Originally Published: April 23, 2017 6:03 a.m.
Ambition, opportunity and care for the community have propelled two young men to business stardom in the Prescott area.
Matt Brassard, 38, and Marco Espitia, 41, are currently the owners of Matt’s Saloon on Whiskey Row in Prescott, M&M Entertainment and Production — an event planning company that operates in the tri-city area — and Marc Your Treasures, a new gift shop at the Prescott Gateway Mall.
Their journey as friends and then business partners began in the early 2000s while bartending for Matt’s Saloon.
Brassard, who came to the area from Vermont in 1998, was studying at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with the hope of one day becoming a commercial pilot.
Espitia, a seventh generation Prescottonian, wasn’t sure what his life’s ambition was yet, but he had studied architecture and then interior design at Yavapai College.
Both eventually put their studies on hold as business opportunities within the bar industry arose.
Brassard and Espitia’s first business venture was opening a small kitchen inside Matt’s Saloon when they were still bartenders there.
“We were doing late-night breakfast burritos, wings; that kind of stuff,” Brassard said.
Soon after, they earned the trust of the bar’s owners to sublease the upstairs of the building, which they remodeled in 2001 before opening Doc Holliday’s Saloon in May, 2002.
Just a few months later, the owners of Matt’s Saloon decided to leave. Though nervous, Brassard and Espitia asked the building’s owner, Matt Butitta, if they could take over the 40-year-old business.
Butitta gave them a chance despite public opinion that the duo would fail.
“It was nerve-racking because we were young and everyone who knew Matt’s Saloon and Whiskey Row had a huge doubt that we were going to be very successful with it,” Espitia said.
Whiskey Row at the time was going through a rough patch, Espitia said. Major construction projects on downtown roads had slowed foot traffic significantly.
“A lot of businesses didn’t survive that lull of customers,” Espitia said.
The negativity, however, only spurred Brassard and Espitia to prove everyone wrong.
“We had a huge drive between the two of us to just say ‘we have to make this work,’” Brassard said.
Neither knew much about how to run a business, but they were determined to figure it out.
“It was learn as we go,” Brassard said. “I don’t think any class or school can teach you the skills you need to run and operate your own business.”
Now, almost 15 years later, the bar practically runs itself.
“It’s still a daily job, but it’s not as challenging as it was in the early years,” Brassard said.
With the bar on autopilot, they’ve had time to develop other passions.
M&M Entertainment & Productions
It didn’t take long for Brassard and Espitia to discover they have a knack for planning and executing large events.
Much of this has to do with their interests in community engagement and bringing ideas to life.
“We find ways to take great ideas from both of us and mesh them all together,” Espitia said.
“And implement them,” Brassard added. “It’s great to have the ideas and everything, but it’s the implementation of them that is key.”
This has translated into block parties for Matt’s Saloon, large charitable events to support local community efforts and annual attractions for Christmas and Halloween.
A block party they organized along with the owner of The Palace, Dave Michelson, in 2012, for example, raised about $86,000 to help businesses affected by the Whiskey Row fire that year.
The following year, they organized another block party called Prescott Strong and raised about $202,000 for the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire.
It wasn’t until 2013 that they decided to start their own event planning company called M&M Entertainment & Productions.
While this company has organized events from Prescott High School’s Prom to the Whiskey Row Boot Drop, its centerpieces are two walkthrough attractions called Scream Factor and Enchanted Christmas. Both were initially hosted in Frontier Village Center and were then moved to Prescott Gateway Mall in 2016. In 2014, Scream Factor was voted the top Halloween attraction on AZHauntedHouses.com.
Their partnership with the mall quickly evolved and has led to their newest venture.
Marc Your Treasures
Though Enchanted Christmas and Scream Factor have been boons to Prescott Gateway Mall’s foot traffic, the events last only about a month each.
“The mall wanted us to open something in order for us to stay year round,” Espitia said.
Brassard and Espitia were receptive to the concept and started out by opening a gift shop for Enchanted Christmas.
“It did really well, so we decided to do it all year round and carry every holiday,” Espitia said.
This includes a Valentine’s surplus store, an Easter collection, Americana goods for Memorial Day and Fourth of July, and seasonal décor.
The store also carries collectibles, such as Disney items, Crystal Expressions and sports paraphernalia.
“It’s kind of like a pick of all the stores that have closed,” Espitia said.
Examples of such stores would be the Hallmark that used to be at the mall, the Hastings store that used to be in Prescott, and The Christmas Store that was in Prescott.
“The thing about it is, if you’re looking for a gift for someone, there’s no reason you couldn’t come in here and find something for somebody,” Brassard said. “Whether it’s a wedding, baptism, birthday party; whatever.”
“It’s a one-stop shop,” Espitia added.
Depending on who you talk to in Prescott, those who know Brassard and Espitia might refer to them as The Boys, The Guys or M&M.
“We have many titles, but it’s all part of our brand,” Espitia said.
There are perhaps two main reasons why their business partnership has lasted so long.
One is family.
“My family has adopted him, his family has adopted me,” Espitia said.
This includes a network of loyal patrons and friends who have encouraged and helped Brassard and Espitia build their businesses.
“They don’t just come to the bar, they also support everything that we do,” Espitia said.
The other is understanding of each other’s needs and wants.
“We’ve figured out how to agree to disagree,” Brassard said. “It’s give and take.”
The duo split just about everything and feel like they contribute equally.
“We’re both very hands on with all of our businesses and ventures,” Espitia said.
Above all, however, is their desire to please and be seen as a valuable asset to the community.
“Not only with Matt’s Saloon, but with all of our productions and businesses, we take pride in the quality of the product,” Espitia said.
“We like to exceed people’s expectations,” Brassard said.
And this isn’t the end of their story.
“We have a lot more in store,” Espitia said. “We have so much more to offer this town. We’re going to bust out of that bubble and just do it.”
Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at email@example.com or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.
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