By KJ Philp, May 2015 Issue. Meet the other winners here.
This year mark’s the 10th Echo Readers’ Choice Award for FEZ, and the first since moving to the new digs.
Echo caught up with Mark Howard, FEZ partner/co-owner, following the April 9 awards ceremony and here’s what he had to say:
Echo: You made a big move changing locations this past year, how has that worked out for you?
Howard: It’s been phenomenal and so much better than we ever expected. It’s not often a successful business in a successful location has a chance to move to an even better location and at the same time upgrade its brand and its atmosphere. We couldn’t be happier.
Echo: Tell us a little bit about what’s changed with the move and what has stayed the same?
Howard: The brand and our interiors are all new. After 10 years in business, it was time to refresh the look as well as a few lunch, dinner, brunch and drink menu items. The decor was based on a mid-century modern aesthetic while paying homage to the contemporary Moroccan elements from our previous space (such as the multi-hanging lights over the lounge area). I worked alongside Rocco Menaguale, of Rocco Designs, on the space. He’s an exceptional architect/interior designer and fine artist – the sculpture over the bar is one of his pieces – as well as a loving partner.
Echo: The dining-scape of Phoenix, especially downtown, has completely changed since FEZ first opened; what’s your secret?
Howard: In my opinion, it’s having consistently great food and exceptional service in a space that people want to be in and feel comfortable in. It’s something that we work at everyday and something that we always strive to make better.
Echo: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Howard: Work hard and always be grateful for the work while having fun along the way.
Echo: Any advice for community newcomers or the Susan Lucci’s out there?
Howard: Never pass on an opportunity to thank your patrons and always, always give back as much as you can to the community-at-large who supports you. The rest is simply about providing a product/service that people want day in and day out.
Echo: Where can you be spotted when you’re not at one of your restaurants?
Howard: I love hanging out at the restaurants (like Norm on Cheers), but I also love to play tennis, watch sports, travel and hang out with friends!
Echo: Here’s a random one: Tell us about your earliest Echo memory.
Howard: Bill Orovan was one of the first people I met when I moved to Phoenix. We met at a nonprofit gala event and he was so welcoming and set such an example for how to give back to the community. Of course at that time there were a few LGBT magazines but I recall always picking up an Echo to find out what was going on in the community.
Echo: What new and exciting things can we expect to see Fez, or your other projects, between now and the 2016 Echo Readers’ Choice Awards?
Howard: That’s a tough one. Both FEZ and Bliss ReBAR have undergone a refreshing of their brands, menus and atmosphere and Bliss is getting some upgrades to our space as I write this. In terms of additional spots, stay tuned … you never know what will crop up.
Echo: Is there anyone you’d like to thank? Shoutouts you’d like to make?
Howard: I couldn’t have done any of these restaurants without my business partners Tom Jetland and Mark Dillon (at FEZ) and Jackson Kelly and Kevin Kelly (at Bliss ReBAR) or the many staff who have been a part of the teams at both of those locations. Additionally, I’d like to thank my partner, Rocco Menaguale, for his support and his incredible design talent and my brother, Tom Howard, who has been the graphic design force behind the brand look and feel for over 10 years!
Echo: Anything else you’d like to add, the floor is yours?
Howard: A huge thank you to the community-at-large (and Echo Magazine) for their loyal support for FEZ, Bliss ReBAR and all the sister restaurants. We couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this community. We wake up each day knowing our success depends upon the success and support of our community and we never forget that. Thanks for consistently supporting your locally owned, independent businesses!