Succeeding with a best friend |

Succeeding with a best friend

John Seelmeyer

Trent Schmidt and David Silverman are that rarest of combos — still best friends three decades after high school, still best friends after more than 15 years in business together.

The pair, co-owners of the Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery Group as well as Shenanigan’s Old English Pub in Reno, respect each other’s strengths in the business, focus on their shared goals and still take the same delight in each other that they found when they met at Reno High School.

“He’s funny as hell,” says Silverman about his longtime business partner.

Echoes Schmidt as he talks about Silverman: “He’s a rock. He’s dependable. And he’s pretty damned funny, too.”

While no one keeps statistics on the success ratio of best friends who go into business together, business advisors are far more likely to write articles about the headaches — disasters, even — than the pleasures of a friend-based startup.

“Why go into business with your best friend?” muses Schmidt. “Who else would you want to go into business with?”

Here’s how it’s worked for the Silver Peak owners:

They had the usual laughs of close friends in high school, but both were working in the food-service business even in their teens.

Even then, they were talking about launching a business together, and they began developing the skills they would need.

Silverman, the company’s chef, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Schmidt earned a business degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, worked for a vineyard in Napa and brewpub in San Diego and earned his credentials as a brewmaster at Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.

By 1991, they were back together, working at Adele’s in downtown Reno and spending their time researching breweries and restaurants in the Bay Area. In 1999, they opened the first Silver Peak location at 124 Wonder St.

The clear division of duties — Silverman does food, Schmidt does beer — has helped the partnership thrive and kept the friendship alive.

But once in a while, Silverman says, they switch places, at least for a bit, to keep themselves fresh and remind themselves of the challenges faced by the other partner.

The word “respect” comes up a lot as they talk about their history in business.

“I have a lot of respect, admiration and trust for Trent,” says Silverman.

Says Schmidt, “We have a great amount of respect for each other. But we’re different, too.”

And when they differ about a business question, they talk it out and listen to one another.

The listening part is important, says Silverman. And Schmidt says the listening is easier because the two partners still share the same goals that drove them in their early 20s.

Today, they share that vision with about 125 full- and part-time employees at the flagship restaurant on Wonder Street, the Silver Peak Grill and Taproom downtown, Slice of the Peak across Second Street from Aces Ballpark and Shenanigan’s.

“If you have a bunch of young people, it keeps you young,” says Schmidt. He pauses. “It makes you feel older, too.”

Like other high school friends, Silverman and Schmidt spend more off-duty time these days with their families and less with each other.

But occasionally, they get together to taste-test beers and share some laughs.

“We still call it research,” says Schmidt.

But change is coming. After sharing a tiny office space since the opening of Silver Peak, the two are moving into a remodeled larger office.

“We’ve been working butt-to-butt in that little office upstairs for 15 years,” says Schmidt.