CVIndependent

Mon09252017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Jimmy Boegle

When I heard that the San Francisco-based PlumpJack Group had purchased the legendary Ingleside Inn and its Melvyn’s restaurant following the death last year of longtime owner Mel Haber, my feelings were decidedly mixed.

On one hand, Melvyn’s is an institution. The old-school recipes, the tableside prep, the … uh, past-normal-retirement-age maître d’s—these things make Melvyn’s a Palm Springs classic, unlike any other restaurant in the valley.

On the other hand … Melvyn’s, located at 200 W. Ramon Road, has a lot of room to improve. Both the food and service in recent years have been wildly inconsistent, and it seemed management was doing little to reach new customers.

Turns out that Melvyn’s new executive chef, Jennifer Town, shares a lot of the same opinions.

Town, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, has an impressive resume, to say the least. She was the head chef for the Italian Olympic Team (!) and worked at The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas, before coming to the desert to help open the Ace Hotel and Swim Club. Before starting at Melvyn’s, she spent the last several years wowing customers at Michael Holmes’ Purple Room.

As the PlumpJack Group works on a property-wide renovation, Town has spent the last couple of months working on Melvyn’s menu—not renovating it, but making little changes here and there. She said she’s very cognizant of how beloved Melvyn’s is in certain circles.

“My first month or so here, I did not change the menus at all,” she said. “I looked at the recipes of all of the old favorites, and worked on making sure they’re made consistently.”

While she didn’t change the menus, she did start making little improvements. Examples: She updated the mushrooms in the steak Diane. She removed the sherry from the veal Ingleside. She bumped up the quality of the blue cheese used in salad dressings. She started ordering higher-quality beef, from Creekstone Farms.

“I am making tweaks and adding extra flavors,” she said. “My goal is for customers to notice that the food is better, but they can’t pinpoint the changes.”

She said customers should also not expect any wholesale changes to the items on the main menu; about 90 to 95 percent of it will remain the same. She does plan on adding a few things that weren’t offered before at Melvyn’s, such as a scallop dish, a Chilean sea bass and perhaps a halibut entrée.

Fans of Melvyn’s tableside prep have nothing to worry about, either: It’s not going anywhere.

“It’s such a spectacular show,” Town said.

Having said that, she did say she’s working on making sure the food cooked tableside, like the food made in the kitchen, is more consistent.

“No matter who you order from, you should get the same product,” she said.

The one area in which she’s making big changes, she said, is the bar. Don’t worry; the martinis and the old-school piano vibe will still be present, and the full menu will still be offered. However, sometime in October, she’s planning on introducing a brand-new bar menu, featuring a dozen or so appetizers and lighter dishes, including deviled eggs ($7), a grilled flatbread ($12), crab cakes ($15), a burger ($15) and steak and pom frites ($20). Yum.

Town said the staff has so far been very welcoming to her and her vision for Melvyn’s.

“Generally speaking, most are excited,” she said. “Change is hard, but they can see where they needed to make little changes for the better.”

What: The tower of avocado and tuna tartare

Where: Lulu California Bistro, 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at Acqua California Bistro, 71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How much: $14.99; $9.99 at the bar (all-day happy hour)

Contact: Lulu: 760-327-5858, www.lulupalmsprings.com; Acqua: 760-862-9800; www.acquaranchomirage.com

Why: It is a delicious deal!

Barbara and Jerry Keller have created an undeniably successful restaurant formula: Take a large space; make that space gorgeous (including great patio seating); offer a variety of consistent, decently priced food; also offer some great prix-fixe and happy hour deals; and be fantastic members of the community.

It worked for a decade at Acqua Pazza California Bistro in Rancho Mirage. It’s been working for six years at Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs. And now it’s working again at the slightly renamed and renovated Acqua California Bistro in Rancho Mirage.

I live a short walk from Lulu. I eat there regularly, and I am going to let you in on a secret: The bar is the place to sit. Not only is there often seating available in the bar area when there’s a wait for a regular table; the “happy hour” prices at the bar, offered every day from 11 a.m. to close, are drastically lower for many items than they are in the rest of the place.

This means that I can almost always walk in to Lulu (and now, Acqua)—weekday or weekend, season or off-season—and get one of my favorite items at a steep discount: The tower of avocado and tuna tartare is just $9.99 at the bar, while it’s $14.99 elsewhere in the restaurant.

Whatever the price, the dish is delicious: A nice helping of high-grade, seasoned ahi is shaped into a cylindrical “tower”—with some fresh avocado added to the middle. On the side are some wonton chips, sprouts, a small mound of wasabi, some pickled ginger slices, and a little bit of seaweed salad.

It’s cool, refreshing and a delight to the taste buds. And of course, the atmosphere can’t be beat.

What: The lunch special

Where: Joyce’s Sushi, 36101 Bob Hope Drive, No. E1, Rancho Mirage

How much: $13.95 with three choices (as shown); $11.95 with two

Contact: 760-202-8186; joycessushiranchomirage.com

Why: It is tasty—and provides useful information.

Whenever I visit a “normal” Japanese restaurant for the first time, I find it helpful to order a bento box. This allows me to sample a variety of the restaurant’s fare, while giving me information on the restaurant’s overall quality, and an idea of what I might want to order next time.

This is not a perfect system. For example, on my recent, initial visit to Joyce’s Sushi, the three-item lunch special (Joyce’s bento box, essentially; you pick among nine items) told me nothing about the restaurant’s udon or ramen or appetizer offerings, nor did it tell me much about the quality of some of the more elaborate sushi rolls on offer at Joyce’s Sushi.

However, the lunch special (slightly larger dinner specials are also available, at a slightly higher cost) did tell me a lot:

• The quality of the fish at Joyce’s is pretty darned good. I chose the three pieces of sushi over a four-piece California or spicy tuna roll, or the six pieces of sashimi (which come with a $3 upcharge). The tuna, salmon and shrimp pieces I had were all fresh and tasty.

• The tonkatsu is decent, if not spectacular. I selected the fried, breaded pork over the teriyaki options (chicken, beef and salmon), and while the meat was delicious, it was a bit dry.

• The mixed tempura (one shrimp piece, and three vegetable pieces) was all fantastic. The tempura batter was flavorful but not greasy, and the food under the batter was cooked perfectly. The broccoli piece I got was tender—and it still tasted like broccoli.

• The accompaniments were all pretty standard. I liked the addition of mushrooms to the miso soup, but the salad—which looked like it came straight out of a pre-mixed bag—was nothing to get excited about.

Thanks to the lunch special, I learned that Joyce’s Sushi puts out quality food, and the next time I go there, I’ll definitely first consider the sushi and the tempura.

See? Helpful!

It’s been an eventful month for me and the Coachella Valley Independent. Here are some notes and thoughts.

• I was fortunate enough to attend the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. It was a wonderful gathering of motivated independent journalists from around North America.

Make no mistake: Some (but not all) independent local newspapers are struggling. However, those of us in the industry are working on finding new ways to bring readers the news they need—and coming up with innovative ways to pay for it.

Some alternative newspapers—from Boston to Little Rock to Santa Fe to Baltimore—are starting nonprofits, opening doors to grants and other journalism-funding sources. Others are using new technologies to tell their communities’ stories in fascinating new ways. It was truly exciting to see the energy and excitement displayed by so many editors, writers and publishers.

Oh, and one more tidbit from the conference: I’d previously mentioned that the Independent was a finalist for a national Association of Alternative Newsmedia award. Well, I am elated to report that Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” took first place in the Column category for smaller newspapers. In other words, in the eyes of contest judges, “Know Your Neighbors” is the top column in alternative newspapers with a circulation of less than 45,000 in the entire country.

• We celebrated Anita’s columns, as well as all sorts of other great work the Independent has done over the last five years, from Aug. 1-20 during our Supporters of the Independent membership drive.

I am happy to report that we received some great support during the drive—but not as much as I was anticipating. A sizable handful of readers signed up for memberships at higher levels, but few readers signed up for memberships at the smaller levels.

However, I was honored and touched by the expressions of appreciation we did receive from readers. Take, for example, the letter we received from Eva Mansell, along with a $20 check. “Hi and THANK YOU for what you all do! Wish it could be more, but I’m on a low, fixed income … but I (so) appreciate the (astronomy column), the local issues/politics and articles.”

Thank you, Eva. That letter made my month.

It’s not too late to join Eva in supporting the Independent. Visit CVIndependent.com/Supporters, or write us at the address at the top left.

• Season is almost here … so that means the Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll is here, too! First-round voting in some 130-plus categories is now under way; click here to vote! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions!

As always, thanks for reading. Also, keep your eyes open for the September 2017 print edition of the Independent, hitting the streets of the Coachella Valley in 380-plus locations this week!

TRIO Closed Indefinitely After Early-Morning Fire

Sometime around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, a fire broke out in the parking lot behind TRIO Restaurant, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The ever-popular restaurant suffered significant smoke and water damage during the fire—and is now closed indefinitely.

In the aftermath of the blaze—which also devastated the neighboring Shag Store—TRIO owner Tony Marchese said he hoped Trio would reopen by Labor Day weekend. However, in late August, he announced via TRIO’s Facebook page that the cleanup and other work would not be completed by then.

Keep your fingers crossed for a reopening date sometime in mid-late September.

Authorities deemed the fire “suspicious,” but had not released any further concrete details as of our press deadline.

Watch www.facebook.com/TrioPalmSprings for updates.


Village Pub Closed for 'Rehab' After Liquor-License Violations

Whoever is in charge of the spin effort regarding the month-long closure of the Village Pub—at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—deserves a raise.

Here’s what happened: The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suspended the Village Pub’s liquor license for 30 days due to a couple of major violations: A now-former employee “battered” a customer, and the pub had a bar manager who did not meet the state’s qualifications.

Oops. Well, how did the Village Pub handle the mess? The brilliant answer: Management ’fessed up and embraced the punishment.

Managers did TV interviews. Owners answered reporters’ questions. They announced the closure—which was cleverly branded as the bar’s “Rehab”—would take place starting Thursday, Aug. 24. They said that between then and a planned Saturday, Sept. 23, reopening, they’d “clean, refresh and retrain.” And they announced some great parties—some pre-“Rehab”-themed—before the closure.

Bravo for the PR effort … but not so much for the rules violations.

Watch www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings for updates.


In Brief

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is holding its sixth annual Craft Beer Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10. A craft-beer festival, a beer brunch and all sorts of other events are on the docket; get details, tickets and reservations at www.acehotel.com/palmsprings. … Congrats to our friends at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill. On Sunday, Aug. 20, the restaurant, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, celebrated the two-year anniversary of its wildly popular Desert Divas Drag Brunch. The Sunday brunch and the show are a steal at $16.95; get info at rioazulpalmsprings.com/drag-brunch. … When Johnny Costa’s Ristorante, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, reopens for its 42nd season on Friday, Sept. 1, it’ll have a new look. “The new concept has a modern feel with exotic woods and soft earth-tone colors,” according to a news release. “The beautification of the dining room will feature new carpet, all new upholstery and seating, and new paint throughout the restaurant. Custom angled framed mirrors will showcase the walls; new chandeliers, sconces and other enhancements will allow the dining experience to be more intimate.” Visit johnnycostaspalmsprings.com for more info. … After a series of violent incidents at The Block Sports Bar and Grill, 68955 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City, the city shut down the restaurant on Aug. 10, apparently due to an expired business license. However, management jumped to resolve the paperwork issues, and reopened two weeks later. Watch www.facebook.com/theblocksportsbar for updates. … Coming very soon to the space at 68525 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City, that most recently housed Mike’s American Bistro: Bubba’s Bones and Brews. Watch this space for more information. … Coming soon: The valley’s fourth Koffi, to Tahquitz Plaza, at 600 Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. It’ll be the third Palm Springs location for the popular hangout; watch www.kofficoffee.com for more information. … Fans of the Desert Fox Bar, which called downtown Palm Springs home until closing in 2015, have cause to celebrate: The bar is making a return, at 44750 San Pablo Ave., in Palm Desert. Watch www.facebook.com/desertfoxbar for an exact opening date. … New to Palm Desert, specifically the Westfield Palm Desert mall: Burgerim, a “gourmet” chain burger joint. Customers who sign up can get all sorts of free food during a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 13; visit www.facebook.com/BurgerimPalmDesert for info and signup details. … Grocery-delivery service Instacart has come to the Coachella Valley. For $5.99, you can get your grocery order of $35 or more—from stores including Stater Bros., Ralph’s, Smart and Final, Petco, Whole Foods and Costco—delivered to your door. Get more info at www.instacart.com.

What: The fish and chips

Where: Atlantic Fish and Chips, 73850 Highway 111, Suite B, Palm Desert

How much: Mini (two pieces, as shown) is $7.99

Contact: 760-568-5066

Why: It’s a near-perfect version of the classic platter.

Atlantic Fish and Chips has been around for many years; it was fast casual before fast casual was cool, in fact.

However, I’d never managed to make it there myself—that is, until I found myself near the hole-in-the-wall restaurant at lunch time on a recent weekday. It was time for me to devour some fried food, and Atlantic indeed offers all sorts of fried goodies, including shrimp, clam strips, mushrooms, zucchini, onion rings and hush puppies. There are even fried Oreos for dessert ($3).

But I was there for the fish and chips. That’s part of the restaurant’s name, after all.

After getting some advice from the personable woman behind the counter, I decided to get the “mini” fish and chips: two pieces of breaded and fried wild Alaskan pollock, plus fries and a little cup o’ coleslaw. Despite the “mini” moniker, this was plenty of food—and I am not a light eater. If you are a light eater, one piece plus the fries and coleslaw will cost you $5.49; for more gluttonous eaters, three pieces cost $10.99, while four cost $13.75.

While the coleslaw was good, and the chips were pretty average, the fish pieces were fantastic. They were moist and perfectly cooked; the batter was flavorful and crunchy. I have eaten many versions of fish and chips that were foiled by greasiness—which makes sense, considering the stuff is immersed in oil—but Atlantic’s fish was excellent: The oil was definitely present, but it was far from being overwhelming or annoying.

Atlantic Fish and Chips has been around for a long time for a good reason: The food is excellent. If it continues to be excellent, something tells me Atlantic Fish and Chips will be around for many more years to come, too.

What: The Tuna Hana bowl

Where: Pokehana, 78742 Highway 111, Suite A, La Quinta

How much: $11.95

Contact: 760-564-0004; www.pokehana.com

Why: It’s a tasty (and trendy) treat.

Another trendy food has come to the Coachella Valley—in a big way.

A year or two ago, if a desert denizen was craving poke—a Hawaiian-style bowl or salad starring raw fish—said denizen was most likely out of luck. However, that’s not the case today, thanks to a handful of new poke places—including Pokehana, which opened its doors in La Quinta just before the start of the new year.

I recently stopped by Pokehana for a late lunch. Being a Pokehana rookie, I asked the friendly person behind the counter what she recommended, and she pointed to the Tuna Hana bowl. It’s packed with ingredients: tuna, onion, cucumber, Hijiki seaweed, crab salad, avocado, mango, crispy garlic pieces, toasted sesame seeds, masago (fish eggs), edamame and sauce, all over a choice of white rice, brown rice or mixed greens. (I chose brown rice.)

Customers can customize any bowl—Pokehana is a fast-casual joint, and you watch as they assemble your bowl from ingredients behind the counter—but since I was a newbie, I chose to get the Tuna Hana bowl as it is on the menu. The resulting entrée was indeed delicious and endorsement-worthy. The temperature contrast between the hot rice and the cool fish and vegetables was pleasant, and the abundance of flavors and textures was a lot of fun.

However, on my next visit to Pokehana—and trust me, there will be a next visit—I’ll cut that number of ingredients in half, at least, and let some of the bowl’s high-quality contents shine without so many supporting cast members. That’s my personal preference—and one of the great things about places like Pokehana is the fact that any dish is fully customizable.

Watch for a second Pokehana coming soon to Palm Desert, and perhaps one in Palm Springs down the line.

Let’s face it: August is not the best month for business in the Coachella Valley.

If there’s onetime during the year that a restaurant will be closed, it’s probably going to be in August. August is the most popular month for us locals to take vacations—in part because the weather is scorching, and it’s already been scorching for several months, and we’re tired of it.

However, most of us are still here in August. Therefore, news and arts and foodie stuff still happens—and that’s why those of us here at the Independent don’t take the month off, and instead keep working as hard as we always do.

Still … August is not the best month for business in the Coachella Valley, and that goes for us here at the Independent, too. That’s why we have decided to hold our first-ever Supporters of the Independent membership drive this month—and while doing so, we’re going to celebrate some of the great journalism the Independent has done in our almost five years of existence.

From today through Aug. 20, we’ll highlight a story from our archives on our social-media platforms each day. Today's piece is the first-ever print edition cover story in the Coachella Valley Independent: "Coachella Valley 2035: Our Region Is Becoming Older, More Latino and a Lot More Crowded," published on March 29, 2013, and the cover story in the April 2013 issue. This piece analyzed local growth projections and talked about the future our valley faces—including serious problems and challenges.

To help us continue doing great stories like this, we are asking you to join our Supporters of the Independent program.

Our content is offered free to all, both in print and online—and it always will be. We don’t have pay walls, and we don’t sell subscriptions. However, a Supporters of the Independent membership gives readers a chance to contribute directly to the Independent and our mission statement: “The Coachella Valley Independent is the valley’s source of independent news, arts coverage, commentary and culture. We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. We want to be a mirror for the entire Coachella Valley. We want to inform, enlighten and entertain. We will never let advertisers determine what we cover, and how we cover things. In other words, we will always tell it how we see it. For example: Some other publications in this valley do puff-piece reviews or feature stories on advertisers to make said advertisers happy. We will never, ever do that. If we lose an advertiser due to an unflattering story, a negative review or something else, so be it.”

I hope you’ll consider joining our Supporters of the Independent program; you can join for as little as $10, and all members get cool perks. For more information, visit CVIndependent.com/supporters.

Also: Please pick up the August 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, now in 380-plus locations across the valley. As always, thanks for reading.

Three New Places Coming Soon From Local Restaurant Greats

In the coming months, at least three new restaurants are slated to open their doors in the Coachella Valley that are owned by veteran local restaurateurs.

In order of anticipated opening:

Acqua California Bistro—at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Palm Desert—finally opened its doors to customers on Thursday, July 27.

A little history: Jerry and Barbara Keller got into the local restaurant business with Acqua Pazza California Bistro, located at The River, well before they opened their wildly popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs in August 2011. However, when the lease for Acqua Pazza expired in December 2014, the Kellers decided to walk away after 10 years, citing a desire to slow down and focus on Lulu.

BB’s at the River, owned by Jack Srebnik—who also owns The Slice and Maracas—soon opened in the space, but closed last year due to a lack of business. The owners of The River then did a very smart thing: They talked the Kellers into returning, and last September, they announced that Acqua California Bistro would open sometime in the winter.

Winter then turned to spring, which then turned to summer, without an opening date; Keller cited construction issues, in part due to the restaurant’s expansion, as one reason for the delay. However, opening time is finally here; to work out kinks, the restaurant served invited “pre-opening” guests July 22-24. (I was fortunate enough to be one of the guests, and the service and food were both top-notch—a good sign for a pre-opening meal, when the staff is still learning.)

If you know the menu at Lulu, then you know what to expect at Acqua, including the popular three-course menu for $19.99, and the all-day happy hour at the bar. As for the décor, the Kellers bumped things up a notch, including a sculpture featuring various colored forks out front, made by Karen and Tony Barone.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage.

• A mile or two away in Palm Desert, crews are hard at work preparing AC3 Restaurant + Bar, at 45400 Larkspur Lane—just off El Paseo—for an anticipated fall opening.

AC3 is a joint project by some of the minds behind two of Palm Springs’ most popular restaurants: Tony Marchese of Trio Restaurant, and Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley from Copley’s Restaurant. The description on the AC3 Facebook page sums things up nicely: They’re “teaming up to pair the distinctive style of Trio’s hip local vibe with Chef Andrew’s vibrant progressive cooking.”

While no menu information has been posted yet, we know the décor will include the colorful work of young Rancho Mirage artist Nicholas Kontaxis.

Visit www.facebook.com/ac3palmdesert for more information, including pictures of some of Kontaxis’ art. Head on over to ac3palmdesert.com to sign up for emailed updates.

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine has gained an increasing number of fans since opening early this year at 72695 Highway 111, Suite A6, in Palm Desert—and owner John Tsoutis delighted his restaurant’s west valley devotees when he announced in mid-July that a second Evzin would be opening in Palm Springs in October.

Despite serious grilling from friends and fans on Facebook, Tsoutis—as of our press deadline—had not revealed the location of the Palm Springs Evzin; he did, however, say it would be part of a hotel. Hmm.

Watch www.facebook.com/Evzinrestaurant for updates.


Details Revealed Regarding Restaurants at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way—part of the huge and controversial downtown redevelopment project—will be opening sometime in the fall, and we now have information about the restaurants that will call it home.

According to the news release: “Juniper Table, a casual all-day Mediterranean café, and 4 Saints, an intimate hideaway on the rooftop, will serve bold, chef-driven cuisine under the direction of executive chef Stephen Wambach, along with an extensive cocktail, beer and wine program. … Prior to joining Juniper Table and 4 Saints, he led the Four Seasons Chicago as executive chef, revamping Allium to receive three stars from the Chicago Tribune, in addition to being awarded the esteemed Esquire ‘Best New Restaurant’ award for his work at Epic in Chicago.”

Juniper Table “will be a vibrant upscale-casual eatery featuring rustic, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine spotlighting seasonal and organic ingredients,” according to the release, while 4 Saints’ menu “includes sharable plates that reflect internationally inspired ingredients, such as foie gras bread and butter, paring autumn flavors with salted caramel apple, Thai long pepper and gingerbread.”

Sounds fancy!

Watch the restaurants’ respective websites—www.junipertable.com and www.4saintspalmsprings.com—for updates.


In Brief

If you somehow missed the social media freak-out surrounding the news: A Krispy Kreme is supposed to come to Rancho Mirage in a yet-to-be-built development near Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. The opening date, however, is at least a year away. … Our friends at Dish Creative Cuisine, 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, have launched new menus both in the bar and dining room. The new creations by Joane Garcia-Colson and team include fried langoustine ravioli ($9) in the bar. Yum! Visit www.dishcreativecuisine.com for more information.

Updated July 27

A couple of years ago, Damon Rubio found himself at a career crossroads.

The executive vice president at UltraStar Cinemas had been with the company for more than 15 years, and in the movie-theater business since 1991. However, the owners of the company were getting older and had started selling off locations—so Rubio knew his time with UltraStar would be coming to a close.

“I had to decide: Did I want to work for someone else, or take the plunge and do something for myself?” he said.

He didn’t want to move his family out of Southern California, and he’d maxed out his career opportunities in the area, more or less—so he decided to take that plunge.

UltraStar had been managing the Mary Pickford Theatre and the nearby Desert Cinemas, the former IMAX theater, in Cathedral City. However, the lease came to an end last year, so Rubio went straight to the landlord and cut a deal.

D’Place Entertainment was born.

Having been in a similar situation myself, I have an affinity for people who take that plunge and venture out on their own. While I have been petrified with fear at times as a small-business owner, Rubio said he’s had a calmer experience.

“I learned it’s maybe not as scary as I expected it to be,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s easy. But a lot of people dream of owning their own business, and the first step, diving in, is the hardest part.”

Of course, every small business faces challenges. Rubio is looking to expand D’Place beyond Cathedral City, and he said his company’s relative newness has led to some difficulties.

“We’re a young company, and I’m having to make a name for myself,” Rubio said. “My experience is obviously a huge part of what I go in and sell, but when I talk about all my experience with the previous company, (potential partners) sometimes will say, ‘That’s great! By the way, can you give us the phone number for that company?’”

The movie-theater business itself is facing some trying times, given the increasing number of ways that people can enjoy movies. However, Rubio said he’s confident movie theaters will be around for many years to come.

“People have been pronouncing theaters dead for years,” he said. “But none of those predictions came true. People have kitchens at home, yet restaurants continue to survive.”

Rubio said the key to theaters’ survival is making going to the movies a true experience, with better seating, higher-quality refreshments and enhancements to the movie-watching experience itself. He points to recent improvements at the Mary Pickford as examples: Recliners can be found throughout the cineplex, and D-Box motion-effects seating is offered with some films. One theater also offers the Barco Escape format, with the movie shown on a panoramic three screens.

However, all of these enhancements also have an up-charge—leading to another worry.

“My biggest concern is that theaters offering all of these high-end experiences will result in high-end prices,” Rubio said. “We don’t want that. We want to keep family-friendly prices.”

What’s the next big thing for the movies?

“It’ll be interesting to see how virtual reality plays a role, be it in the way movies are promoted, or in the actual exhibition of movies,” Rubio said. “The great thing about theaters is we’re able to provide a mass experience, and that gives us an opportunity to be a place where new technology can come.”

After a little more than a year of ownership, Rubio said things are going well for D’Place Entertainment. Owning his own company is just a continuation of Rubio’s love affair of movies, which began when he stood in line to see the original Star Wars as a kid at the Polar Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska. He said he still gets tingles when he thinks of the first moments of Star Wars, with the crawl and the star destroyer flying into the screen.

“There’s always been something in me that wanted to recapture that moment,” Rubio said. “I realize that I am not just selling movies; I am selling that experience I had as a child.”

For more information, visit dplaceentertainment.com.

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