By JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ
Eagle Rock — It’s hard enough to open and operate one restaurant. But in the past seven years, husband-and-wife team Michelle and Corey Wilton have opened two neighborhood eateries and are now preparing to launch a third — all within a block of each other on Colorado Boulevard.
The Wiltons are the Eagle Rock couple behind Four Café, which opened in 2010, Piencone Pizzeria, Creamery and Pub, which opened in April and the soon-to-open Ember & Peel. On top of owning and managing restaurants, they have two small boys to raise.
“I think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world,” said Corey of working with his wife. “You get to spend your life together doing what you’re passionate about. When you think about that and value it, it makes the hard times easier.”
The couple didn’t always work together. Michelle Wilton worked as a private chef in Beverly Hills and her husband was assisting a private art dealer.
When the economy crashed in 2008, they started considering working for themselves.
“Corey said we should think about opening a restaurant and the next day I found a place and he goes, ‘Whoa, I said we should think about it,’” said Michelle.
They finally decided to take the risk and open Four Café.
“The food Michelle makes didn’t exist in Eagle Rock at the time, so we thought it would be food everyone would like,” said Corey.
Corey learned through trial by fire and read several books on running a business. He and his dad built the cafe together in over six months.The result became the warm restaurant with wood panel walls and colorful glass lamps we know of today.
The location was also a bit serendipitous. It’s about a mile from their home they bought in 2005.
Their second venture, Piencone opened only a few months ago in the former Coffee Table space. But the couple is happy with how the community has received the new restaurant.
The restaurant offers wood fired pizzas, salads, and ice cream made from scratch. Their partner, Herb Gualpa, manages the full bar that has signature drinks like “La Maestra,” a gin cocktail with Aleppo, lime jalapeno and honey syrup. They also have an array of craft beer on tap.
Having the three restaurants within walking distance of each other makes them easier to manager, and, says Corey, “I love adding to neighborhood vibes.”
But once Ember & Peel is up and running, the Wiltons said they plan to wait at least another five years before attempting to open another restaurant.
For other couples planning to open a restaurant together, the Wiltons have some advice.
“Define your roles,” said Corey. Michelle finished his thought and added, “Before going into it.”
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