Meet the Hippy

Two Hippies Life’s a Picnic will open this spring near the ASU Downtown campus. Photo by Joseph Bergdoll.

Andy Goldstein, creator of the Valley’s Two Hippies restaurants, looks around an office that measures larger than his first restaurant. The room is plastered with psychedelic vintage posters, restaurant reviews, family portraits and upcoming plans for a restaurant that will become Two Hippies Life’s a Picnic this spring, opening near the ASU Downtown campus on the ground floor of the Luhrs Building at 11 W. Jefferson St.

“We’re going to do all gourmet soups, really good homemade sandwiches and bagels all with outside seating,” Goldstein says.

With more than 15 Two Hippies restaurants open in the Valley, Goldstein fondly remembers his restaurant beginnings.

“We’re five generations in the restaurant business; it’s all we’ve ever known,” Goldstein says. “When my brother and I started Long Wongs, a wings place, we didn’t realize the success we would have. After the sixth one, I decided I wanted to do something different and I did … But, in 2006, I lost my father. The day after, I stopped doing restaurants.”

Pointing out the picture of his father behind his desk, Goldstein turns quiet for the first time in 20 minutes.

“I [was] never going to do another restaurant because, you know, my best friend was gone,” Goldstein reflects. “For six months I didn’t do anything, and finally my kids came to visit me at my second home in Payson. They said, ‘Grandpa wouldn’t want you to be like this. What are you working on? You’re always working on something.’

“He was my mentor … The guy who I could tell my opinions to and would voice his back. He’d tell me to never shortchange anything. Live by good intentions. I just want to be half the man that he is, or was.”

Enjoy your food outdoors at the 5th St. and Camelback location. Photo by Joseph Bergdoll.

Two Hippies Magic Mushroom Burger may have been born out of tragedy, but Goldstein’s love of food could not be contained for long.

“I’m a foodie. I love all kinds of food,” Goldstein says. “We built that tiny, little place; it was doing fantastic, near the V.A. Hospital and by a busy intersection. Simple burger, good fries, off-the-wall soda — who would have thought it would grow this much?”

The growth is possible because the Two Hippies business model, like the food, is anything but ordinary. Instead of acting like a corporation or franchise, Goldstein compares Two Hippies to that of a co-op.

“I’m not going to play into [the recession],” Goldstein says. “I can’t control what’s going on. All I can control is my family and my business and how I market it to the people. I help them train, help them negotiate a lease. They say what kind of concept they want to do under the brand of Two Hippies. I’m not like Big Brother. I’m a phone call away, and I help them in any shape I can.”

In what seems like a constant reiteration, Goldstein says that while he is at the center of Two Hippies, everyone is welcome.

“We don’t have one preferred customer base,” Goldstein says. “I don’t go for the yuppies or the business people. I let everyone come. Everybody feels welcome and can afford my food. To me, my philosophy is that you’re eating in our living room — it better be right.”

After opening stores in Mesa, northeast Phoenix and downtown Phoenix in the last three months, Goldstein is already thinking about what comes next.

“I try to stay ahead or with the trends,” Goldstein reveals. “I try to be a little chain that shows different concepts to people. It’s almost like a revolving circle so what was popular in the ’70s and ’80s is popular now. I look at what other restaurants are doing and put a little twist on it.”

His ultimate restaurant fantasy does not concern Asian cuisine or perfecting another kind of taco. Instead, Goldstein wants to do a different kind of breakfast joint.

“I want to do a bagel shop really badly,” Goldstein rattles out. “I’m a morning person who loves bagels. I want to open up a bagel-donut shop. I want to do off-the-wall donuts like maple syrup donuts with strips of bacon on it.”

And there’s more. “We’d like to be across the state. We’re doing Flagstaff, going to do Payson someday. Tucson maybe. Nation-wide some day,” Goldstein says. “For now, we just crawl along and work really hard.”

Declaring himself a bourgeoisie restaurateur, Goldstein explains why his restaurants are called Two Hippies: “My stores have really good karma.”

Reach the reporter at crcruz1@asu.edu