Lots of people already know Paul Tamburello, but they may not know it. More specifically, they probably know of his works if they have ever been to Little Man Ice Cream, Linger or Root Down. What they may not know is that for every scoop of ice cream that Little Man sells, the organization also gives away a scoop of rice or beans to the hungry. Since Little Man opened, they’ve given away over 76 tons! And that’s just part of the story.
The desire to give and help is seemingly ingrained in Paul. He started out as a youth minister for the Catholic Church. In fact, when the Pope came to Denver in 1993, Paul produced the Papal Welcome Mass in 1993 at Mile High Stadium.
How do you move from being a youth minister to being a developer of projects including restaurants, including Root Down and Linger as well as residential and commercial buildings?
Paul says that moving from seminary to real estate was really an extension of the work that he had been doing as a youth minister. He had been working with lots of groups on projects including housing all over the country and in fact all over the world. Paul had done a lot of work on the Navajo Reservation and was struck with the feeling of joy that comes from working with your hands.
Paul left the ministry in 1994 and got his real estate license. He thought he would work on a couple of his own deals but because of the vast network he had built while in the ministry people kept calling him. He was the Denver Realtor Rookie of the Year in his first year and still relishes the joy when he sees first time home buyers at a closing.
Little Man Ice Cream (named for Paul’s father) came about primarily because of the shape of land that it sits on. When Paul was developing the first phase of the Highlands, including Lola and Vida, there was a little triangle shaped piece of land, and it really wasn’t big enough to generate money with a traditional office building. Paul said, “For years, I always wanted to be in ice cream. During the depression my mother lived in the back of the ice cream store that also sold chocolate candy and ice cream, and to this day, if you put a box of chocolate in front of my mom, she will eat it. When we were growing up as kids, my buddy Troy and I would always try and make our own ice cream.”
He continues, “I wanted to build in philanthropy as part of the business and so the “scoop for scoop” program was part of our business model from day 1. This came from travelling all over the world with the Archdiocese. I remember that there was a quiz that said if you can answer “yes” to these 4 questions then you are better off than 90% of the world. These questions are: Do you have a choice about what to eat each day? Do you have a means of transportation? Do you have more than one pair of underwear? Do you have more than one pair of shoes?
Only 10% of the world’s population can answer yes. So the scoop for the scoop was really an effort to help the other 90%. The reality was that if we’re going to make any money out of this, we wanted to share it.”
Note: Walt Imhoff and Stacy Ohlsson were pleased to present the 2013 Georgia R. Imhoff Philanthropist and Community Volunteer Extraordinaire to Paul Tamburello for his outstanding philanthropy. See coverage of that event here:
What’s the best part of your job?
To see kids or even older people light up when they get the scoop of ice cream. The results of our “Scoop to Scoop” program are phenomenal and I’ve been on every trip where we give the money and food. With respect to real estate brokerage my favorite part if working with first time home buyers. There is nothing like sitting at a closing with first time buyers.
Least fun aspect of the job?
There isn’t any for the ice cream. But for brokerage, dealing with the process; the lenders and title companies and other brokers is cumbersome and to rely on lots of other people to get the job done.
How did you start the Growhaus?
I am grateful for the influence of Justin Cucci, the owner and chef at Rootdown. He helped me to be more thoughtful about the food that I eat. In addition, Lisa Rogers of Feed Denver and Will Allen who is part of Michelle Obama’s team for fighting obesity were all part of the decision to move forward to move forward in being able to work with one of the poorer neighborhoods in Denver.
What caused you to move from thinking to action?
I had 10 days to make a decision to close on the property. They owners had another offer on the greenhouse but the owners wanted to have someone keep it as a greenhouse. I knew absolutely nothing about greenhouses, but knew I wanted to be involved in this aspect of food. I flew to Milwaukee to meet with Will Allen, and I came back and closed on what is now the “growhaus”. I had no idea what I was doing. I moved out of the loft and moved into the greenhouse for 7 months. I thought it would be great to live and experience being there. Over the last 3.5 years, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people come in and share their vision with us including Coby Gould (Executive Director) and Adam Brock (Director of Operations).
How many medical missions have you been on?
All told for various entities about 30. These trips started when I was a youth minister and we were leading missions all over but primarily to the Navajo nation. I led some and volunteered on others. I particularly enjoyed the immersion trips.
When Omar Dia was murdered in Denver, there was an effort to bring Muslim, Jewish and Christian folks together. Because of my youth background I was selected as part of the team and we went to Senegal. I have done 122 or 12 immersion trips with International Medical Relief, and in total close to 30. Most recently was Cambodia, and in Decmeber I’ll be leaving for Senegal again.
What’s your favorite Movie?
The Fisher King and the Milagro Bean Field War.
What is the trait that you most admire?
What’s always in your fridge?
Cheese. I love all kinds of cheese.
Is there a word or phrase you use to much?
I call everybody ‘brother’. Not sure why.
Who is your hero?
What is a typical day for you?
I have been self employed for 20 years, so every day is pretty unique and you never know what’s going to happen. I try and start at the office and check in with my team and see what happens from there.
What is the most interesting place you’ve been to?
Myanmar. Haiti would also be high on the list, simply because we were there a month after the disastrous hurricane. We arrived in Myanmar two months after the tsunami. It was so foreign to me. It was my first trip to southeast Asia and Haiti has a lot of Ethiopian influence and I have been to Africa many times. But Myanmar, the Buddhist influence, the architecture, the cuisine and how people live, interact, and the climate, everything was completely different.
Do you have any pets?
I just got my dog called Scoop. I haven’t had a pet of my own since I was in 12. My friends kept saying ‘get your own dog.’
Delivering the Denver Post.
What talent would you most like to have?
Music. I play the guitar and sing a little, but I don’t have a natural talent for it.
Best advise you have ever received?
My dad used to paraphrase Festus (of all people from Gunsmoke) who said “don’t get distracted by beautiful things”, which can mean buildings or people. There needs to be a substance there.
What is your current state of mind? In transition. I am moving from working in my business to working On my business. I am slowly transferring out of being a broker to owning a brokerage. In 5 years, I’d like to do 3 medical trips a year; with 1 or development deals a year and that would be my perfect retirement.