Squatters brewing in Park City
When Jim Polychronis came to Park City from Greece to work in the mines and eventually open a small grocery store, he likely had no idea what he had started. More than 21 awards later, his descendants are continuing the heritage he left for them.
Jim’s grandson, Jeff Polychronis, co-owns Squatters Roadhouse Grill, which has won national and global awards for it’s beer, and opens an expansion of the brewpub in Park City tonight at 5 p.m. at the same location Jim’s son and Jeff’ father, George Polychronis, formerly ran the Mt. Air Café.
George was forced to close the original grocery store because of a drop in Park City’s population, but five years later reopened after ski lifts began to be a part of the Park City landscape. He opened Mt. Air Market on Main Street before expanding to a site currently occupied by Albertson’s and opening Mt. Air Café on the corner of Park Avenue and Kearns.
After growing up around the food industry, Jeff briefly left it behind to pursue a life in real estate. That’s when he met Peter Cole. The pair worked together locally, and then reached out to the West Coast. On their trips to cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, they would end their days at a brewery-restaurant, eating and drinking the local food and craft beer that inspired them to bring the idea back to Salt Lake City and open Squatters in 1989.
When he heard his father and his uncle wanted to sell Mt. Air and retire, Jeff took the chance to infiltrate his old stomping ground with his thriving new business. He and Cole leased the property from his father, did some renovations and will open tonight.
"I think they’re very excited about it," Jeff said. "When it was decided that they were going to retire and we were going to buy the property I wasn’t sure if it’d add to his life or take away from it since he had always worked. I’m sure now that it will add to it."
Despite being an entirely different concept, Squatters will not squash the Mt. Air tradition. The menu will be a mix of old and new.
"We’re serving the same breakfast sausage that we call Mt. Air Sausage that we still have the recipe to. Several things are the same, although most of the menu is Squatters."
James Soares, director of social responsibility at Squatters, said the expansion has been a good experience for everyone, especially the two owners.
"I think it was very rewarding for Jeff to be on both sides of the transaction," he said. "To be able to help his father retire and see everyone one both sides benefit was a very positive thing for him."
"It’s a personal experience for the owners because of their connection with everything up there," he continued. "We have some employees from the Mt. Air that are working with us and that’s great. We get all their experience from the Mt. Air and we won’t lose touch with what made the two restaurants great."
Soares said there will be Mt. Air memorabilia on the walls and Squatters will continue Mt. Air’s tradition of "serving the best breakfast around." A few things will change, however. Both Squatters owners believe in a three-fold bottom line people, planet and profit.
"They didn’t change the outside dimensions of the building so it has the same footprint as the Mt. Air," he said. "But the building itself is in line with our philosophy they’re putting in native plants and other landscaping that will help with water conservation. They have had to make a few changes to make sure everything is up to code, such as a ramp. But that’s what they were shooting for, to not change the outside of the building so people could come into a new restaurant and have it be familiar."
Soares said the breakfast menu, for which Mt. Air was well known, will include all the things that "make the Mt. Air the Mt. Air. But it will add a few things that make the Squatters brunch Squatters brunch. But they want people to continue to be able to enjoy what the Mt. Air offered."
They even kept the same Mt. Air grill, so customers will get breakfast off the same grill as when it was the Mt. Air. Soares said there has been some care taking so that the things that made the Mt. Air great are still there, but also bringing what makes Squatters great and putting them together rather than eliminating one or the other.
He also said Park City is a perfect fit for the restaurant and pub because of the city’s focus on conservation and environmentally friendly practices.
"We want to buy equipment that uses less water, work through local businesses, all while looking at our own bottom line," he said. "We want to be a socially responsible business and Park City is very forward with recycling and being ‘green’ and efficient and we’re excited to learn from Park City so we can take things back to Salt Lake."
All the beer will continued to be brewed in Salt Lake and brought to Park City by bio-diesel truck. "We’ll pick up our fryer grease and operate the trucks on that," Soares said.
The Park City location will be the third for Squatters, with the main restaurant in Salt Lake City and a second branch at the Salt Lake Airport.
Squatters is located at 1900 Park Avenue and can be reached at (435) 649-9868. Reservations are not needed for any meal. Breakfast will be served Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. A weekend brunch will be served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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