Steve Cruse considered Big Wang’s the best place in town to watch sports, but something was missing.
“It wasn’t locally owned and didn’t seem to be a good fit with the demographics of the neighborhood,” Cruse said.
So when the 3,000-square-foot space became available earlier this year, Cruse and his wife and business partner Mendy, who had been thinking about finding a local business to buy, bought it.
After a renovation, they opened the Local Pub & Grill over Labor Day weekend, and they’ve been busy since. It’s located at 26876 The Old Road in the Westridge Village shopping center, anchored by BevMo.
The new name tells the story, Cruse said. “Not being part of a larger corporation helps us stay responsive to our customers and stay connected to the community. “I love it when customers who used to come to Big Wangs come in and see how different it looks,” Cruse said.
He made sure the pub, with 20 flat screen TVs, remains the place to watch sports. “So far it’s been working,” he said. “The World Series gave us a nice bump in business. More than the added revenue, I loved the energy in the place with all 20 TVs on the Dodger games. Just seeing everybody stand with their hand on their heart during the National Anthem was something.”
Cruse already had a number of connections in the Santa Clarita Valley by the time he and his wife and daughter moved here in 2009.
“We’re trying to build up our business when we don’t have a big sporting event,” he said. One new feature: live music on Friday nights. We’re tending toward acoustic rock and new wave from the 1980’s.” Most recently, the Future X Husbands performed.
The Local’s menu includes a selection of burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers. “We have an express lunch menu from 11a.m. to 2 p.m., so people can get a good lunch in a reasonable amount of time for about ten bucks. And we serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.”
At one point, Cruse realized that he might be getting a bit too fancy in how he renamed some menu items. “We listed chicken flats and drums, which is just another way of saying chicken wings. People kept asking if we had wings, so we finally just switched the name to ‘wings, wings, wings.’ Wing sales doubled within a week.”
As another way to stay rooted in the community, The Local is working with local microbrewery Pocock Brewing Co. to develop its own custom pale ale, which should be available by mid-December.
“We’ve also improved the wine selection considerably, because not everyone drinks beer,” he said.
“We already sell some of their beer, and decided it would be nice have one of our own,” Cruse said, adding that the pub will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from that ale to charity.
“We want to give back, because we cherish this community,” he said. The pub recently participated in the Michael Hoefflin Foundation’s annual Evening Under the Stars fundraiser by stocking running a martini bar that raised $4,000.
To add to the family-friendly atmosphere he’s trying to cultivate, Cruse has held cornhole tournaments, and is currently shopping around for a shuffleboard table.
Cruse said that while he had a little bit of restaurant experience early in his career, it didn’t come close to his current workload. So far at least, beyond the usual trials and tribulations of getting a business off the ground, there haven’t been any bad surprises.
His biggest challenge is getting kitchen running smoothly. Even though we didn’t do any advertising when we opened, so we could have a soft opening, word got out and we got slammed. Now we’re focusing on incremental growth.
The Local is open 11 A.M. to 11 P.M. Mondays through Thursdays, and later on the weekends.