Hospitality & Tourism  August 15, 2019

Restaurateur watches Tangerine bear fruit

LONGMONT — Orange. Tangerine orange.

It hits you even before you enter Tangerine, the new breakfast spot in downtown Longmont that opened in June. It’s the awning, the signage, the booths, and especially those big, round light fixtures that look like big tangerines.

“A local company made them for a third of the price of the Boulder ones,” laughed owner Alec Schuler. The Boulder ones are nicer — they were made in the U.K. — but you can’t tell the difference.”

The irony? “We do not carry any tangerines in the building,” Schuler said. “A good Florida orange is as good or better at half the price.”

A son of European immigrants — an English mother and Swiss father — Schuler was born and raised in New York, worked his way up through restaurant jobs, moved to Boulder in 1991, graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1995 and Manhattan’s National Gourmet Institute in 2001, and was employed at L’Atelier in Boulder and Treppeda’s in Niwot before opening Arugula.

The Longmont location is the third for Schuler’s breakfast concept. The first opened in 2011, adjoining Schuler’s Arugula restaurant at 28th Street and Iris Avenue in Boulder.

“The odd thing is, Arugula opened in 2009 but I wanted it to be bigger. I expanded when the restaurant next door went out of business, but I thought ‘What am I going to do with the rest of this space?’ My grand plan was fine-dining Italian, but I didn’t want to compete with myself. So I opened the breakfast place and named it Tangerine because I wanted the name to be similar to Arugula, a food product that would make you think breakfast.”

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If you go

Boulder
2777 Iris Ave.
303-443-2333

Lafayette
300 S. Public Road
303-443-5100

Longmont
379 Main St.
720-815-2888

www.tangerineeats.com

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It also came from something the historical Buddha said to a group of children: “Looking at a tangerine, a person who practices awareness can see all the wonders of the universe and how all things interact with one another.”

Schuler opened the second Tangerine location in Lafayette after a pizzeria went out of business. “The infrastructure was already in place, so it saved me a lot. Arugula closed in January 2018, and I put a lot of the equipment in a truck, drove it to Lafayette, and we opened Tangerine in February.”

Three months later, another opportunity for expansion presented itself when Steven and Susan Carlson decided to close Sun Rose Café in Longmont after nine years. The building dates back to the 1880s and had housed drug stores, a J.C. Penney clothing store and a newsstand.

“When Sun Rose Café popped up on the market, I was not ready — funding, staffing, any of it — but because the deal was ‘purchase the building,’ I did it,” Schuler said. “I’ve never been in more debt in my life —but for a good cause.”

Schuler took advantage of some city, state and historic-preservation tax credits, along with help from ANB Bank, to make the project work.

“It’s a dream come true for a restaurateur,” Schuler said. “I stopped funding it once we opened. I’m not bleeding money any more. I wouldn’t say we’re making money yet but … ”

The menu contains some unique offerings, and “I developed 100 percent of the menu,” Schuler said. “It’s as if Arugula did breakfast.”

Orange is the color theme at Tangerine. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

One of those offerings is a trout benedict. “We smoked our own trout at Arugula, but now we buy it smoked already. We gave up on smoking it ourselves,” he said. “We used to make our own bacon, too, but some people didn’t get it. Every batch was a little different, different thicknesses, and the average customer didn’t appreciate it.”

The lesson he learned? “Sometimes, your dream is not sellable.”

Otherwise, the menu has remained almost the same since Tangerine opened, Schuler said. “For breakfast, people want what they know. We have a lot of room for experimentation on our menu without having to change it at all. Most breakfast joints are not fancy, infrastructure wise. Our food is fancy, but you can get the basic stuff, too.”

Tangerine’s coffee comes from Salto Coffee Works, a coffee, bicycle and ski shop in Nederland, because owner Carina Luscher “is a good friend and convinced me to carry her coffee. She’s been asking me for years.”

His Tangerine locations employ “a little more than 100,” Schuler said. “Considering how much we sell, that’s a high ratio of employees to sales compared with an average business.”

Schuler said his plans for the future are to “rest, and see how these restaurants roll. I’m already a little stretched as it is.

“I know these 100 people. If I get more, it’ll change. I have four sons, so maybe one of them wants to expand it further.”

But not for awhile. Those sons include 5-year-old twins, an 11-year old and a 13-year-old. Schuler said the 11-year-old might be most likely to dive into Dad’s restaurant business.

“He’s the tough one, so that’s good,” Schuler said. “He gets beat up by his older brother, and it feels that way in this business sometimes.”

LONGMONT — Orange. Tangerine orange.

It hits you even before you enter Tangerine, the new breakfast spot in downtown Longmont that opened in June. It’s the awning, the signage, the booths, and especially those big, round light fixtures that look like big tangerines.

“A local company made them for a third of the price of the Boulder ones,” laughed owner Alec Schuler. The Boulder ones are nicer — they were made in the U.K. — but you can’t tell the difference.”

The irony? “We do not carry any tangerines in the building,” Schuler said. “A…

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