‘A restaurant becomes a family’: Main St. Grill owners celebrate 20 years as family-run establishment
Longtime customers 'not only supportive of the business, but the family'
Nikki and Chris Heiden have operated Main St. Grill in Edwards for 20 years, maintaining a welcoming, family-run establishment in the valley popular with locals, second-home owners and visitors. Their children, Matthew, 18, and Ciara, 20, have grown up with the restaurant.
However, the Heidens had no idea when opening a restaurant in 2000 just how much their family would grow.
“In retrospect, a restaurant becomes a family,” Nikki said. “That’s where our employees are like family to us.”
With a summer staff pushing 35 employees, three full-time staff members have been with the restaurant for 18 years — since Matthew was born and Ciara was a 2-year-old.
David DeCesare, Lynne Krnacik and Erin Coleman are those longtime employees that have become family for the Heidens and Main St. Grill — employees that longtime patrons enjoy seeing time and time again.
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The Heidens have spent holidays with their extended family/staff, gone on vacations together and built a bond outside of the restaurant.
“They’ve celebrated every milestone for our kids,” Nikki said. “They’re like aunts and uncles.”
From the start
In 1997, Nikki and Chris married. Chris had a degree from Johnson & Wales in restaurant management and wanted to open a restaurant.
“I had a lot of restaurant experience and a degree in finance and accounting, so combined we decided to open a restaurant,” Nikki said.
On Feb. 1, 2000, they opened Jambalayas Louisiana Grill in Edwards. The new restaurant owners had trouble bringing chefs from Louisiana “to stay in the cold weather” of Colorado, Nikki said, so in May of 2001, they transitioned the restaurant to Main St. Grill.
“My husband went into the kitchen,” Nikki said, “which was not where he wanted to be. … He’s still in the kitchen.”
But he has lots of help.
Ciara has been working around the restaurant since she was about 13, her mother said, and has gone from server to bartender to manager. Matthew has also worked multiple positions and is leading the charge delivering food to those in need during COVID-19. For six weeks, Main St. Grill delivered about 30 meals per day to essential workers.
“It’s a difficult thing to own a business that you are with your spouse every day for 20 years. And then come home and be with your spouse, then go on vacation with your spouse. But we figured it out,” Nikki said. “There’s that line between the business part of life and the family part of life. But, of course, when the restaurant’s such a big part of your life, a lot of the conversations are about the restaurant.”
To celebrate 20 years, Main St. Grill underwent a redesign. For the first 20 days of June, the restaurant is offering 20% off bills, however not to be used in addition to the other daily specials at Main St. Grill.
“We have such great support from our daily locals to our second-home owners who eat here almost every day in the summer,” Nikki said.
Many patrons, she says, enjoy the continuity of the restaurant and its staff. The Heidens are looking forward to showing off their recent upgrades at the restaurant.
“We believe consistency is key to our success,” Nikki said. “Chris aspires to be consistent with the food, and I train the front of house to be consistent but individualistic with their service.”
20 years of memories
Over the years, people have rode in on horses to the bar at Main St. Grill, famous people have dined in the establishment and many patrons who enjoyed their first date at the restaurant are returning for wedding anniversaries.
However, the best memories for Nikki and her family are the ones involving the community.
The restaurant has hosted many fundraisers over the years, including ones for athletic clubs at local high schools. On these nights, Nikki will have students serve and make tips with their appropriate age group. She’s gone on to hire some of those students after seeing their work ethic at the fundraiser.
One thing missed is the live music. There used to be open mic night, blues night, jazz night and other live music events, but the demand for late-night music has dropped off in the valley, Nikki said, adding Main St. still does live music, just not as consistently as it used to.
The family intends to keep the restaurant going until the kids graduate college. Ciara is wrapping up studies at Colorado State University, while Matthew is entering a five-year masters of architecture program at Kansas University.
“Obviously, families go through struggles, and [the customers] have been so supportive of not only the business, but our family,” Nikki said.