Matt Durkovich stands behind the counter at Ecco Espresso & Gelato in Albuquerque's Nob Hill, ready to offer up a sample from an array of pastel-hued gelato flavors. Lavender and honey, ginger, cinnamon, chocolate hazelnut or his personal favorite, Stracciatella, an Italian-style chocolate chip in which ribbons of chocolate are laced atop vanilla gelato.
All manner of coffee drinks, teas and Italian sodas also are available at the coffee bar, which Durkovich opened last summer, in between his second and third years of law school at UNM.
He hadn't planned to be running a business during law school, but in 2005, having given up on being accepted, Durkovich went ahead with an idea to open up a coffee shop in Santa Fe, where he had been circulation sales manager at The New Mexican, the city's daily newspaper. Three days after he received his acceptance letter, he opened the shop.
"It's been challenging, but I have a great crew, both in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and I delegate a lot of the work during the school year," he says. In the summer, he jumps in full time, leaving law-firm internships to his classmates.
Durkovich is an Albuquerque native, the son of Steve Durkovich (`67). After earning his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, he spent nearly five years in sales jobs across the country, including one in which he made up to 70 cold calls a day. When he told his parents about his idea to open up a coffee shop in Santa Fe, freshly back from a trip to Italy, they suggested he offer gelato, too.
He learned the basics of gelato making from a guy named Luciano Ferrari in New York City and honed his skills in Italy. Either Durkovich or his Santa Fe manager whips up gelato every day, using only organic ingredients as they prepare some of the 150 flavors they offer.
At the law school, he has taken classes that already have helped him with his business, especially intellectual property, business associations and government regulation. After graduation next spring, he looks forward to building on his business, initially delivering gelato all over Albuquerque.
"I really like being a business owner," he says. "I enjoy helping my partners and co-workers succeed in their lives, teaching them skills they can apply in real life. And I especially like the interaction with the community. I see people on a daily basis and if we do our job well, we do nothing but put smiles on their faces."
Although his post-graduation commitment will be to Ecco, Durkovich expects to take the bar exam. He looks forward to not having to hire a lawyer and to redoing his business cards, adding esquire after his name.