Steve Mason is once again defying the odds — and daring to go against the advice of his wife — by plunging into a dilapidated forgotten block of NW 9 just east of Automobile Alley.
Even local chef Ryan Parrott admits he was uncertain about Mason's proposed Mexican Iguana Grill when he was shown the proposed location — a neglected 1905 garage at 9 NW 9 surrounded by abandoned derelict homes.
"I thought Steve was crazy,” said Parrott, who is now running the Iguana kitchen. "He's definitely got a vision that I think most would never see. He tries to develop off the beaten path.”
Parrott was also able to survey Mason's last project — the renovation of century-old buildings along the nearby 1000 block of N Broadway that for years had frustrated a succession of previous owners. The buildings are not only renovated, but with the exception of 1007 N Broadway, which is due a new roof this fall, they are fully leased with a strong retail presence at street level.
Focus on family
Mason, who owns Cardinal Engineering and Earl's Rib Palace restaurants, also has another unique approach that Parrott said was key to winning him over from the Deep Fork Group where he oversaw eight restaurants.
"Steve has a strong focus on family and he's very dedicated to his employees and making sure that they have time for their families and to be a part of the community,” Parrott said. "He doesn't just want them working all the time.”
Mason said what others saw as a detriment — an isolated block just off Broadway overgrown with big trees — he saw as an asset.
"It was an ugly block until it was cleaned up,” Mason said. "It was neglected — something people drove past quickly.