Mark Verge isn’t shy about praising those who’ve helped him. They’re the secret to his success.
The Santa Monica native began his entrepreneurial career with Wilshire Coin, but left in 1996 — while still in his twenties — to launch the game-changing real estate listings service Westside Rentals with his wife, Mar Vista native Lani Verge. He sold the business in 2017 to focus on local nightlife, restaurants and hotels.
Verge joined Cedd Moses (son of the late Venice artist Ed Moses) as a partner in 213 Hospitality, which owns and operates Cole’s French Dip, the Arts District Brewing Co. and top Downtown L.A. nightspots including Seven Grand, Casey’s Irish Bar and The Golden Gopher.
“I learned from Cedd a lot about building community — he’s really into the soul of places, places that mean a lot to the community — and that’s when [Lani and I] went off and did our Westside restaurants,” says Verge. “It kind of breaks my heart that there are 24 Starbucks in Santa Monica. … They’ll have ’em in bedrooms soon enough.”
That portfolio includes Margo’s, Ashland Hill, Art’s Table, The Golden Bull and Verge’s personal favorite, The OP Café, “for just being part of the neighborhood, a local breakfast spot,” he says. One of his biggest takeaways so far from this entrepreneurial journey: “The employees are the key to the game. You can’t just preach family; you really have to mean it. You’ve got to over-deliver for them. … And I’m blessed.”
Verge, who has a 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, spreads a lot of small donations among local nonprofits. Much of his attention is focused on St. Monica’s Catholic Community, where he attended school and met Lani in church; Venice High School, Lani’s alma mater (and where Gondoliers quarterback turned coach Angelo Gasco “was my Joe Namath growing up,” Verge says); and most of all Santa Monica College, where Verge attended classes and his father Art Verge taught history. He often guest lecturers in business classes and is on the board of the fundraising Santa Monica College Foundation.
He focuses on education because entrepreneurship taught him the value of mentors. His lifelong mentors and their lessons include: Al Marco of Erin Condren Designs and Marco Fine Arts, “my go-to about business and life”; his former water polo coach Mark Dahlan, “respect everyone, but no fear”; Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Doug O’Neill, “get better and win the day”; former coach Mike Amloday, a writer for Ave Maria Catholic Books, “never done a drug in my life thanks to him”; St. Monica’s Church Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, “spiritually, aim higher”; Jimmy Dunne, “the best branding guy, who taught me the word grateful”; his late father, “treat the janitor as well as you would the president”; and his wife — “without her, it’s game over,” he says.
— Joe Piasecki
Photo by Courtnay Robbins