Johnny leaves sandwiches for love
July 19, 2005
About six months ago, two men who started an Aspen institution first talked about parting ways.Recently it became official: John Hoffman – the Johnny in Johnny McGuire’s – has left the sandwich business he created with partner Terrance McGuire.The reason is simple: love.Hoffman joined his girlfriend in Los Angeles a month ago. McGuire said the two had been chasing each other around for awhile now. Plus, Hoffman said that after 15 years he was ready for a change.The decision was not easy. He invested so much time and energy in Johnny McGuire’s, had so many co-workers who became “like brothers.” That is what Hoffman will miss most. The times of easy conversation with longtime friends, including many who used to be simply another customer.”Just telling jokes and bullshitting back and forth,” he said.
Hoffman said it was an odd time for him to leave, considering they had just recently gotten through most of the growing pains that come with restaurants. But he wanted a new challenge.”It runs really smoothly and we don’t have as many headaches as we used to. The system’s in place so it’s really an enjoyable place to be,” he said of the business. “I’ll pretty much miss all aspects of it.”It is clear he will be missed, as well.”We’ve been best friends for 15 years and still are,” said McGuire, who will now be the sole owner of the restaurant after a buyout agreement is finalized. “I’m happy that he’s happy. It’s been a crazy summer for me, but I know what’s on my plate. I’m ready. There’re no changes going on here at all.”Mhendi McConnell is owner of Mhendi, a hair salon, costume shop and oxygen bar that has been next door to Johnny McGuire’s for nearly eight years.”Terrance and him have been such strong partners. It’s amazing,” she said.McConnell said Hoffman is one of her best friends – “I’m sick over him leaving.”
“He didn’t want anyone’s opinion about him leaving because he’s loved so much, so many people would have tried to talk him out of it,” she said.Mark Campisi, owner of the Domino’s franchise two doors down from McGuire’s, also is an ownership partner with McGuire and Hoffman in the building. The three became partners in 2000.”Those two are kind of a legend around here,” Campisi said.Along with the businesses, the building also has a few apartments. McGuire’s departure won’t affect the building, he said.And nothing about the eatery, including the Johnny McGuire’s name and menu, will change, stressed both Hoffman and McGuire. He said he does not anticipate getting another partner.The owners started the restaurant in 1990 at the Aspen Business Center and brought it to its current site on Cooper Avenue in 1993. The business eventually had franchises in Durango, Boulder and Denver.But those have closed, leaving the Aspen site and a small offshoot called The Little Dill on the Snowmass mall, as the last places people can find Johnny McGuire’s.
And the Aspen eatery has never been busier.”It’s the craziest summer I’ve ever seen,” McGuire said. “Everybody in town is saying the same thing. It’s insane.”He said the restaurant usually doesn’t start seeing a large number of customers until the Fourth of July. The busy season this year started in May.As for Hoffman, he said he is enjoying Los Angeles, spending time with his girlfriend and observing “all the freaks out here. It’s almost comical.”While he leaves behind a legacy born among friends who wanted good, cheap sandwiches and a mellow place to get a paycheck, he knows the restaurant has staying power.”It’s cool because I know that it’ll be there forever in Terrance’s hands,” Hoffman said. “He’s going to keep that place alive for a long time.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org