is hardly a major metropolitan area.

Stanley: We have great great team of people. The Furano brothers [Dave and Dell, Rock & Brews founders] have a great history in merchandising, Michael Zislis is a hotelier and a restaurateur. We have people who are experts and excel at [choosing] locations. So for us, it’s almost a matter of … part of success is knowing your own limitations. You’re only as good as your team.

That being said, space is at a premium and you pay for it. To have something like … finding land is problematic, financially. We don’t seem to have problems with our locations so far. They’re packed.

FWB: With restaurants now in your investment portfolio, have you given any thought to oil and gas? Any hydraulic fracturing ventures for you and Gene?

Stanley: Again, although I have a certain point of view, I think surrounding yourself with people making it their occupation is a much wiser choice. I can sit here and espouse economic and investment advice, but I think ultimately it goes back to what I said before: you’re only as good as your team. A president is only as good as his cabinet.

FWB: Lastly, how’s your bicep recovering? (Stanley recently underwent surgery for a torn bicep tendon)

Stanley: I can move my arm.

FWB: Can you play guitar?

Stanley: I can play, but what I do onstage is so physical. It will take a little time until the tour starts for me to  be at 110 percent. I’m recovering really well. All my injuries are sports injuries, whether it’s a torn meniscus, torn rotator cuff – all that stuff. I’m fortunate to have great doctors.

A. Lee Graham, Fort Worth Business: Gene Simmons is synonymous with corporate investment. What made you enter the restaurant industry at this time, especially given the failure rate of most new restaurants?

Simmons: I have a film company, with our first film with Wesley Snipes and Anne Heche. Then there’s the LA KISS football team – we won yesterday, by the way – and the band is going great, there’s a golf course — a lot of stuff. But you know there’s a philosopher, maybe it’s too cornball for most people, but a philosopher said if God gave you 24 hours of life, because some life forms only have that…

FWB: And some have even less.

Simmons: Yes. They have to procreate in 24 hours. So if you have 24 hours of life, what would you do? Watch I Love Lucy reruns and wait to do or try to get philanthropic and do some good, create jobs? Make your mark in life and move on? Or do something instead of just consuming food…? I think we’re more than that.

Music is creating something out of nothing. Creating a brand is so rewarding because when you think about it, Rock & Brews and LA KISS, no one has to leave home to watch football. You can stay home and eat, too, so this [Rock & Brews] has to be an experience that has to be worth fighting traffic for.

If you’re going to come back, the food not only has to be better than at home, but the experience and how you are treated and how you enjoy it is equally as important. Since scientists have told us we’re social animals, when we’re left alone in a room, we go insane.

But listen to this room: everyone else is talking, but you can’t quite hear what they’re saying. We actually did some research on light vs. width so that you hear walls aren’t far enough vs. how deep it is. The ceiling is high enough so it just doesn’t travel this way. It’s called tuning a room.

FWB: Tuning a room.

Simmons: It’s a science.

FWB: A big focus of yours is the military. I think of you and your mom emigrating from Israel. When did that realization, that respect for the military, start with you?

Simmons: I was aware of it as a little boy because my mom was in a concentration camp at 14 years of age in Nazi Germany. If it wasn’t for the military, my mom and her family – the entire world – would be in chaos.

America is so blessed to have its own natural resources. Europe is a different thing, and the Middle East is a different place, too. 

They say Israel is the promised land, but America is the promised land. You can come here and achieve anything you dream.

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