My Montrose: Johnny Carrabba
Longtime Houston restaurateur Johnny Carrabba, and his business partner George Joseph, purchased acclaimed Montrose bakery Common Bond in December 2015.
How are things going at Common Bond?
It’s been a learning curve, but we’ve been enjoying it. And I think it’s going really well. We’ve put some new systems in, and we’re investing in a commissary so that we can get ready for some more growth. But I’m a native Houstonian, and I’ve been hanging out in Montrose all my life. So we know it’s going to be hard to find a location as good as Montrose. We’re very sold that Dunlavy and Westheimer is the spot for us. It’s a pretty magical location for Common Bond.
Why did you decide to purchase the bakery?
The founding chef of Common Bond, Roy Shvartzapel, used to work for me waiting tables. Then he went off to Europe to learn how to bake, and came back and opened this up. As a customer, I was there on day one.
What changes have you made?
One of the things that irritated me is that I hard a hard time finding a parking spot. It was chaotic. So that’s the first thing we did–lease some property half a block down. And we also put new signage in the parking lot. Another problem, and we haven’t fixed this yet, is that it’s hard to just go in and buy a baguette and get out of there. We might eventually be able to bring that food out to you in the car while you wait, or we might put in an express line, or a grab and go type line. We’re also looking at eventually expanding our hours.
Any expansion plans?
I think there’s a lot of room for expansion. For one thing, there’s room to do a lot more wholesale, selling more to restaurants. I know I want my four restaurants in Houston to be customers. So the first part of expansion is opening an off-premise commissary to do the baking. Then we plan to open up some more Common Bonds, but they’re all going to be a little bit different. I think we could have some that are just the baked goods and the coffee, without the savory menu. And then there’s a chance down the road that we could open up a Common Bond bistro, with both a bakery and a brasserie.
This is your first restaurant in Montrose. What drew you to the neighborhood?
I was born and raised on the east side of Houston. I went to St. Thomas High School; I have an uncle who had a restaurant on West Dallas. My best friend in high school lived in Montrose. So no matter what some people might think, I’m an inner-city Houston boy. I’m very familiar with the area.
Common Bond Cafe & Bakery, 1706 Westheimer Road. 713-529-3535. commonbondcafe.com