Upward Projects (“Upward Projects” or the “Company”), the Phoenix-based hospitality group behind Postino WineCafé (“Postino”), Joyride Taco House, Windsor, Churn and Federal Pizza, announced that it has received a significant investment from Brentwood Associates (“Brentwood”), a leading growth-oriented private equity firm with extensive experience supporting innovative brands on the rise.
Upward Projects was founded by Lauren Bailey and Craig DeMarco, two high-energy entrepreneurs with a shared foundational vision – to connect communities, build authentic connections and, simply put, make people feel good. In opening the flagship concept, Postino, in 2001, the team set out to ditch pretension and redefine how people drink wine, creating a sophisticated, yet highly approachable wine bar with an “everyone is welcome” spirit that resonates with a wide-ranging consumer base. Over the past 16 years, the brand has earned a remarkable cult-like following that has resulted in seven locations in Phoenix, Arizona and Denver, Colorado. Each one of these locations were thoughtfully placed in historically relevant buildings integral to the neighborhoods that surround them. Following the transaction with Brentwood, the founders and current management team will continue to lead Upward Projects and will retain a substantial ownership stake in the Company. Bailey will remain in her role as Chief Executive Officer and DeMarco will serve as a Director and strategic advisor.
Brentwood will provide Upward Projects with the financial resources to primarily support the growth of the Postino brand. With a mix of unique, approachable and proprietary wines and craft beers, plus simple, delicious locally sourced fare served in an inviting, come-as-you-are atmosphere, Postino is primed to be a highly sought-after asset to new neighborhoods, without losing its commitment to hands-on ownership, quirky-yet-polished culture and proudly independent roots. Postino will open its first Texas location in Houston’s up-and-coming, historic neighborhood, The Heights, in April 2018, with additional locations planned for Arizona, Colorado and more.
Concurrent with the transaction, Upward Projects has added Rahul Aggarwal, Steve Moore and Greg Dollarhyde to its board of directors. Aggarwal and Moore are partners at Brentwood, a consumer-focused private equity firm that has an extensive track record in the restaurant industry, having previously partnered with seven high-growth restaurant concepts including its current investments in Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, Lazy Dog Restaurants, Pacific Catch and Veggie Grill. Dollarhyde is a restaurant industry veteran who has served as the Chairman or CEO of eight different companies, including publicly held Zoës Kitchen (NYSE: ZOES).
Upward Projects sought the ideal investment partner to scale the brand in a manner that would protect its integrity and company values that they originally set out to create. Co-Founder Craig DeMarco said, “Upward Projects and Brentwood are a perfect match. They share the same cultural fabric – a focus on people-first and an insatiable appetite for innovation and doing things differently.”
Commenting on the new partnership, Co-Founder and CEO Lauren Bailey said, “As we look to open new restaurant locations across the United States, we are thrilled to have found a partner with tremendous experience helping innovative growth restaurant concepts become leading national brands. Brentwood’s deep restaurant expertise will be immensely valuable as Upward Projects enters its next stage of growth and expands into new geographic markets.”
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Postino. It’s truly one of the most unique restaurant concepts that we have encountered. With its artfully curated culinary and beverage program and magnetic guest experience, Postino lives in the grey space of quality, authenticity and approachability that’s highly inclusive and really attractive to a broad spectrum of consumers,” said Rahul Aggarwal, partner at Brentwood. “We look forward to partnering with Lauren, Craig and the rest of the Upward Projects team to support the growth of this special brand.”
Steve Moore, partner at Brentwood, added, “Lauren and Craig’s passionate leadership is contagious. The two founders have created a warm, high-energy and employee-centric culture that is focused on providing authentic and engaging experiences.”
Upward Projects was advised by Piper Jaffray & Co. and its legal counsel was Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. Brentwood was represented by Burr & Forman LLP.
About Upward Projects
Upward Projects, an Inc. 5000 “fastest growing company” for three years running, is a Phoenix-based hospitality company that creates inspired restaurants that are connected to the communities they serve. Beginning 16 years ago with Arizona’s original local WineCafé, Postino Arcadia, Upward Projects owns and operates 5 brands and 12 restaurants across Arizona and Colorado. Concepts include Postino WineCafé, Joyride Taco House, Federal Pizza, Windsor, and Churn. For more information about Upward Projects, please visit www.upwardprojects.com.
About Brentwood Associates
Brentwood Associates is a leading middle market private equity investment firm with $2.4 billion of assets under management and a 30-year history of investing in leading growth companies. Brentwood focuses on investments in growing businesses where it can leverage its extensive growth experience in segments including branded consumer products; multi-location strategies; direct-to-customer marketing; niche brands with specialty distribution; education; healthcare; and business services. Since 1984, Brentwood’s dedicated private equity team has invested in 54 portfolio companies with an aggregate transaction value of over $6 billion. With significant experience in both investing and brand building, Brentwood is a value-added partner with entrepreneurs and senior management teams building world-class companies. For more information about Brentwood, please visit www.brentwood.com.
Read the full announcement: