There's an old Irish proverb that reads, "A good friend is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.” The same could be said of business partners, and luckily for Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling — co-owners of Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger Bar, Goodfriend Package and Blind Butcher — they’ve found both in each other.
Since 2011, the duo’s Goodfriend brand has helped transform their East Dallas neighborhood around Peavy and Garland roads into a hip neighborhood hub. Along with other local businesses like 20 Feet Seafood Joint and Cultivar Coffee, the intersection has built a fiercely loyal following in the area and will likely increase its capacity as a destination spot as more business — such as Greenville Avenue Pizza Co. and the anticipated Hello Dumpling, moving into the recently vacated Good 2 Go Taco location — join in.
Tobin and Yingling met at the Dubliner when Tobin worked there as a bartender. After ending the night of that fateful meeting at Tobin’s house with a case of Budweiser and plenty of shots, a friendship was cemented. As time went on, Yingling, who was tending bar at Sushi Zushi, visited Tobin while he tended bar at Vickery Park (RIP), which Tobin co-owned, and eventually ended up bar-backing alongside him.
Shortly after Good 2 Go Taco opened its doors at one end of a Peavy strip mall, Tobin set his sights on the space next door, which had housed divey biker bar Texas Trap. The pair, who had discussed one day operating a bar together, teamed up to tackle the project. One coffin-shaped bar, several cans of dark paint and many beers later, Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger Bar was up and running, introducing the neighborhood to craft beer, designer burgers and a different experience from anything else in the area.
“Goodfriend was built on three things we love: burgers, beer and whiskey,” Yingling says, “with a bit of live music in there, too.”
The bar’s name was inspired by a friend in New York. “He owned a video store or something, and his friends were broke,” Yingling says. “He rented a little newsstand and got a cooler of Kronenbourgs and sold ‘em to his friends for $2 apiece just so they had somewhere to have beers. He called it Goodfriend.”
The pair set out to to establish a “neighborhood meeting place” like their buddy's newsstand — something they seem to have accomplished, judging from the large and diverse crowds of people and dogs gathered under the bar’s shaded and well-misted pergola in the evenings.
“We filled an apparent need in the neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t growing pains. Every day was and still is an adventure,” Yingling says. “No matter how many years you do this, you still learn new things on a daily basis."
The idea of a second concept nearby began as a result of the pair’s frustration with the absence of a good spot to buy craft beer in the area. Yingling, who had enjoyed his time working at a deli while living in Colorado, wanted to include sandwiches as well, and in January 2016, the Goodfriend Package concept was born. The space — right across Peavy from the bar — houses a diverse concept that, in addition to being a craft beer retailer with a well-curated bottle selection, serves up killer breakfasts, meaty lunches and shares space with Cultivar Coffee.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Yingling says. “The Package experience has been really cool. I love a good cup of coffee and a good sandwich or a banging breakfast. I believe we complement each other really well.”
As the area continues to develop, there are pros and cons to the growth. Commercial rent and housing costs have skyrocketed, but there’s more value in the area, more businesses are joining the neighborhood and there are plenty of new folks around to expand the customer base.
“There is not really a burden with the area growing,” Yingling says. “I love seeing new faces that haven’t experienced or heard of Goodfriend.”
In addition to these East Dallas ventures, the pair are co-owners of meat-centric Lower Greenville hot spot The Blind Butcher, which features hand-cranked sausages, poutines and other meaty treats from charcuterie boards to pig ears.
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When it comes to diverse successes of their teamwork, the same relationship-focused element that has helped their brands has also helped Tobin and Yingling’s business relationship. While many may caution against going into business with friends, the trust and connection developed over the course of their friendship has helped the duo weather the storms (and growing pains) of small-business ownership.
“Sometimes, you have to trust your business partner implicitly,” Yingling says. “When you gotta say something, you just do. Business has to come first, but also respecting the friendship is very important to us. I mean, fuck, we’re family.”
As the neighborhood around them continues to grow, Tobin and Yingling plan to focus their energy on growing their businesses. When asked about plans for any new concepts on the horizon, Yingling’s response is succinct yet emphatic: “No fucking way.”
Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger Bar, 1154 Peavy Road. Goodfriend Package, 1155 Peavy Road.