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Couple launches Mexican chain's rebirth

Online fundraiser fueling Macheezmo Mouse's comeback


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jeff Burlingame is hoping to revitalize the Macheezmo Mouse brand with a new restaurant in Beaverton, taking the place of the old Hollywood Video in the Beaverton Town Center.Using healthy, high-quality Mexican food as fuel, Jeff Burlingame is on a journey back to the 1990s.

That’s when he was a managing partner in Macheezmo Mouse, the fondly remembered chain of casual, health-conscious Mexican restaurants that operated in the Portland and Seattle areas from the 1980s until 2003. A busy outlet on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway near the current Target store was among nearly 25 restaurants operating at Macheezmo’s peak.

Burlingame and his wife, Danell, who live in the Sexton Mountain neighborhood, are working together to resurrect the former eatery. With a newly launched fundraising campaign through the online crowd funding platform indiegogo, the couple plans to open the first new Macheezmo Mouse restaurant in the former Hollywood Video store at Beaverton Town Center.

Taking on the role of “refounder,” Burlingame has rights to the restaurant’s trademark name, its whimsical etched-mouse logo and recipes to Macheezmo’s uniquely flavored salsas, including the dark brown “Boss Sauce” that complemented the bean burritos, chicken enchiladas and most everything else on the old menu.

“We miss the food,” he said. “My wife is a personal trainer. We can’t find the food we want to eat. We can’t find the kind of service we want. We’re looking to do something on our own, from an entrepreneurial aspect.”

While planning to keep his regular job as operations manager for Easy Street Online Services, he’s looking forward to offering the restaurant and its distinctive fare to customers both seasoned and new.

“We are incredibly excited,” he said. “There are more than enough people who have memories of the restaurant to sustain it, but we could also use some new business. I’m refounding it and relaunching it. Somebody needs to be in charge, and that will be me.”

While he’s taking some flak for not relaunching in Portland, what some consider Macheezmo’s spiritual home, Burlingame has many reasons for throwing his lot in with Beaverton — for starters, at least.

“Back in the day, it was the busiest location,” he said. “The demand was there. We live in Beaverton. The population pool is much larger (now). We’ve been looking all over the Portland area, and this is the best building we’ve found.”

Burlingame started his management training at the Beaverton restaurant and ended up managing the store at the Shops at Tanasbourne. Two knee surgeries following a mid-1990s injury hindered his ability to work effectively in the fast-paced, on-your-feet service industry, causing him to bow out of the company in 1996.

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it as effectively as I like to do it, and there was nowhere for me to go in the company,” he explained. “After my second knee surgery, I needed a sit-down job. I’d gotten into (information technology) at that point. I started with tech support calls and progressed from there.”

Disagreements over the direction of the restaurant and the tragic November 1999 death of Macheezmo Mouse founder Tiger Warren — whose float plane crashed into the Columbia River east of Portland, killing Warren and his three sons — led to the demise of what had been a rapidly expanding chain.

“My sense is there was a difference of opinion, starting from the top, about the direction of the company, the healthy aspects of it,” Burlingame said. “Others thought (healthy) wasn’t the way to go. While trying to get that all sorted out, Tiger dies. And without his direction and backing, it was the beginning of the end.”

Burlingame, who kicked off the indiegogo campaign last week at Brassiere Montmarte in downtown Portland, said he and Danell found the social-media based approach an effective way to get the project moving.

“We decided to go this route for the additional visibility,” he said. “The investors wanted to take the pulse in the community in a positive, visible way to see how much demand there really was and how much support we could get financially.”

As of Tuesday morning, the 40-day campaign had raised $1,100 of its $87,900 goal.

“So far, it’s going well,” he said. “We’re pleased with the response there, and on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve gotten back in touch with a lot of people.”

Danell Burlingame, who worked for the Mouse in 1996 when she was 16, feels the time is right for a healthy, convenient, casual-dining option — a concept that Macheezmo Mouse helped to pioneer before others ran with the concept.

“I believe by bringing Macheezmo Mouse back, we will offer a true healthy alternative when dining out,” she said. “It was a success before eating healthier was even what people thought or cared much about. Now you see and hear about healthier options in every restaurant. In today’s world, it will be even more successful.”

While Jeff, her husband of 13 years, will focus on business, Danell will work on the nutrition and menu aspects.

“Breaking down the nutritional facts even more than in the past and adding additional options we believe will cause Macheezmo Mouse to stand out and be unlike the others,” she said. “People will love the food. It will be just as good as they remembered back in the day.”

To learn more about Macheezmo Mouse’s indiegogo fundraising campaign, visit Igg.me/atMmouse, or facebook.com/MacheezmoMouse.



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