Mark Verge wants you to eat well and live well. As the founder of Westside Rentals, he has helped thousands of residents find a place to live and as a partner in four local restaurants (O.P. Caf√©, Ox & Son, Ashland Hill and Arts Table) his crew has fed a significant portion of Santa Monicans.
He graduated from St. Monica’s High School and UCLA. He is raising is two children in Santa Monica and is a regular contributor to local education and non-profit causes. He spoke to the Daily Press about his business ventures and philosophy on local entrepreneurism.
SMDP: Why start a restaurant group?
Verge: This is a passion play for me. Just growing up around here, we all have families still living here and we see so many neighborhood people. This business is so hands on, whether it’s just seeing people, sponsoring local teams … it’s so involved you feel like you’re really making a difference.
SMDP: What does the future hold?
Verge: The 10-year plan is to keep enjoying this crazy life and providing opportunities. I have a great team from the top job down and that starts from the top of the group. We’ve got to provide and try to get better every day, that’s what we do, that’s what we’re going for. We have a couple of restaurant concepts we want in Santa Monica so we will definitely do two or three more.
SMDP: Why keep your businesses in Santa Monica?
Verge: I’m a neighborhood guy and that’s a source of pride for me. This town is so welcoming. Once you’re here you’re just as welcome as if you grew up here for 60 years. There’s a big benefit to being in Santa Monica, especially right now. People come, they spend money and the City made a great ruling with Airbnb, the hotels are happy … we’re definitely progressing in the right direction and I think everyone kind of wants the same thing.
SMDP: What defines the restaurant experience for you?
Verge: We’ve always said we’re just going to ‘out-nice’ the other guys. When Ashland Hill came along, it was great because I love Main Street. We think it’s going to be the best concept of all the restaurants I’ve done.
SMDP: What are the similarities between the restaurant and rental businesses?
Verge: I’m adding value to whatever I’m doing and it was a nice choice doing Westside Rentals. It’s always been phenomenal and I’m proud that a lot of kids’ first jobs are with Westside Rentals.
SMDP: How far do you want to take the restaurant empire?
Verge: It’s a fun opportunity but I have two young kids and they take a lot of time. The restaurants are like having four young kids so we’re not Starbucks, and we’re never going to be.