Mitchapalooza to end after 26-year run
Mitch Cahoon is bidding Mammoth farewell.
After a quarter-century in town and nearly 15 years managing Petra’s Bistro inside the Alpenhof, Cahoon is moving to the Westchester/Playa Del Rey area to take a job with Treasury Wine Estates.
His final day at Petra’s was last Saturday.
Mitch grew up in the Palmdale area and got his college degree in communications (radio, film, television). He was working in LA on a series called “Supermarket Sweep” in 1993 when the show went on hiatus.
So he came to Mammoth to ski bum and couch surf – he had a bunch of friends from high school who had moved to Mammoth.
Ultimately, he outlasted them all.
First job: Pioneer Market. Then he bartended at MMSA (Yodler) for three years.
The fateful moment which changed Mitch’s life occurred during this period. He happened to stumble into a “trade tasting” at MMSA where reps for different wineries were pitching their wares.
He was intrigued. It was a regular job. Paid pretty well. There were maybe 3-4 local reps at the time. Mitch is pretty cerebral. There was a lot to learn about wine, and probably more to know about it than he would ever know. It appealed to him.
He left MMSA to work for the Henry Wine Group from 1996- 2008.
In 2003, the Schaubmayer brothers (Kirk and Robert) decided to open Petra’s Bistro to honor their late mother. Cahoon went in to sell them wine. The selling turned out to be mutual. The brothers talked Mitch into working for them.
He put together the wine list for Petra’s, bartended there, and within a few years was managing the place, in addition to continuing his work for Henry.
Mitch wound back to the brothers several times during the interview.
“I’m eternally grateful to Kirk and Robert. Their influence has shaped me both personally and professionally … They have a laissez-faire management style. They give guidance, but they really trust in their employees. I had full autonomy [in managing the restaurant],” said Mitch, before adding with a smile, “However, there were a couple of invoices for expensive wine where … there would be discussion.”C
Kirk would harrumph, ‘well, you better sell that wine.’ And Mitch would.
“No matter who comes and goes, it’s them believing in themselves [that sets the Schaubmayers apart],” says Mitch.
“The brothers always just say everything’s going to work out – and it does.”
The Mitch Five
The Sheet asked Mitch to name five distinctly Mammoth characters, in no particular order, who stand out in his memory. This took awhile – there were too many to sift through. But five he mentioned:
Shields Richardson, “even though I can’t stand his Republican politics.”
Spike Todd, “just as far as being such a grump. but no matter how ornery he gets … I just love talkin’ to him.
Dirty Dunigan, “the greatest, most smart-ass bartender around.”
Robert Schaubmayer Sr., “the icon. A patriarch of a family and a town.”
John Vereuck, who used to drink his Pinot Grigio with an ice cube. “There was an openness to him. He’d say whatever. He had a zest for life that was contagious. That mustache, that voice – he dominated a room. When he was in a room, everyone was happy.”
Why’s he leaving?
Cue up “Freebird.” Cahoon’s got too many places he wants to be.
But it’s not that. Not quite. It’s definitely more complicated.
Mitch’s folks live down south. They are 87 and 85 years old. “It’s time to be there for them,” says Mitch.
And there’s a woman involved.
And a great job opportunity with Treasury Wine Estates, walking into the company’s 2nd largest grossing territory.
In general, however, he says it’s time for him to reengage with the world.
“You can kinda hide out here,” Mitch says of Mammoth. There’s the beauty of it, the avoidance of the pressures of the city, the satisfaction of having close friends, familiarity, comfort.
And he’s greatly enjoyed helping build Petra’s. “It’s something that I was proud of. I wanted to keep it going. It was part of my identity.”
Mentoring ten employees who now make a career in the wine industry is also part of his identity, something he is equally proud of.
But over the past few years, it’s all just grown a little stale.
“I don’t want to be the old curmudgeon,” he says, “or turn into it.”
And he doesn’t like the cold anymore.
He used to be one those guys who skied 100+ days per winter. Now he might ski 10-15 days.
“I’ll miss everything except the winters.”
A few observations
When you’ve been around a quarter century, you’ve seen a few things.
The biggest change in Mammoth: Summers. “I’ve got to give the town some props,” he says, referring to the escalation of summer tourism. “When I moved here, everyone went on unemployment [for the summer].”
The impact of the Ikon pass: “It’s expanded our market and made expectations much higher. We rose to the occasion [at Petra’s], but it wasn’t easy. I had become so accustomed to Southern Californians. I understand their needs and what they want. But this year, when you had people who’ve been to Whistler, Aspen … Mammoth as a whole has to step it up if this is the way it’s going to be. And that’s a good thing.”
Something he’ll miss: The Mammoth Gout League, a fantasy football league which he’s presided over as commissioner for 21 years. Five of the league’s 12 members still live locally (Scottie Marzonie, George Tschiporikov, Dirty Dunigan, Tommy Powers and Chad Bergeron). 7 of the league’s 12 members have severe cases of gout.
Fantasy sports is one of the things Mitch says will sustain him in L.A. traffic. He’s a Sirius XM channel 87 junkie.
And he wasn’t shy about revealing who he thinks will be next year’s great rookie stud: Oakland/Las Vegas Raider first round draft pick Josh Jacobs.
Politics? Who does he like in 2020?: “Six months ago I would have said Biden. Now … I like [California Sen.] Kamala Harris a lot. And [Minnesota Sen.] Amy Klobuchar.
“But I’m a Hunter S. Thompson guy,” he said. “A little twisted. A little dark.”