75.7 F
Fort Worth
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Business Commentary: O.K. Carter: Downtown Tony mixes an entrepreneurial alchemy

Commentary: O.K. Carter: Downtown Tony mixes an entrepreneurial alchemy

Other News

Pandemic hammers small businesses vital to economic recovery

EDITOR'S NOTE — Small businesses around the world are fighting for survival amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Whether they...

Exxon’s oil slick

Exxon Mobil is slashing its capital spending budget for 2020 by 30% due to weak demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a market...

Folk music’s Mark Twain: 7 Essential tracks from John Prine,

NEW YORK (AP) — Some people, the songs just come out of them. For nearly half a century, they tumbled out of John Prine...

Tarrant County records another COVID-19 death

Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) on Wednesday, April 8 reported that a resident of Euless has died as the result of the COVID-19 virus....

Urban Alchemy Coffee and Wine Bar owner Tony Rutigliano – around Arlington he’s often referred to as “Downtown Tony” – resisted his considerable entrepreneurial tendencies for a couple of decades, but clearly seems to be on a roll now.

Ignoring a substantial naysaying, don’t-do-it, it’ll-never-work chorus, he put together an investor group and opened Urban Alchemy 18 months ago as a kind of blended coffee-in-the-morning, wine-in-the-evening, light dining, Wi-Fi and laptop-addicted communal hangout in what was once an auto repair garage called Lester’s.

Nor did he accept considerable advice not to locale Urban Alchemy on East Main Street, which – though downtown – is a sparsely developed double-dead-ended, two-lane, three-block street with zero drive-by traffic. It’s the kind of limited access street one has to go to on purpose.

How’s it going? It’s difficult to find a morning or afternoon when the Urban Alchemy parking lot isn’t full, traffic spilling up and down Main and nearby side streets as patrons show up. Long story cut short: it’s working. Much to a lot of people’s surprise. Maybe even to Downtown Tony himself.

Rutigliano, 44, mostly figured himself to be a nonprofit kind of guy after graduating from UT Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public affairs. His first real work gig was as former Arlington Mayor Bob Cluck’s right hand man/chief of staff, followed by a much longer stint as president of Downtown Arlington Management, an organization overseeing redevelopment of the city’s redeveloping core, first surveyed in 1876.

It took a while for Rutigliano to launch himself into the business world, the idea percolating until Christmas morning of 2016, at which point he said to his wife Nicole, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we opened a wine bar?”

To which she said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

“I took that as permission to proceed, though in retrospect I suspect she was just trying to be supportive,” Rutigliano said with a laugh. “I saw a lawyer and, in a few months, came back to her with the initial plans, to which she said, ‘Hey, I thought we were talking about five years from now.’”

Rutigliano himself began going through a mindset evolution.

“Initially I was thinking more along the lines of traditional commercial development,” he said. “Pick a project, develop it, sell it. Do it again. Then I became more vested in the alchemy idea – take normal things and blend them into something new that would bring people and community together.”

Not that Urban Alchemy is the culmination of Rutigliano’s entrepreneurial ambitions. More like a launch point. One growing component of the business now, for instance, is the growing Urban Alchemy Concierge, which provides event consulting on wine and food, even to the point of providing catering and staffing.

And if there’s a lesson that stuck in his mind during this process, it’s how partnerships and synergy create copasetic opportunities. Examples?

• Rutigliano and landlord Bob Johnson are collaboratively developing the Main Street building next to Urban Alchemy (a former hot rod parts shop) as Sociability, a 5,500-square-feet events center with capacity for up to 200 people.

• One component of the 1,000-unit Arlington Commons apartment complex under construction on Lamar Boulevard will be the free-standing but connected Nehemiah Coffee Company – which Rutigliano and his management group will run. The free-standing location will also make for easy access to other north Arlington residents.

• A campy open-air restaurant built of shipping containers – the Off Grid Taphouse – at the Viridian complex in north Arlington will open in the first quarter next year at a location epi-center to a community lake, trails system and dog park. Its manager? Rutigliano’s group, of course.

• And finally, there’s Rutigliano’s slightly longer-range vision for the boutique-style Hotel Mary (intersection of Main and Mary streets a couple of blocks east of Urban Alchemy), yet another collaborative on Main Street and again probably with multiple investors.

“That Hotel Mary concept is slugging along slowly but surely,” he says. “But I’m now convinced it’s going to happen.”

That’s a lot of ambition, particularly for East Main Street, which – after being mostly ignored for half a century – suddenly seems to be taking off, particularly with Rutigliano’s focus as a new sort of human catalyst.

“I can’t explain it, but there’s something about Main Street that I just love,” he says.

Urban Alchemy, 403 E. Main St

Arlington 76010

https://www.urbanalchemy.bar/

O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington.

okcarter@bizpress.net

Latest News

Tesla posts net profit for fifth straight quarter

By TOM KRISHER AP Auto WriterDETROIT (AP) — Tesla charged through a summertime auto industry sales slump in the U.S. to post...

Phase II of Arlington Commons tops out

KWA Construction has topped out on Phase II of Arlington Commons, one of the largest redevelopment projects in North Texas. Developed by...

Home furnishings retailer Living Spaces opens Fort Worth location

Leading home furnishings retailer, Living Spaces, has opened a brand new showroom in Fort Worth. Located in the AllianceTexas area at 8640 Tehama Ridge...

Renderings released for Stop Six’s Cowan Place

Fort Worth Housing Solutions and development partner McCormack Baron Salazar have finalized architectural renderings for Cowan Place, the mixed-income, senior living community...

JC Penney sees bankruptcy protection exit by Christmas

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney believes it will emerge from bankruptcy protection before Christmas under a new ownership agreement that would...