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David Minton/DRC
Smiling Moose Deli and Verus Real Estate share a building at the intersection of Hickory Street and Carroll Boulevard.
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Real estate office, deli set up in shared space

Verus Real Estate finally has a new home at the corner of Carroll Boulevard and Hickory Street. The renovated building houses not only the company’s business offices but also a new restaurant, Smiling Moose Deli.

“The whole idea with the office design is that we are different and we are fun,” said Greg Johnson, managing partner and CEO of Verus Real Estate Advisors. “We did not want to be your stuffy corporate real estate guys. We wanted something that when people came in, they would say, ‘This is home, I am at a friendly place.’”

The new shared space is unique in its use of the 5,600-square-foot building, which previously housed Linwood-Alford Florist and Oxide Gallery.

The building was gutted from the top down, but kept some its original structure, much with like Verus’ renovation of the Texas Building at Oak and Locust streets last year.

“We wanted to keep the old trusses exposed,” Johnson said, giving a tour of the new offices. “We wanted a look and feel that was not your typical office.”

The building has an informal meeting room near the entrance, adjacent to offices for staff members. An old iron door was resurfaced and placed in the second conference room, which has a view onto Hickory Street. The building has a new roof and new electrical, plumbing and heating and air conditioning systems.

“We basically take these old buildings and build a new one,” Johnson said.

Verus officials had originally planned to use the entire building for their company, but Jennifer Frank, co-owner of the Smiling Moose Deli franchise location, proposed sharing the space.

Frank, who is a real estate broker, had just finished helping open Natural Food Grocers in Denton and was looking for a space for her restaurant.

“We were not going to use that old storage building — we thought of making a man cave,” Johnson said of the space behind the new office. “And once she told us how big she wanted it to be, we went back to our architect and asked him to see what he could do to accommodate us.”

The building was then divided in two — 2,380 square feet make up the corner restaurant plus a patio, while the Verus offices take up another 3,300 square feet.

“We completely redesigned it, and figured out how to take in that back alley — use that back building to make sure Jennifer had what she needed,” Johnson said. “I think the location is a knockout. The way it turned out, we couldn’t be happier.”

Verus’ previous office location was at a former Wachovia Bank building on Loop 288, which the company leased for the last two years.

“We never moved into the Texas Building because we leased our own space,” Johnson said.

Since the company rebranded and changed its name from Elk River Investments in 2010, Verus has done nine redevelopment projects in downtown Denton. The commercial real estate company now has 13 employees.


Got a Mo?

Next door to Verus, Smiling Moose Deli opened Friday.

The Denton shop is the 18th location of the Boulder, Colo.-based franchise that has been expanding in Texas, according to Larry Hill, president of Smiling Moose Deli Franchise Co.

Hill said community involvement is a big part of the brand. Shop manager Samantha Roberts is from Denton, and the new location employs 35 people in part- and full-time positions.

“One of the things about our brand is that we strive to be that local deli,” Hill said.

Smiling Moose serves salads, soups, breakfast and specialty coffees, and gluten-free options and catering are available. The deli’s signature sandwich is the Mighty Mo, a hamburger meat sandwich with vegetables and melted American cheese.

Frank co-owns the deli-style restaurant with her business partner, former Dallas Cowboy Daryl “Moose” Johnston.

During the deli’s event for family and friends on Thursday, Johnston said he was excited to finally bring the concept to Denton. Last fall, Frank opened Smiling Moose in Arlington.

“This [the Denton location] is the one Jennifer has been talking about since the whole process started,” Johnston said. “Jennifer always wanted to be here. This is the model she wanted to build here.”

Johnston said he supports the concept because of its healthfulness.

“When Jennifer approached me, I had stepped into that wellness world,” he said. “It was important to me to find out how healthy it was. … I know the guy where I buy my ham from, where I buy my turkey from. For me, it was a great concept.”

Unlike other locations, the Denton restaurant has a patio, Hill said.

“This location will serve beer and wine and have live music — that is different from what we have in Arlington,” Frank said.

Hill said the company looked at Denton’s atmosphere and demographics and its collegiate lifestyle and wanted to open something that would appeal to residents.

Smiling Moose Deli’s other Texas locations are in San Angelo and Midland. The franchise has also expanded to Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota since launching in 2003.

Frank said that for now, the Denton restaurant will open at 7 a.m. and will not have a set closing time.

“We are so excited,” Frank said. “I just love Denton; I want to move here. It is the coolest community.”


KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.


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