From gasoline and auto repair in 1929 to liquid nitrogen ice cream in 2019
The Moab Garage Co. building chose its leaders, Erin and Ryan Bird, as much as they chose it; and the Birds have put some work into honoring the building’s history.
The Birds came to Moab from Salt Lake City with an idea for a restaurant, and at the time, the property at 78 North Main Street was the only space available on Main.
According to Ryan, “We weren’t looking for something this big—it’s a big building. But we really wanted to be in Moab; we wanted to live here, and we were thinking it (the restaurant) would fit well with a spot on Main Street. It felt better having a small business go in here than the building go to a company that’s less interested in investing in its community. So for us, that was a big draw, taking over an old historic building.”
The building had previously been an auto shop, a Sears retail store, and space for Sandstone Gallery rock shop. The current restaurant business takes its name from the Moab auto repair business that was there from 1928 until 1975.
During World War II, it was one of the only viable businesses in town.
“Almost every advertisement in the paper at that time was for the Moab Garage Company because they were the only ones that could afford to run an ad,” Ryan said.
Jack of all trades
Moab Garage Co is a combination ice cream shop/cafe/full-service restaurant that opened in June 2017.
They set themselves apart with their liquid nitrogen ice cream, which is unique in a town of soft-serve and hand-scooped.
Had it not been set in such a historic building, the business would have been named Cafe Fervor, for the passion that Erin and Ryan have, both in and out of their restaurants. “Moab is a work hard, play hard town,” Ryan notes.
The Parlor, the full-service portion, came to fruition in 2018. It went through a further renovation this past winter. In the back of the restaurant, The Parlor is the true garage space. “This is where they worked on the cars,” he said.
In their renovations, the Birds set out to showcase and restore that history.
There is a suspended table that was formerly a workbench; a wine cabinet in the server-station corner, formerly a tool cabinet—a section of wall has outlines of tools, showing where they were suppose to go.
Ryan explains how he pulled three layers of paint off this wall. “This is where the tools were stenciled on here originally so that at the end of the night, they knew nothing had left the shop. And they knew where to put it. When we pulled off the paint, we sealed it in to preserve it.”
Ryan compared Moab Garage Co. to the Spoke, located in the nearby Cooper-Martin historic building that had been remodeled just two years before the Birds’ remodeling work. Both feature brick facades, which were characteristic of the era.
The Birds already have a second restaurant opening soon.
Doughbird, located at 125 North Main Street, will be just a block away from Moab Garage Co. As the name implies, Doughbird will specialize in doughnuts and fried chicken, along with coffee.
Ryan studied architecture and design. While he can be seen often working on the line, he focuses on the interior design of the restaurant spaces, while Erin has done most of the creative decision making regarding the food.
Ryan explains that “It’s really helpful to have someone else to bounce ideas off of, or even just to talk to.”