Many would agree that Paul and Laura Moir are a well-matched couple. As owners of Brix and Criollo restaurants in Flagstaff, they are on the same page with values that have made the establishments popular: excellent service, sustainability and organic offerings.
They met in 1996 while working in a Phoenix area restaurant. With college degrees in hand, the couple moved to Denver to try careers in the corporate world. After two years, the experience convinced them that they needed to follow their hearts back into the restaurant world, despite the sometimes challenging nature of the work. “We missed the people and we missed the energy of restaurants,” said Laura.
To complement his Business with Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development degree, Paul enrolled in culinary school. The couple began exploring communities in which to open their own restaurant. Being drawn to mountain towns and having family in Flagstaff made the choice relatively simple.
They envisioned a cozy establishment with a really nice wine bar and cheese plate, ideas they brought together for Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar. They also wanted organic locally grown food because they believe “it just tastes better.”
Brix opened in 2006 in a downtown building that housed Flagstaff’s first automobile. The Moirs’ efforts have earned several accolades, including Conde Naste’s Top 95 New Restaurants in the World, Arizona Highways magazine’s 2008 Best Restaurants list in addition to a recommendation and write up in Sunset Magazine.
About 14 months ago, the Moirs opened Criollo (pronounced cree-OH-yoh) Latin Kitchen. The restaurant at 16 N. San Francisco Street is able to share staff and resources with Brix, reducing overhead.
“I’ve opened, I think, nine restaurants for other people. When you’re making the decisions and writing the checks, it’s an entirely different experience,” said Paul.
“We take it very personally,” added Laura, referring to the employment of 65 people between their two restaurants. “When you go home at night, you question how to do it better.”
The Moirs work to keep staff employed during the slower winter months as they did throughout the recession. “We’ve certainly struggled like everybody else with the economy,” said Paul, who heard that as many as 1,600 valley area restaurants closed doors during the past several years.
Handling many responsibilities may have honed Paul and Laura’s clarity about their life choices. During the approximate four-year economic downturn, they opened two restaurants and brought two daughters into the world. These days, Laura spends fewer hours in the business and more time parenting. And while Paul devotes many evenings and holidays overseeing the dining experiences of their customers, he carves out many opportunities to be with the family. “We both made a big decision that we weren’t going to have children if we didn’t get to be part of raising them,” said Laura, referring to the sometimes non-traditional schedules they keep in order to have quality family time.
Their commitments also extend to the community. Paul describes his philosophy of community investment as having “to support the community you operate in. We support them and they support us.” He believes localization could also buffer regions from economic instability. “It’s the idea of creating this local economy between everybody up here.”
Those ideas and a desire for tasty food are part of what appeal to longtime Flagstaff resident Deborah Fresquez. “I like Brix because they support local farmers who select, grow and harvest crops to ensure qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste,” she said. Fresquez also appreciates how the menu offerings change to reflect the seasons.
While purchasing locally-grown organic food is expensive and can take great effort, especially in a challenging growing environment, the result is delicious fare that has been well received by patrons. And for the Moirs, they say it is well worth the effort, being able to offer something that not only tastes good, but is healthy, and serves the community on several levels. Paul compares their philosophy to the founders of the Life is Good clothing company. “Their big thing is do what you like; like what you do. We didn’t like Corporate America. We like wine and we like restaurants,” Paul said. “And as tough as it is, we like what we do. It’s rewarding.” FBN
413 N. San Francisco Street
16 N. San Francisco Street