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BIZtalks: A Family Business

The Greater San Marcos Partnership and the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce are excited to bring you BIZtalks, a free event series that is open to the public and targeted to local entrepreneurs. Led by successful business owners in our area, speakers highlight hardships they have faced and share tips for helping aspiring entrepreneurs get started.

In April, BIZtalks emphasized the entrepreneurial journey of The Katz Brothers, Chase and Seth Katz, and their business partner Benjie Ackerman. These gentlemen are the proud owners of the iconic San Marcos establishments of Dos Gatos Kolache Bakery, Zelicks Icehouse, and Pie Society Pizzeria. These three gentlemen have pioneered the unique personality of this town and explain it all through the lens of A Family Business. 

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Two Cats That Started It All - Dos Gatos

Chase Katz was attending Texas State University when he realized that there really wasn't any breakfast option in San Marcos other than breakfast tacos. He reached out to his older brother Seth, who had recently graduated from UNLV in 2007 with a degree in Hospitality Management, with the idea to start something unique in this town. Seth realized very soon that he couldn't resist the opportunity to work with his brother in San Marcos. In June of 2009, the iconic kolache bakery, Dos Gatos, was born. 

The brothers landed on kolaches in an interesting way. Their journey started with a family friend who owned a kolache bakery in Prairie Lee. What was originally intended as a burger place, transitioned into kolaches based on the process of making hamburger buns. It wasn't long before they introduced this idea to San Marcos and saw the opportunity staring them in the face.

"We try to find something in the market place that didn"t exist and that's what we continue to try to do." - Seth Katz

This was just the start of the brothers' entrepreneurial ventures. Dos Gatos Kolache Bakery was just the first endeavor of what became a fierce creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit that would lead the brothers' to their future projects. 

Family Ties - Zelicks Icehouse

When Chase was in school and going out to bars, he reflected on the rare experience of getting a good drink and customer service at the same time. For a long time, the brothers were inspired by an interesting building, which in their opinion, was under utilized. It was a car shop that was renting uHauls, repairing vehicles, and seemed to be struggling. Once again, the brothers saw the potential opportunity for a new kind of bar in San Marcos. 

When they approached the owner, they knew they were facing some competition. In an optimal location, people used to send interest letters to the owner quite often, in hopes of buying the property. Nothing ever made the cut, that is, until the Katz brothers rolled up. The former owner bought the place right about the time he was their age, and he too was inspired by their family spirit. 

In keeping up with the trend of discovering openings in the market, Zelicks Icehouse opened its doors in May 2011. Zelicks is unlike any other establishment in the San Marcos bar scene and is proud to be home to original design features and family mementos. The bar is home to family photos of their grandfather, Jack Zelick Katz - a big supporter of the brothers' entrepreneurial endeavors - and the original safe from the car shop that was once there. The brothers chose the name Zelick's as a tribute to their grandfather's support, and made a personal mark on the landscape of San Marcos. 

"We chose an icehouse because we used to go play pool as kids with our dad at an icehouse near Galveston. We had a lot of great memories there and we wanted to recreate that." - Chase Katz

Once opened in 2011, the two brothers poured their own blood, sweat, and tears into the place. They built up the fence, constructed the deck, built the tables, landscaped, collaborated with the sign guy, and it all paid off! Zelicks celebrates its seven year anniversary in May!

A Slice of Brooklyn, NY in San Marcos, TX - Pie Society

While growing Zelicks in 2012, the brothers recruited one of Seth's UNLV classmates to help run the bar, Benjie Ackerman. When yet another opportunity presented itself to open a pizzeria, Seth, Chase, and Benjie became business partners and created Pie Society, a New York style pizzeria within a modern and fresh environment where everything is made in-house. Benjie and Seth majored in Hotel and Restaurant Management. With his experience in hospitality management, Benjie knew that most people wanted to go into a business that was mature - he had never thought about being on the front end of creating an idea. 

That didn't stop Benjie from facing this opportunity head on. Together with the brothers, the trio put so much thought into every little aspect of what goes into each detail. Every ingredient, every aspect and every decision was deliberate and calibrated. These strategic decisions proved successful over time because in June, the trio celebrate four years of Pie Society. 

"All the work we've put in up until now has been for us, now its all for [the community]." - Benji Ackerman

Seeing Opportunity

The brothers and Benjie are inspired by Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, who spoke about core values in his book and tie it along with their background in the hospitality industry. The trio revolve all of their businesses around the same core values in every location. These core values are a useful tool, which help them stay consistent among all sotres, and also ensure the consistent customer satisfaction their whole business model started from.

First and foremost, it is all about the guest! Each establishment shares similar ideas but ultimately, they are all slightly tailored for specific customers as well. It is expressed in the little things like simply treating every patron as if they are a guest in your own home. The basics of making sure they are comfortable, welcomed and taken care of.  Benjie addresses the audience full of business owners, entrepreneuirs and patrons alike. 

"Collectively as business owners within a variety of different industries, we drive our community perception of people on the outside. We can control their perceptions with our operations, we are pioneers who set the bar here. We set the tone 'this is who we are going to be.'" 

Recently, a second Dos Gatos was opened in San Marcos on Wonder World Drive. In the following weeks, the team will be opening a food trailer at Zelicks, a wonderful edition to the bar. Soon to follow is North Street, located just behind Zelicks. It will offer draft beer, approximately 25 taps, along with bar snacks and food with an Indian twist. Lastly, two new Pie Society locations are slated to open in 2018 in downtown San Antonio and another in Dripping Springs. 

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Didn't make it to BIZtalks this month? No problem! The entire presentation is posted on Facebook Live via the Greater San Marcos Partnership page. As you can see, this event is a great opportunity for local entrepreneurs curious about starting their own business. Like us on Facebook to see where the next BIZtalks will take place or you can also stay up-to-date by subscribing to our monthly newsletter, GSMP Reports, at this link