By May 3, 2011 Read More →

InterView: Dan Costa

Dan J. Costa was born in 1953 in Modesto, California. He started as a dishwasher and by high school graduation had worked his way through the ranks to become Chef at the Sundial. It was only a matter of time that Dan married Denise Vient in 1976 as they had known each other since kindergarten.

Dan created, developed and sold Velvet Creamery Restaurants, Velvet Foods, Davis Lay Produce Company and the Mallards Foods Company. In 1986, Costa opened the milestone Mallard’s restaurant introducing new upscale dining to Modesto, paving the way for many of the wonderful restaurants we have now.

In 1998, Dan developed the Costo/Lowe’s shopping center and soon purchased the Royal Robbins Outdoor clothing company.  He later sold the improved company to Phoenix Footwear, splitting off the 5.11 Tactical brand.  5.11 Tactical is now a rapidly growing supplier of public safety apparel selling worldwide. Their customers include the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service and are known for their high quality, long-lasting, innovative clothing.  2011 Annual revenue is expected to exceed $200 Million.

Deep down, Dan is still a food guy, and regularly shares his kitchen skills to help raise funds for non-profits and educate developing business people.  He regularly advises local businesses and is currently teaching his ideas for success to a new generation of entrepreneurs with the Valley Apprentice Project.  Dan’s philanthropic interests are too numerous to list, but his generous support is felt all over our city.

Ok, now let’s take time to meet the Dan Costa that is behind all of these innovations and activities.  Dan loves his hometown and is very comfortable running all of his business activities right here in Modesto.  ModestoView catches up with Dan before a business trip to the east coast.

ModestoView: What was your dream job when you were 10 years old?

Dan Costa: To be a Major League Baseball Player.

MV: Where did you grow up?

DC: West side Modesto, California.

MV: When did you realize that you had an aptitude for making projects successful?

DC: When I was 14 and I first went to work. After my first day of washing pots and pans, I was promoted to assistant banquet coordinator because I did such a good job. That is when I first felt that I could be successful at working.

MV:  What was your favorite place to hang out when you were a teen? I was always working, but when I could sneak away I would go to Ferroni’s Pool Hall on McHenry.

MV:  Did you cruise in Modesto?

DC: No cruising for me.  I would get off work after 14 hours of cooking at the Sundial and head down McHenry to get home and the street would be jammed up with cruisers.

MV: What single business success set the wheels in motion to what you are today?

DC: It was learning to cook at the Sundial because once I had the basic foundation of cooking and was able to become a good chef, that allowed me to open my own restaurant and be successful. The Sundial was a major turning point in my life as a learning experience.

MV: What do you think your most valuable characteristic is?

DC: The ability to see things that others don’t. It is easy for me to see the future of a business.

MV:  Do you think that you can run a world class company from anywhere in the world?

DC: I think so. I think business and people in general are very much the same all around the world. It may take more work to understand the cultures and intricacies of each country, but I would not let that stop me.

MV: How would you rate the talent and the abilities of the workforce in the Modesto area?

DC: For 95% of the jobs that a business needs to grow in Modesto, we are fully capable of supplying that locally, but for the 5% of specific vocational skills that may be needed, you must recruit from the entire country.

MV: Not to give away a huge business secret, but what three things do you look for in a brand or company when you consider jumping in?

DC: The top 3 things I look for are originality, customer loyalty, and scalability.

MV:  What childhood memory would you bring back to life if you could?

DC: The memory I would bring back would be the day that I hit a ball out of the park at Downey High School. I hit the ball over the right fielders head and into the alley. The right fielder went over the roped fence and picked up the ball next to a garbage can. With a 3-man relay, he threw me out at home plate. I was never so embarrassed. I love baseball, but I just never had good wheels. If I brought this memory back, I would have stayed at 3rd base!

MV: Since you are a serious gourmet, what is your secret junk food treat?

DC: I love hotdogs.

MV:  What do you think about Modesto as the home of American Graffiti?

DC: I think it is great. I think we should figure out a way to make that a national event in a very upscale way to improve the image of Modesto as well as bringing a tremendous amount of revenue to the community.

MV: If another CEO were considering relocating or starting a company in the Modesto area, what advice would you give?

DC: I would tell them not to take all of the bad press seriously about our community. Many areas of the country have their challenges as we do, but Modesto is a very safe city full of local pride. Modesto is a great place to start a business because it is a basic all American city and a perfect test market. I have started every one of my 8 businesses in Modesto.

MV: What do you love most about living in Modesto?

DC: It is very comfortable for me. I feel safe, liked, and respected.

MV: Is there a business deal that you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

DC: No. If I wanted to do it, I have done it.

MV: You give back to the community in amazing ways, what do you think our business community can do more of to give back?

DC: Not much, our community does quite well. We are a very giving community. I would have to say per capita, Modesto’s business people would have to be in the top 10 % in the United States of giving back to the community, without a doubt.

MV: If you could start over now, what would your dream job be now?

DC: Still, a Major League Baseball Player!

MV: Who would you like most to sit next to you on a flight from CA to NYC?

DC: I would love to sit next to my mom because I never get enough time with her and she is my biggest inspiration. I see her often, but never often enough. I love spoiling her, and let me tell you, New York would be the place to do it!

MV: Do you have a favorite hobby?

DC: Golf

MV: Describe the perfect day for Dan and Denise Costa

DC: A trip to Monterey. Dan will play golf, Denise will read a book. Dan has a massage and Denise reads another book. Dinner at Roy’s at Spanish Bay, then watching a vintage movie, finally sleeping in the next morning.

MV: What would retirement be like for you?

DC: Retirement for me is going to be to teach kids at a young age how to start working and becoming successful, making forward progress in their lives early on. It would include burning lots of jet fuel, playing golf all over the world.

Our traditional question:  Beatles or Stones?

DC: Beatles, my favorite song is “The Long and Winding Road”. But my all time favorite entertainer is Frank Sinatra and my favorite song is “Under My Skin”



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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.