For Aaron Pool, owner of the restaurant Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soups, success came with time and hard work that started in his parents’ kitchen.
After graduating from ASU in 2009, Aaron was living with his parents and spent his days experimenting in the kitchen. He would begin with visiting Ranch Market to buy ingredients and then proceeded to attempt to teach himself to cook.
“I didn’t know how to braise anything,” Aaron said. “I didn’t know how to cook any of this, so it was all just trial and error.”
He would take his earned sills along with his business degree and a loan from a small, local bank to open his first restaurant, serving up build-your-own enchiladas.
“When we talk about redefining the enchilada, it’s a completely different take on the enchilada,” Aaron said. “From the tortilla, all the way to the different toppings you can get on top of the enchilada, the textures, the flavors, the colors and everything layering creates a really unique and different enchilada.
Now, Aaron Pool has opened his second Gadzooks location in Arcadia at 40th and Camelback streets.
Instead of turning to franchisees and investors to help him open up his second restaurant location, Aaron turned to his older brother Jared Pool.
“Franchise is his least favorite word, that and mayonnaise,” Jared said, joking about Aaron’s dislikes. “This is an opportunity for us to focus on quality, and that’s the biggest thing for us.”
To maintain high quality food, every single part of the enchiladas are made in house.
Because franchising was never an option for Aaron, he said teaming up with his brother was an obvious choice.
Jared said transitioning from a Bay-Area dentistry to a Phoenix restaurant has been smooth and less of a contrast than one might think.
“I think the overlap between dentistry and food, you don’t see that a lot,” Jared said. “But there are so many similarities with customer service, taking care of your customer and enforcing quality. You can’t be a half-ass dentist, you have to be the best dentist. Same with a restaurant, you can’t serve crappy food or you won’t exist.”
Moving to the restaurant business has been a way for Jared to make his job a hobby, he said.
The brothers said by entering the competitive Arcadia restaurant market, they have proven their place in Arizona’s market.
“I would put our enchiladas up against any Mexican food in the Valley,” Aaron said.
While the new Arcadia location will have a drive-thru window and serve beer while experimenting with possible new food options like bean dip and breakfast tacos, their signature enchiladas remain the backbone of the business.
“You should ask yourself if you’re a restaurant owner, ‘why should you exist?’” Aaron said. “You have to be different from the competition.”
With the new location, Aaron and Jared Pool hope to have a larger dinner rush than at their Midtown Phoenix location near Seventh Street and Osborn Road.
The Pools ran into the most problems outside the kitchen with their newest location. The new restaurant is located on an oddly shaped lot that sits on the canal, and the site has sat vacant for years because it was so difficult to permit and develop.
After the Pools bought the land they had similar problems. It took three years to just obtain permits.
“The biggest challenge was all the regulation,” Aaron said. “If anyone wants to talk about how regulation kills stuff, this would be the poster child.”
However, the brothers said having a location with a Camelback Street front was a personal dream and they knew the lot was the right choice.
“We are believers of Gadzooks and are so convinced of how well this restaurant will do here,” Aaron said.
Both brothers said the Arcadia location is just the first step in expansion and eventually more locations to come.
“That’s why Aaron started Gadzooks in 2013,” Jared Pool said. “That’s why I moved back in 2016, to help grow it together. As brothers, we wanted to do something different and this is the launching point.”