traveled the globe, spent 10 years in the Army and worked a variety of jobs, but always in the back of his mind .
Someday, he thought, I want to have .
For Malone, though, it took time. Like a prospect moving his way up through the minor leagues, from rookie ball to Class AAA, Malone paid his dues while working at restaurants and bars, gleaning information, learning the do’s and don’ts of the business, and biding his time.
After looking for just the right spot for almost 2½ years, Malone and his wife, Trish, found a location they liked, a 5,700-square foot space just off Town Center Parkway (across from ) in Santee that .
They signed the lease in January of 2011 and worked for more than five months to remodel the interior and get it just the way they wanted before opening to the public on May 27.
Recently, as he prepared to celebrate the restaurant’s first anniversary this Sunday, Malone sat at a table at Landre’s surrounded by sports memorabilia-- on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, in special lockers and even under the clear surfaces of each of the themed tables – and said he and Trish have weathered the storm.
Landre, who says Trish handles the finances,bookkeeping and their two young daughters, while he handles day-to-day operations – and work weeks of 80 to 100 hours – has run a marathon over the past 18 months, but still has a spring in his step.
“I don’t have too many gray hairs and I’m getting some sleep,” he said, smiling.
“It’s been everything I expected, up and down,” he adds. “They say if you can make it through your first year you can make it through anything, and we’re here. We’ll be here for a long time.”
Malone has been seriously collecting sports memorabilia since 1996, and the results of his efforts are everywhere in Landre’s. He jokingly refers to it as his “man cave.”
From jerseys (Ryan Klesko, Pete Rose, Philip Rivers) to bats, autographed photos, balls and the collectible cards under glass at each table, Malone has a story for each. Before he and Trish opened the restaurant, many of those items hung on the walls of their home in Santee, or were packed away, waiting.
The first item Malone purchased was a drawing of a young Cal Ripken Jr. toddling to the plate while under the gaze of Hall of Fame Yankee Iron Man Lou Gehrig. It’s autographed by Ripken and is the 709th of 2,131 registered prints (the number of consecutive games played by Ripken when he broke Gehrig’s record in 1996).
“I bought a piece at that point (1996) that I said someday would be a focal point of my restaurant,” he says.
Sports, obviously, is the restaurant’s niche, and Landre’s, says Malone, can be a busy place, especially on Saturdays and Sundays during the college football and NFL seasons when customers and many of the restaurant’s 26 employees are working. On Sundays, there often are two shifts of jersey-clad fans, a morning shift of various NFL fans looking to come in to watch games on the 14 flat-screen TVs around the restaurant and bar, followed by Chargers fans (when they’re at home or playing the late game).
“Sundays are great,” says Malone. “A big mix.”
The first year of operating Landre’s, however, wasn’t a 365-day calendar of NFL Sundays. There have been slow patches and a learning curve. Malone says they’ve learned, listened to customers and adjusted the menu. But, as the second year is about to kick off, he sees steady growth and believes Landre’s has a special niche.
It’s not just a sports bar for the 21-and-over set, and it’s not just a restaurant. Most of the space is devoted to the restaurant (on the left, when visitors enter), but there’s a bar to the right. In between, too, is the “Penalty Box,” an area set aside for kids, to make the place family-friendly. Adults can come watch a game or meet friends for dinner, while their kids can skate over to the Penalty Box to play games and work off their energy.
For years, that was Malone’s dream, to have a place for all ages to gather, and he believes he has that now. Regulars come from Santee, all over East County and San Diego, he says, and Landre’s received an A-List award in its first year from 10 News San Diego for best sports bar and grill.
“We have a good niche,” says Landre, who says the place is a reflection of he and Trish. “We’re different than anything else in town.”
Before Malone moved to San Diego County in 1999, met Trish – who grew up in Santee – married and opened Landre’s, Malone was a globe trotter.
He grew up in Northern California, but then spent 10 years in the Army, first in the infantry and then in intelligence. His assignments took him to Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti, Germany, Italy, Spain and Egypt. One of his best memories is of exploring the pyramids, getting a chance to go down deep inside the burial chambers, escorted by members of the Egyptian military.
After leaving the Army as a staff sergeant in 1999, Malone made his way west, where he met Trish.
Like Malone, Trish also is a sports fan, and shares his love of baseball and hockey. Their third date, he says, was a baseball game.
“She’s a fan,” he says. “I got lucky.”
Their first date was to see the movie “The Whole Nine Yards,” with Bruce Willis.
Someday, they thought, that name would have to be incorporated into something in the restaurant – an inside connection.
Today, it is. Landre’s serves a monster burger, originally called the Challenge Burger, that weighs in at 4½ pounds. When it was first introduced, Malone promised that anyone who could eat it in less that 42 minutes and 56 seconds (Pete Rose’s record hit total of 4,256) would get to name it and design a T-shirt for future conquerors of the burger to earn.
Fifteen people tried before a competitive eater from Temecula named Kevin Ross inhaled it in 19 minutes and one second.
Today, the name of the burger is almost a bigger mouthful than the sandwich itself, and it includes that Malone first-date connection (the one caveat they required): It’s the “Kevin Ross Rules Wacky Waffle Jewpocabra Gnarwhal Bacon Whole 9 Yards” Challenge Burger.
(And what’s in it, you ask? Two bacon waffles, a 1-pound bacon burger, a 1-pound jalapeno bacon burger, six slices of cheese, 6 ounces of pulled pork, three fried eggs, three slices of bacon and one pound of tater tots.)
For Malone, Landre’s is a 24/7 operation. Even when he’s not there, he’s there, connected by phone, email and the spinning ideas in his brain. After planning to own and operate such a place for years, he’s totally committed.
This is his baby.
He looks around the restaurant and says, “It’s everything I wanted it to be,” but admits it can be discouraging on a slow day.
Still, the job gives him a special jolt he’s never gotten from any other job.
“(We) had a plan and I’m still sticking to it,” he says. “It’s easy when it’s slow to want to get out of it and say, ‘OK, I’m done.’ But you have the days that are just phenomenal that bring you back in reality, and you get the first-time customer that just came in and loves everything about it and gives you that spark again.
“We’re getting a lot of smiles and a lot of, ‘I love it, I wish I’d known you were here sooner,’ and that spark is always there.”