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Moliner takes a bite of tasty new business
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Photo: Todd Welvaert/twelvaert@qconline.com
Jeff Holland, former owner of Holland Jewelers and the new owner of 100 Montaditos, holds a plate of Spanish sandwiches on Dec. 10. Mr. Holland got into the “fast casual” restaurant chain by opening 100 Montaditos at 5141 Utica Ridge Road, Davenport.
DAVENPORT -- Less than a year after closing his longtime Moline jewelry business, Jeff Holland opened a new, and very different, chapter in his life story.

The 45-year-old Moline native and former owner of Holland Jewelers opened the Spanish "fast casual" restaurant 100 Montaditos, 5141 Utica Ridge Road, Davenport, in early November.

Holland Jewelers, 1833 52nd Ave., Moline, which had been in Mr. Holland's family since 1933, closed in November 2012.

He had been looking for several years to diversify, and invest in a business while continuing to run the jewelry store where he'd worked for 23 years. "As a franchise, I wanted something unique, different, affordable, good food," Mr. Holland said.

He first read about 100 Montaditos -- a chain based in Madrid known for its signature montaditos, 100 varieties of tapas-sized sandwiches -- in late 2011. "It struck a chord right away. That's a great concept," Mr. Holland said.

The chain operates more than 300 company-owned and franchised restaurants in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Colombia, Mexico and the United States, with the first American locations in Miami, Fla. It's owned by Madrid-based Grupo Restalia, which also operates the La Surena and Good Burger franchises.

When Mr. Holland had jewelry business in Miami, he tried the restaurant, loved it and met with a company representative. To open one, he had to commit to opening several franchised locations, so Mr. Holland decided to close the jewelry business and devote himself full time to the restaurant game.

"Who knows what's going to happen with the face of retail?" he said, noting the jewelry store location behind SouthPark "wasn't the best anymore," and he would have to move to stay with Holland Jewelers.

"It was exciting and nervous at the same time, making a big change in your life when you've got kids to raise," said the divorced father of a 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. "It just came to that point where I had to make that hard decision.

"I'm sort of the canary in the coal mine for the mid-size market," Mr. Holland said of the chain. He expects to open other 100 Montaditos in Iowa City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and the Illinois Quad-Cities.

So far, the only other U.S. locations are outside Washington, D.C. and in Greenwich Village, New York City, which also opened in the fall.

"We're really on the ground floor, which has its risks and rewards," Mr. Holland said. "You get in early."

The restaurant offers 100 versions of a montadito, a baked-to-order bread roll packed with traditional Spanish tapa fillings such as Serrano ham, chorizo and Iberian cheeses, ranging in price from $1 to $2.50.

Specials include salami, grilled chicken, meatballs, pulled BBQ pork, brie cheese, blue cheese, Philly steak, turkey, shrimp, smoked salmon and even hot-dog montaditos and chocolate-bread dessert versions.

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant, which has about 18 employees, also serves salads, brava potatoes (with a hot dipping sauce), Spanish beers and wines and Spanish drinks such as sangrias and claras, a blend of Spanish draft beer and lemon-lime soda.

The restaurant has an environment evoking early 19th-century taverns found throughout Spain, featuring tile floors, granite counters and tables, dark wood and cherry red walls, forged iron lamps and framed pictures from the founder's hometown of Cadiz, Spain. There also is a private meeting room that can seat 32 people.

"I think there's a universal appeal to this brand," Mr. Holland said. "There's a lot of pent-up demand for something different -- different flavors, different tastes. To me, there's a very universal appeal to this type of food, whether it's Iowans or more Latino population. People love it and embrace it."

He said the new business is not all that different from selling jewelry.

"It's just meeting and exceeding customers' expectations. I've spent my life in retail, so it's very much the same sort of thing -- just trying to make people happy," Mr. Holland said. "It's embracing the customers, trying to give them a great experience, a great meal, and trying to give them a relaxing lunch or dinner. For me, it's very much the same.

For more information, visit us.100montaditos.com.







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