By Dante Viscarra and Angy Barrero
At the end of an academic or work day, many times, in addition to resting, what you want is to visit a good place, with a pleasant atmosphere to create ties with the community. A place to feel at home and reconnect with Latino culture.
All this — the tradition, music, color and joy — is possible thanks to the work of Jon Reske and Armando Magaña, at Robinia Courtyard. With its three entities: Black Locust Cafe, MadisonTap and Jardin, Robinia is positioned as a unique and fantastic place in Madison for cultural and socially representative gatherings.
Jon Reske, 43, and Armando Magaña, 28, are two entrepreneurs who are revolutionizing the concept of bars and restaurants. Both work hand-in-hand to maintain what they have built with great effort. Although Jon focuses more on the finances, and Armando runs daily operations, both are fully involved and hands-on.
It’s not uncommon to see them covering shifts to carry out this project — a clear example of the love they have for their company.
“I think it is very helpful that all of our team see Armando and me in the place every day, trying to fill gaps, plug holes, put out fires, fix things, cover shifts, over and over again,” Reske said. “I don’t think anyone can argue that we’re not in the trenches with the squad every day.”
No doubt these partners complement each other: “Jon and I have two speeds between us. Screaming or laughing. It works well for us,” Magaña said.
The vision and mission of the company
The idea of Robinia Courtyard came from Reske, a Madison native. Since he obtained his MBA in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics with a Certificate in Business, Environment and Social Responsibility, his career since 2011 has focused on real estate development. Before that, he was general manager of Yakshi Landscapes, in Madison. Throughout the entire undergraduate and graduate school, he was fortunate to work in some of Madison’s best restaurants.
All this experience came together in the creation of Robinia Courtyard. He recalls: “After being the real estate developer, who created the project known as Robinia Courtyard and following the closure of the three original participating restaurants in the first iteration of Robinia on January 1, 2017, I inherited the position of owner interim and administrator of the spaces.”
“Not being able to attract a tenant or tenants, who were interested in paying what I thought was the market rate at the time for the spaces, which was brought to us by a relatively complicated concept of sharing the kitchen and the back space between three spaces,” Reske explained.
Reske said that Robinia’s mission is to continue providing a dynamic space for events, meetings or to enjoy old-fashioned food and drinks: “We strive to ensure that all people who participate in any and all things [Robinia] do not just feel welcome, but special in any capacity that involves our various entities, and the Patio in particular.”
At the same time, it emphasizes that the vision is destined to “create as many opportunities to contribute to the collision density as possible, through the creation and operation of our projects.”
As he describes, the concept of “collision density” refers to the concept of creating a space for the gathering of different types of “thinkers” to bring ideas together at business, social and cultural levels.“We achieved these results through development (in the case of Robinia: three relatively disparate concepts for restaurants: a relaxing coffee shop, a vibrant space with all-Wisconsin beer and a creative restaurant, chef-driven, that attracts all guests). Three entities revolve around our patio, which attracts all kinds of people and brings them together.
The second way in which we achieve the objective of collision density is through the programming of the spaces, both through the curating of events and their agglomeration. We try to organize so many cultural and socially representative events, which in turn contribute to creating a moment for the exchange of an idea, whatever that idea might be.”
Reske’s effort has always been complemented by Magaña’s, who was born in Los Angeles. This young entrepreneur says that he did not find the job, because it was the job that found him.
“I met some of the previous managers who told me to see what the space was about. Robinia Courtyard was in a state of transition, and I liked where the train was going, so I jumped and didn’t look back,” Magaña said with euphoria.
His work experience began as a bakery manager in a cafeteria, and from there he went to a catering company bringing food and drinks to parties in Los Angeles.
“I learned a lot during my years there, including the fact that I enjoy being part of this industry,” Magaña said.
Both entrepreneurs agree that all their effort and dedication is due to the example of their parents. “My father is from Sonsonate, El Salvador and my mother is from Los Angeles, California. My dad worked very hard, but I rarely witnessed it. He left us at school in the morning and we didn’t see him until we were ready to go to bed at night,” Magaña said.
“He was teaching at UCLA, working on his PhD and working with the Central American Resource Center. My mom had a much harder job: raising four children. She had no rest and we made her go through hell! I saw firsthand how hard someone has to work day after day to make things happen. I hope to emulate that in what I do,” Magaña recalled.
Similarly, Reske said his parents were always very good role models. His work ethic was born thanks to them.
“My father was in the grocery retail business for more than 50 years, always looking for business opportunities along the way; He also owned a couple of convenience stores for a stretch in the 80s. I spent a lot of time working there. On the other side of the coin, my mother was a single mother with three children, often working in three jobs besides raising us. ”
Reske’s family is from Milwaukee — he describes them as “another group of descendants of Irish, German and Polish immigrants who were disenfranchised by the existing population at the time they arrived in this country, and now feel it is their patriotic turn and duty to do the same today.”
There is no doubt that without Reske and Magaña’s tenacity it would not be possible to unite so many cultures in a single space. Without them, all the many joys, memories and good times would not be possible.
“I am extremely proud of how far we have come. I think we have become a good accessory in many communities in Madison, and that feels great. It is hard to believe that we are about to celebrate our 4th anniversary in October. We are far from being financially out of danger, so any celebration of these achievements comes with slightly bated breath. But it’s getting easier and easier,” Reske said.
Contact with the Latino community
One of the most popular meetings of the three spaces that make up Robinia Courtyard, and to which everyone is invited, is the Latin Jazz Jam & Dance, which takes place every Thursday night.
“It is not only the most beautiful night of the week, but a great source of pride for Robinia,” Reske said. “I delights me when I’m working at the door these nights and having a group of party animals accidentally stumbling upon the event, amazed at the view they just entered and then staying and dancing all night.”
But if you cannot attend on a Thursday, come visit any other day — each moment it is special in Robinia.
“When people share the love for space and recognize the love we put in everything we do. It makes everything worthwhile, ”said Magaña.
In addition to creating a gathering space, these entrepreneurs help transform lives and create jobs. Both entrepreneurs, who put a cultural and progressive taste on what they do, say there is always work available.
“We are specially prepared to hire an event coordinator for Robinia Courtyard and its entities. The salary will be a negotiated base salary plus a commission, which will be a percentage of the event’s income. We are constantly trying to incorporate benefits into our packages, but we are not there yet. To apply, stop and complete an application, ask for Armando, Jon or Kyle. Or send an email to Armando at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jon at email@example.com,” Reske said.
“We are always accepting applications, we are always looking for the right kind of people for the job. Kitchen staff, waiters, baristas, servers, if you think you want to work here, apply! All three establishments have ready applications, ”adds Magaña.
Remember that Robinia Courtyard is located at 829 E. Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703. Find them on social networks are Facebook: @robiniacourtyard and Instagram: @robiniacourtyard. Everyone is invited!