An Interview with Glenn Spicker, owner of the new high-end Mexican restaurant Agave

It was circa 1991 that Glenn forsook Russia in favor of relocating to Prague

Glenn Spicker is full of energy at its most kinetic. He will unexpectedly lie flat on the couch while speaking with you, he’ll bound up and give a small, childlike jump, he’ll sit back and spread his arms as if he is never anything but confidently at his ease, he will suddenly lean forward and bounce his knee as if to signal he could not contain his agitated enthusiasm if he wanted to, which he probably doesn’t. “Take a look at me!” he laughs. “Do you think I can sit still for five minutes?”

It is this restlessness that is arguably Glenn’s greatest business asset. He’s been living in Prague for over 20 years, and in that period, has opened roughly 18 businesses. Many have failed, but several that have succeeded are today staples of his adopted city. Burrito Loco is a fixture of late-night post-club dining, and the Museum of Communism is a successful tourist attraction. His most recent venture is a high-end Mexican restaurant called Agave. It opened this past November, and enjoys such glowing reviews on TripAdvisor that Glenn says the website contacted him because they “suspected something. Every review was excellent, 4 or 5 stars; they almost cut us off. But then we got one poor review.” He grins. “So they kept us.”

How does a nice Jewish boy from “the flatlands of West Hartford, CT,” raised to believe one ought to pursue a professional career as a doctor or a lawyer, wind up owning one of the most highly rated restaurants in a city located thousands of miles from home? Like so many of the very many expats who have settled here, “What attracted me was just the desire to travel.”

Glenn was attending graduate school in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down in ’89. He was interested in Communist politics, “what was behind the Iron Curtain,” and decided to apply for a low-level security visa that would enable him to work in Russia. While he was still in Germany, however, he visited Prague, and was struck by the physical and business landscape he encountered.

Becoming an entrepreneur, “just didn’t occur to me until I came here and saw absolutely nothing. Bright, white lights in restaurants. Every window was blackened and dark, you couldn’t see in. There was tons of opportunity. And I wasn’t sharp enough or capable enough to think, ‘well, I’ll go for real estate or where the big money is, become the billboard king of the Czech Republic,’ or whatever. I just wound up opening a restaurant. Red Hot and Blues.”

It was circa 1991 that Glenn forsook Russia in favor of relocating to Prague. He and a business partner opened Red Hot and Blues, but not before Glenn began researching a different, and distinctly American, business venture.

The bagel market had recently exploded back home in the United States. In Europe, Glenn noted the large number of American expatriates who missed their homeland’s breakfast comfort food. So, “I started researching bagels, bagel technology, and I started working in a bakery” that was owned by a local Czech, with an eye toward opening his own bagel shop.

Lest you think the energetic Glenn had suddenly turned staid and stable, however, he shares a fond recollection: “I’d go out, party, and then I’d go right to the bakery at five in the morning… That was great!”

Bohemia Bagel likewise proved a great success. Other ventures quickly followed. “You do one, then another, and then you’re involved, then you’re invested. Then it becomes your city where you know people. Like, I couldn’t go to New York, doors are not going to open for me in New York like doors will open for me here.”

But even in a city of personal and business connections are some attempts yet bound to fail. Glenn’s Communist-themed bar Propaganda closed only a few weeks ago. “We had a really beautiful collection of artifacts. But in the end, it turned out to be a pub-crawl bar, we had to make ends meet, and I didn’t enjoy it so much anymore.”

His interest in Communism, however, endures. He still has his personal collection of artifacts, as well as the Museum of Communism on Na Prikope. Though some Czechs initially thought his idea for a museum was “funny,” and others were skeptical, Glenn says the locals are now largely “OK with it.

I hire Czechs. This is a museum by Czechs for Czechs. Obviously, it’s going to be for tourists, but it should be the Czech view.”

The local population may be more apt to mix with foreigners at Glenn’s busy Agave. Those positive reviews on TripAdvisor are not hyperbolic. From the classic margaritas, to the substantial burritos, and one mussels-and-spicy-chorizo entrée that is not to be missed, the food is satisfyingly authentic. The place was booked to capacity on a recent Tuesday night, and mostly by patrons who had reserved their tables in advance.

Glenn is enjoying his latest foray into what has become for him Prague’s familiar restaurant scene, but he has no plans to open another Agave. His future is tied to Burrito Loco. The takeaway burrito joint will soon open its fifth location, near Jiriho z Podebrad. “Running down the sideline with that until they knock me over,” he says of the successful business.

Of course, Glenn’s history and the mindset apparent in his movements ought to make one wary about drawing any certain conclusions. “I definitely have to move. I’m a shark. Need to swim.”

Agave Restaurant, Masna 620/2 Stare Mesto, Praha 1

Anna Storm, Prague.TV 06.04.2015

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