Capital Buzz: Bethesda pizzamaker ready to hit the road

November 25, 2012

Tiger Mullen, owner of Bethesda’s Haven Pizzeria Napoletana, is taking his pizza business mobile.

Haven, which opened on Wisconsin Avenue last February, is starting a catering business called Tomato Flyer Pizza Co., which has already booked 17 events starting April 1.

Mullen has spent more than $100,000 to buy and restore a 1947 International Harvester truck, turning it into a mobile pizzeria. He has two more trucks that will be ready next fall. All of the trucks were found in North Carolina, and are being updated and customized by Rob Sunde of Silver Spring.

The trucks, 22-by-8-by-9 feet high, are being equipped with coal-fired brick ovens, refrigerators, freezers, sinks, cappuccino machines and serving stations.

Mullen is a pizza nut whose day job is running a boutique accounting firm, just a few steps from Haven Pizzeria. He said the catering trucks seemed a logical extension of Haven.

“I am working with the coal ovens and making all of the ingredients for this operation every day — dough, salads, homemade mozzarella and artisan gelato — the infrastructure and artisan pizziaoli are all there to help support Tomato Flyer.”

Free-ranging turkeys

Gobbler and Cobbler, the two turkeys who traveled from Rockingham County, Va., to get pardoned by President Obama last week, spent two nights at the W Hotel before heading to the White House on Wednesday.

A suite was cleared and filled with cedar chips. The hotel’s chef whipped up a mix of cranberries, corn and greens for their meals.

“I think they’re enjoying their experience,” Ed Baten, the hotel’s general manager, told staff writer Abha Bhattarai. “I haven’t heard any complaints from them yet.”

Turkeys have been staying at the W Hotel, formerly Hotel Washington, on their way to presidential pardonings for years, Baten said. During the property’s renovation in 2008, the turkeys slept at the Willard Hotel down the street.

There were cages in Gobbler and Cobbler’s hotel room, but they were left open so the turkeys could wander around the suite. It took about a day to prepare the room, Baten said, and another day to clean up after their departure. The carpets were shampooed, walls were washed down and furniture was moved back in.

The turkey’s handlers slept in nearby rooms. “We try to ensure our guests’ privacy,” Baten said. “Even if they’re turkeys.”

The birds head to Mount Vernon next.

Fundraising

It took 359 client pitches over the past two years. It took a several million dollars in expenses. It took 12,000 man hours of preparations, tons of meetings, lots of travel and hundreds of phone calls.

But Washington private equity veteran David Dupree, founder of District-based Halifax Group, finally closed a $393 million fund Oct. 30.

Dupree, who worked at the Carlyle Group for eight years before striking out on his own in 1999, said the fundraising for Halifax Capital Partners III was his most difficult.

“Pensions, foundations and universities were concerned about liquidity,” he said. That’s private-equity speak for wanting to hold on to their money instead of giving it to someone to invest for five or six years, which is how long a private equity firm tends to keep cash before giving it back.

So how did he sell Halifax in such a tough market? He went to many of his previous clients, selling them on his investment strategy of putting money in middle-market companies that tend to be between $40 million and $100 million in value.

“We told our [investors] we are going to stay here,” in middle-market companies, he said. “That helped a lot.”

Moving in

Peter Baumann, chief executive of Reston-based Active Navigation, has moved to the Washington area to direct his company’s expansion.

Active Navigation, which began in the United Kingdom four years ago, helps clients organize and clean up data accumulated in its computer files over decades.

Big clients include the Defense Department, energy firms and mining companies.

“I moved to Reston in early September with the full family in tow,” said Baumann, who phoned us from Australia recently. “The reason to do it is very, very simple. We are looking to grow massively.”

Baumann plans to be here awhile. He has a three-year visa.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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