Management’s ability to recognize opportunity, establish a plan, manage resources, raise capital and demonstrate leadership by remaining focused on the goals and objectives of the company defines the difference between success and failure.

The management team assembled by The Desert Moon ownership and its Board of Directors is one of the strongest ever assembled for a company of our current size. The team, with its diversified background contains all the tools necessary to carry out the plan and meet all of its objectives. Our management is a unique blend of “hands on” operating talent from high quality full service restaurants such as Applebee’s, Don Pablo’s Mexican Kitchen, Canyon Café Southwestern Grill with quick serve companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Ranch *1 along with the financial disciplines of Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and KPMG Peat Marwick, LLP. More importantly, they have individual records of accomplishment and success in all the required disciplines.

Additionally, The Desert Moon management team possesses passion, dedication, focus and a relentless drive to fulfill our mission of becoming the dominant Fresh-Mexican-Southwestern, Fast-Casual Restaurant Company.



The new management team took majority interest in Desert Moon approximately two years ago. The team has a track record of accomplishment and success in building businesses. The Company has defined its strategic plan and quickly expanded operations from a three-unit company to an 17-unit chain in 6 states.

Gary Occhiogrosso
President & Chief Operating Officer, began his franchising career in 1984 as a franchisee of Dunkin Donuts of America. He developed a wholesale baked goods business servicing Pathmark supermarkets and 83 other accounts. He served on the Dunkin Donuts franchisee advisory council and the advertising committee. In 1989, he founded United Foods, Inc.. which operated franchised gourmet stores, and initiated a brand development strategy, which led to the sale of 53 franchised units. In 1991, Mr. Occhiogrosso founded GPM Consulting, a franchise development firm which successfully developed several national franchise brands. In 1994, working with the founders, he launched the Ranch*1 franchise system and grew it into a chain of over 50 operating units. Mr. Occhiogrosso is considered a franchise expert and a leading franchise strategist. He is an invited speaker at many regional franchise forums and is a Board Member & Advisor for several emerging franchise brands. He joined Desert Moon in 2000.

James C. Witzel

Chief Financial Officer, has over 17 years of public accounting experience, including six years as a partner with KPMG. As a partner, Mr. Witzel was responsible for the local office’s middle market practice and worked with a variety of clients in retail, manufacturing, high technology, and financial services. He was also the chief financial officer of a regional investment banker and broker-dealer, where he was responsible for the accounting, technology and communications, and real estate departments for five years. Mr. Witzel holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Rochester.

Director of Brand Development

Fred J. Kirvan joined Desert Moon in 1992 as the original unit level manager. Mr. Kirvan having worked with the founders combined with his years of Desert Moon restaurant experience have earned him the title “Keeper of the Brand”. Mr. Kirvan is directly responsible for all Brand Development. His areas of responsibility include; menu and recipe development, purchasing, vendor relations & product cost analysis. Additionally, Mr. Kirvan supervises the development of marketing materials and facility design.

Michelle Dollbaum    
Operations Manager

Michelle is a Graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts, Mays Landing NJ. After employed by Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in various restaurants throughout the hotel, she left to become part of the Jersey Shore floating management team at Wawa Food Markets with over 75 stores in NJ and PA. After returning to North Jersey opened The Graduate Deli & Café, Hackensack, owned and operated for seven years before joining the Desert Moon team in 2002. She is currently responsible for company operations, marketing, budget and sales. She is also responsible for the operation of the DM training center in Danbury, CT as well as the testing new products.