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June 13, 2024
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Gilroy natives set to open Pop’s Public House

Pop’s Public House is slated to open its doors in about two weeks from today.

It might not seem like it, especially when the new restaurant and bar still looks like it’ll take a miracle performed on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.”

However, there’s plenty of optimism from co-owners and siblings, Mike Vollmer and Katie Perales, who believe everything seems to be falling into place really well.

“You’re looking at a blank slate,” Vollmer said. “It’s going to come together very nicely.”

Vollmer and Perales plan to have 40 employees ready to go for its grand opening scheduled for April 14, but like any new business there’s always something to worry about going wrong.

“Fingers crossed, everything goes smoothly,” Perales said. “We’ve got people relying on us, too and we want to open on time for them.”

Pop’s Public House will replace The Claddagh Irish Restaurant & Pub, which sat in the Hecker Pass Plaza at 1300 First St. for several years before it was recently sold to Vollmer and Perales. 

The concept is primarily American grill but they’re also attempting an Irish-Mexican fusion with specialties throughout the menu. The siblings have been working with chef Josh Dixon to turn their idea into a reality.

One of the unique items will be a corned beef burrito and Irish nachos with crispy fries topped with chorizo and cheese, and on the weekends they’ll do specials such as pozole. Don’t worry, they plan on bringing back some of the favorites from the Claddagh. 

Vollmer said they care about the ingredients and presentation when it comes to both the food and cocktails. 

“Like upscale pub food but you can still come in your jeans and flip-flops in the summer,” Perales said. 

Pop’s will have seasonal dishes and vegetables will be from local farms such as Coke Farms in San Juan Bautista. Perales said Pop’s will also have its own restaurant garden with fresh herbs.

Vollmer is installing a new draft system that will feature 24 local craft beers and they’ll have 25 signature cocktails that he considers as the classics. They also plan to have a shuffleboard table along with a new lounge area and new televisions mounted on the walls.  

Vollmer has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years, starting as a dishwasher then up to a general manager and finally a bartender at Westside Grill and Ninja Sushi for a majority of the time. 

A couple of years ago the original owners of the Claddaugh asked Vollmer if he wanted to buy the business. 

That’s when he reached out to C.J. Dawson, who became best friends with Vollmer when they met in the ‘90s after returning from Iraq. 

Dawson was sitting at the bar one day and the idea of owning the place was brought up. 

“I just got kind of roped into it,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m interested in trying to be a part of this.’ And I was fortunate enough that they allowed me to join in on the adventure.”

Vollmer said they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The American grill and pub is named after Vollmer and Perales’ father, Stephen Vollmer, who is considered the patriarch of the family. 

“We could not do it without him,” Perales said.

The building itself also holds a special place in their hearts. Mike Vollmer remembers when it used to be Sports Connection and they used to play at the arcade all the time.   

The family has been in Gilroy for more than 40 years and he believes it’s cool for a bunch of locals to take over the spot and turn it into something fun for the community. 

They began the demolition process on March 23. Vollmer said the hardest thing when launching a business is they’re bound to run into hiccups and what was once an amazing idea can turn out to be something that just won’t work. 

Then it’s back to the drawing board. 

“We’re all working toward the same goal,” he said. “It’s a lot, just everything mixed together but we’re almost there.”

Perales’ daughter, Taylore Martinez, is the marketing manager for the restaurant and she said the anticipation has also been a challenge itself. Still, there’s plenty of optimism going around the room.

“I think we wouldn’t have gone into this industry if we went in with that pessimistic outlook,” she said.

Dawson said as much as Vollmer’s optimism can aggravate them sometimes, he’s been the biggest driving factor that led to the success up to this point. Dawson mentioned people are pitching in and doing what it takes to help, but it’s always been Vollmer’s vision from the get-go.

Vollmer added that everybody has been instrumental and brings something to the table. 

Vollmer’s parents, Stephen and Janet, used to own Gilroy Village Video which was located in the South Valley Plaza Shopping Center on 10th Street. So, running a family business is nothing new to them. 

However, they shut down after Blockbuster and Hollywood Video came into town, depriving Vollmer and Perales from having a chance to run the store themselves.  

They said the ultimate goal now is to have their children grow up in the restaurant industry and continue the legacy they hope to build in the near future.

“If we can make a place that Gilroy loves and that our kids can grow up working in and take over, that would be awesome,” Perales said. 

Juan Reyes
Juan Reyes
A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.

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  1. Happy to have a new restaurant in town, but please give up the idea of a corned beef burrito! Sounds awful.

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  2. Best of luck to you all. Love that locals will take over. I like the idea of the corned beef burrito and will definitely check out your beer selection.

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