DU Alumni

Alumni connections helped build fast-casual eatery Chop Shop

Christian Anderson started the fast-casual eatery Chop Shop. Photo: Julie Chiron

Christian Anderson started the fast-casual eatery Chop Shop. Photo: Julie Chiron

After an intense four years at the University of Denver earning a degree in international business while playing men’s lacrosse, Christian Anderson (BSBA ’05) chose to travel instead of jumping into a job. He visited Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand before returning to Denver, where he landed a job at Beverage Distributors in Aurora through fellow business major Sean Hogan (BSBA ’92). While working as a beverage consultant for five years, Anderson cultivated a passion for Denver’s dynamic and spirited food culture.

Through his job, Christian met Clint Wangsnes, a senior chef at the restaurant Zengo, run by famed restaurateur and chef Richard Sandoval. Wangsnes and Anderson shared a vision for making fine dining more accessible by bringing a delicious, chef-driven menu to the quick-service, casual environment. They partnered with another University of Denver graduate, Derek Nelson (BA ’04), and his wife, Elizabeth, and together they quickly went to work raising capital and transforming a former upholstery shop on Colfax Avenue into what would become a modern eatery called Chop Shop.

Featuring items such as 48-hour slow-cooked short rib and peachwood-smoked pork chop, the restaurant opened in August 2014 to a full house. Whenever possible, the ingredients are locally sourced, from the Alamosa striped bass to the Palisade peaches. Even parts of the interior are crafted from locally reclaimed fence wood.

“Since we’re trying to bridge the gap between fine dining and quick service,” Anderson says, “we wanted to have a low carbon footprint and also create an elevated dining experience.”

The restaurant uses silverware, linen napkins, cloth towels in the bathrooms and bamboo serving planks branded with the Chop Shop logo that Wangsnes and Anderson made themselves in their basement.

“On our journey here,” Anderson says, “I reached out to a number of DU alums who are successful in their businesses.”

The alumni group of experts reviewed his business plan, gave him advice on everything from launching a restaurant to contracts and permits, and encouraged him to stay true to his vision. “They were all willing to take a step back from their everyday lives to help out a friend,” he says. “The relationships I built at DU have been vital to getting us open.”

With the opening of Chop Shop, Christian joins numerous other University of Denver alumni who have launched their own businesses. In fact, Forbes magazine recently ranked the University of Denver at No. 27 on its list of America’s most entrepreneurial universities.

If demand is an indicator of success, Chop Shop is well on its way. When Christian posts a nightly special at 5 p.m. on the restaurant’s Facebook page, people show up an hour later wanting to try the dish. And they’re already asking for delivery service. He and his partner are contemplating what’s next, including opening more Chop Shop locations.

“Once Clint and I can take a deep breath,” Anderson says, “we’ll figure that out.”


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