When customers leave the coast and travel inland for the area’s best-tasting fish and chips, the destination must be Mossman’s Coffee Shop, the oldest coffee shop in town. The restaurant and catering service proudly cooks up a 50-year-old tradition of made- from-scratch food served by people who love you like you were family.
That’s because everything at Mossman’s centers on the family. Founder, lovingly called “gramps,” took a divergent path from the oil business in 1960. He birthed - what is today - the best bowling alley restaurant around when the family-owned business took roots in Bakersfield.
Now owner, rick Mossman – a third-generation offspring of gramps – credits the restaurant’s success to its people, its food and its partnerships.
The reason Mossman’s is synonymous with the popular take-out combo of fish and chips is because they insist on using the highest quality cod loin and sticking to a breading recipe honed from the handwritten instructions of gramp’s earliest chef.
“A lot of restaurants in the last years have sacrificed quality to stay afloat in this rough economy. But we believe in never compromising on our quality,” says rick who discovered the best cod swim in the north pacific, but had to reinvent gramp’s strategy for bringing the more than 100,000 pounds of cod he serves annually to the customer’s plate.
Rick admits the hardest part of running the 50-year-old business was finding fish. in truth, California should brim with opportunities for buying fresh fish, yet Mossman was dissatisfied. He demanded the best fish at the best price and he sent his manager to China to make it happen.
“We learned that our united States importers weren’t doing the job, so we took matters into our own hands. now we have a direct connection to our fish and purchase 40,000 pounds at a time. The fish are from the pacific northwest, processed in China and shipped to California,” rick says.
He turned to his sales representative at Jordano’s, Ernie Veloz, with a business idea. Jordano’s picks up the fish at the dock, keeps it in cold storage and delivers on demand to Mossman’s two locations.
The partnership allows Jordano’s to sell a portion of the quality fish at better price points to their customers, too. rick’s overseas negotiations guarantee him the consistently high-quality cod for the next 10 years.
“It’s a win-win, but i couldn’t do this without Jordano’s – they foresaw my vision and have literally written the book on how to do this. Mossman’s can provide guaranteed quality at a price no one in town can match,” says rick who, despite the price- pinching pressure from the economy, hasn’t had to raise prices.
Nearly a Strike
Gramps was a fisherman of sorts. He understood how branding and the value of service should lure the customer. But his vision was never to have his restaurant’s backdrop be a bowling alley.
Pestered by a local businessman to lease the space in a few bowling alley locations and serve food, gramps repeatedly declined the offer. gramps buckled soon after and negotiated a delicious deal - the distinctive locale was born.
It was almost a deal breaker for rick, too. Knowing he was destined to take the reigns of the restaurants 25 years ago, rick sought to test the idea of restaurant ownership with his fiancée.
“I told her we were going to have lunch at the bowling alley and she told me, ‘i’m no snob, but i don’t eat at bowling alleys.’ She went, ate the food and said, ‘i’m in,’” rick recalls still laughing about the “hook” his grandfather had on everyone.
Today rick’s wife, Jeanette, steps in to be hands-on during the restaurant’s biggest day of the year, good Friday. Mossman’s draws over 1,100 diners on that single day.
Taking it on the Road
Mossman’s takes their homemade dishes on the road, providing catering services to all of Kern County.
Whether Mossman’s is serving parties with guest lists topping 7,000, orchestrating food and drinks for high-profile events or entrusted to run 35 holiday parties in 10 days, the restaurant’s personality is infused in every dish and every movement.
“We rely on Jordano’s pretty heavily for these events. When a client asks to have a last-minute change, we can call our contact at Jordano’s and they make it happen,” says rick.
Recently the restaurant began to offer patrons take-home dishes. They developed a “pans & pounds” ordering option. The philosophy, rick says, is to take what you do best and do more of it. The move is wildly successful and supplements business.
A Little Advice for Big Success
Rick will tell you he’s learned much working alongside his family over the years. But the best advice gramps imparted was delivered on his death bed. “He asked me if i knew how i was going to run the restaurant. i told him ‘no sir,’” though i had some pretty good ideas of what i wanted to do. He told me, ‘you keep your mouth shut and let the employees teach you how to run the place.’ He was right, some of those employees had been there when i was in diapers – they taught me some of the best lessons and gave me perspective,” rick recalls.
Early days when he was behind the counter preparing chicken fried steak in the open-view kitchen, he struggled to find the ingredients.
“A customer at the counter piped up and coached me through it. He had been there so long and so many times, he knew the recipe and where the ingredients were better than i did,” says rick.
Today rick’s advice to restaurant owners is as simple as the words imparted by gramps, as he kindly reminds others to value the relationship. “A lot of people have limited resources to spend their money, so treat them like they are your family.”
“Jordano’s goes out of their way to give very personal attention to us. i believe they genuinely want us to succeed.”ily.” “Jordano’s goes out of their way to give very personal attention to us. i believe they genuinely want us to succeed.”