DTPHX In/Flux: Young Founders Of Chico Malo, Wren And Wolf Evolve Alongside Downtown

September 28, 2022 - DTPHX

It started with a dream. Then a big leap of faith.

In 2015, Kaitlin Myers was in her late 20s working at Arrogant Butcher in Downtown Phoenix alongside her husband Teddy, who was in his early 30s. After several years of working at Fox Restaurant Concepts in varying capacities, the young couple set their sights on something bigger.

They quit their jobs, sold their downtown home, and used the money to build Culture Shock Hospitality, the restaurant group behind Chico Malo, which opened at CityScape Phoenix in April 2017, followed by another Chico Malo in Miami in February 2021.

Chico Malo (“bad boy” in Spanish) opened at CityScape Phoenix in April 2017. Taking the place of The Corner, a deli and mini grocery store, Chico Malo was the first restaurant concept by Culture Shock Hospitality, headed by husband-and-wife team Teddy and Katie Myers, who have lived downtown since 2008. (Photo: Mer Norwood)

“It was a scary leap,” said Kaitlin Myers, co-founder and partner at Culture Shock. “I got a part-time job, Teddy got a part-time job — so we could start making money while we were building the concept, feeding and seeding it. So yeah, pretty scary.”

Part of what makes the partnership work, according to the couple, is Katie’s business acumen and Teddy’s focus on the vision.

“I’m the dreamer and Katie’s the one that makes it happen,” said Teddy Myers, co-founder and partner at Culture Shock. “It was not scary for me because I am not afraid to fail. I am afraid to not take chances to do something amazing.”

Their high-stakes venture paid off. Chico Malo caught on quickly with locals and visitors alike, flocking to the “unapologetically bold” concept, known for its craft cocktails, elevated Mexican fare, artsy interior, and patio overlooking Patriot’s Park.

The name Wren and Wolf references the day-to-night nature of the restaurant, with a coffee and breakfast bar open for the early birds, and a generous selection of entrees, desserts and craft cocktails for all those nocturnal animals. (Photo: Wren & Wolf)

Evolution of Wren and Wren

Fast forward to 2021, the couple decided to take another leap launching Pretty Decent Concepts — which they formed with local industry veteran Thor Nguyen — and the first concept underneath it, Wren and Wolf.

“My goal was always to have multiple boutique concepts that inspired us, and to always be pushing it forward and trying new things,” said Teddy.

Wren and Wolf is definitely different. Large-scale murals mixed with taxidermy birds and “animals of the night” — including a coyote, wolf and fox — fill the space. Local artists contributed to the aesthetic, alongside hospitality designer Peter Bowden, who created the interiors for Chico Malo in Phoenix and Miami.

With the goal of creating a “stunning visual experience,” the restaurateurs also selected a high-profile beverage and culinary team, which they refer to as “an all-star cast.”

Wren & Wolf combines the talents of Chef Jesus Figueroa of Tarbell’sCafé Monarch and Renata’s Hearth, with a cocktail program created by Libby Lingua and Mitch Lyons — known for their work at UnderTow and Highball.

According to Teddy, he learned a lot about putting together the best talent from his years as a professional musician, an experience that shaped him immensely as a restauranteur.

A Journey From Rock Star To Restauranteur

“Just like you would find amazing musicians to work with, you come up with creative, you come up with design, you figure out what your identity is, and then you figure out a way to get other people interested in it,” Teddy said. “So all of the parallels of what I was doing with music on the business side, are the exact same as what I’m doing with the restaurant — just with different people and different skills.”

When he was 22 years old, working at “Phoenix New Times” fresh out of college, he won the grand prize for the local Health and Wealth Raffle, a fundraiser for Barrow Neurological Institute and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. It was a $1 million home. He took the cash option on the house, and after taxes, said he walked away with approximately $500,000

“After that happened, I had some money, and a quarter life crisis, and decided to quit my job and start a record label, and be in a band, and I spent everything I had on chasing a dream,” he said.

He spent “an amazing five years pursuing music,” an experience that changed his life for the better. But he said it was also his first failure.

“I feel like every entrepreneur has a failure, and I dumped so much money into that, and it didn’t work,” he said. “The tough lessons I learned in money management and how to be an entrepreneur were the launching pad for what I’m doing now. I learned a lot from it, and learned the value of a dollar — that they don’t actually come that easy, and they’re not going to come back like that later.”

True Partnership Makes It Possible

During that time, he also met Kaitlin, and life on the road touring, recording and chasing music wasn’t ideal for starting a family.

Teddy and Kaitlin Myers are a true “urban family.” In addition to living in one of the downtown towers, the Myers co-own restaurants at CityScape and Renaissance Square, Chico Malo and Wren and Wolf respectively, while also raising their young son. They say they wouldn’t have it any other way. (Photo: Fara Illich)

They bought their first home downtown in 2008, and even though they sold it to fund Chico Malo, they didn’t go far. First moving to the Coronado neighborhood, then into the Downtown Core, they now live just steps from their two restaurants, raising toddler son Theo – who’s named after dad.

“We love downtown,” Kaitlin said. “It’s mainly out of passion, we just really want to make downtown something fun and exciting for our guests.”

In the development of both restaurants, the Myers’ focused on what downtown was missing, and tried to build a concept around that. But the space was equally important. For Chico Malo and Wren and Wolf, it took some serious creativity to transform them into downtown destinations.

Sam Fox provided some of the inspiration. A successful local entrepreneur who opened his first restaurant at 21 years old, he grew Fox Restaurant Concepts to 11 distinct restaurants, including Arrogant Butcher, where the Myers’ got their start.

Like Fox, the Myers’ possess a relentless ambition, but fueled by the desire to help propel downtown forward. As both business owners and residents, they are totally focused on the downtown community.

“That’s the biggest thing, we just want to make downtown cool,” Kaitlin said. “We want to make it fun.”

They plan to open a new bar adjacent to Wren and Wolf called Trophy Room in the coming months, with no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“It’s exciting to be part of this movement and to be involved in helping define what Phoenix should be,” Teddy said. “There’s just a lot of energy and unique, creative, fun concepts that you can’t find anywhere else. We’re crafting our own identity, and it’s fun to be a part of.”

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