Scoops of pico de gallo are tossed haphazardly onto a layer of melted cheese. Crema falls on top with perfect swipes of a spoon. Seats are filled and emptied in an unending cycle. This is the daily schedule of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups, a restaurant that would not exist if not for Aaron Pool, an ASU alumnus.
Living by the expression “fake it until you make it,” Pool said that he had the idea to open Gadzooks early in his college career, but lacked restaurant experience. However, this did not discourage him, as he began developing a business plan a few years later.
“It’s like doing anything where there’s a risk factor involved. Your mind is always telling you ‘no, you’re not ready because you need to work on this a little bit more,’” Pool, who was a business student, said. “But you’ve gotta just realize that you’ve studied this, you can do it, you just need to start.”
Gadzooks is planning on opening a new location in Tempe, which should open in December or January. This is in addition to the two other locations currently available: one on 7th Street and Osborn Road and one on 40th Street and Camelback Road.
ASU played a crucial role in the success of the restaurant, Pool said. Discovering his passions through electives such as business writing and entrepreneurship was a milestone in his education.
He said that these electives can lead students to find their calling in the professional world.
“College really forced me to zone in and find a niche, which is one of the most important things a business can ask. Why should this business exist, who are its competitors? There are a lot of smart people on all levels, I think that there’s definitely a better chance at succeeding with ASU than other schools,” Pool said.
For Olivia Persyn, a freshman software engineering major, knowing that a business is run by an ASU graduate makes it much more appealing.
“College kids have immense pride in their school, and knowing that there is a restaurant that was created by one of us would definitely draw more people to it,” Persyn said.
Restaurants are often a risky business venture. Kenny Holmes, director of human resources for Pita Jungle and a member of the restaurant business for 30 years, said he has seen more restaurants fail than succeed.
“Where most fail is the same three reasons: They hire the wrong people, don’t have a product that resonates with the people, and they have a poor ... location. It takes a lot of pre-planning and selection,” Holmes said.
For Pool, keeping a positive outlook was crucial.
“It can get overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting out. There were a few times when things were really hard, but you have to go into it thinking that things will work out,” he said.
His advice to students is simple: persist.
“When I first started, I looked six months to find a location," he said. "I had to deal with banks and open accounts and close accounts and go to new banks. If there is anything that will make or break a business, it’s persistence.”