Is the time right for opening new restaurants?
EAGLE COUNTY – Real estate’s mantra – location, location, location – works in other businesses, too. It seems especially true in the local restaurant business, although you can add “opportunity” to the chant, too.In Avon, Blue Plate Bistro owners Adam and Ellie Roustom are finishing an extensive remodeling job on restaurant space in the town’s “boat building,” right next door to Vin 48. The actual move isn’t far – across the street from the restaurant’s old space inside the Christy Lodge – but it marks a step forward for just about every part of the business.”The old space was just too small,” Adam Roustom said. “When you’re that small, your business is just so seasonal.”The new space is also far more visible from the street. Just about anyone driving to City Market will notice the newly lit-up space. The new Blue Plate is also larger than the old – a lot larger – and will allow the Roustoms to expand the menu and have an actual bar. The extra space will also provide room for a couple of dining rooms: one for couples seeking a quiet dinner and one for families, although the family space will be nothing like a Chuck E. Cheese.Adam Roustom said move and remodeling job has been stressful, but he and Elli are excited for the opportunity. Both talk at length and with enthusiasm about their plans – a truly open kitchen area, a bar that’s lit from underneath and a liquor cabinet that will look to passing cars like it’s glowing and floating in mid-air.Adam, the chef, talks about his plans for keeping the Blue Plate’s core menu and expanding on it with Colorado-grown natural beef, fondue and schnitzel. He’s also happy when people at the grocery store or the coffee shop ask him when the new space is going to open (Dec. 6 is the plan).Expanding a business any time is a risk, but the Roustoms believe this is the time to act.30 grams of beansOn the northwest side of the main Avon interchange, Jim Pavelich saw the perfect marriage of location and opportunity. The result was the Nov. 25 opening of the Northside Coffee and Kitchen, a place that serves a variety of warm beverages, baked goods and sandwiches. This is Pavelich’s first foray into restaurant ownership – he’s best known locally for founding the Vail Daily and the Vail Mountaineer. But, he said, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put a place on the site of Avon’s old Pizza Hut – and on the west side of the gas pumps from the 7-11 store and across the street from another gas station.”It’s just an irresistible location,” Pavelich said. “That Pizza Hut at first was one of the busiest anywhere.”Pavelich said he didn’t want to open with a splash, preferring instead to ease into business so his staff – including a baker who prepares all the breads, pastries and other treats – could work themselves into a routine. Still, two people were at the door at 6 a.m. on the Northside’s first day. And, during an in-person interview, four people strolled from the 7-11 into the new restaurant.While Pavelich is new to the restaurant business, he’s no stranger to talking up a product. He can talk at length about his coffee supplier – San Francisco-based Blue Bottle – and the fact that every cup of joe is ground and brewed to order, with 30 grams of beans per cup. There’s a full bakery upstairs, and the other half of the ground floor, the one with the panoramic views across the valley to Beaver Creek, is ready to finish. At first, Pavelich was looking to lease the space for a “fine dining” restaurant. Now, he said he might just open that side of the building himself.While Pavelich has opened a lot of businesses – and closed a few – he said opening a restaurant these days came with something he didn’t really expect – gratitude.Pavelich said the whole process of building and opening the Northside – from town approvals to hiring contractors to finding staff – was faster and easier than it would have been five years ago.”They’re all thanking me,” he said. “Five years ago, everybody was just too busy.”Our precious interstateBrian Butler knows exactly what Pavelich is talking about. Butler, one of the owners of JP’s Old Forge Pizza, is getting ready to open another restaurant next month, this one in the old Mi Zuppa space in West Vail.”When you see a spot and have faith in the product, you have to look at it,” Butler said.But that look at the highly-visible space also required a hard look at how it might affect Old Forge’s other locations in Lionshead and Edwards. After looking at the customer base, it started to look like a West Vail location would build the business’s customer base without taking patrons from the other two stores.This one will also be small – just 20 seats or so – and will also sell both cooked and take-and-bake pies. But it will have something the other stores don’t right now – a couple of varieties of wine.That’s a plus. So is the fact that, at least in Butler’s opinion, “there hasn’t been good pizza in West Vail since Bagali’s closed.”Perhaps most important, Butler believes the visibility of the West Vail location could also be a stepping stone to the long-term goal.”If we have the aspirations of moving into Denver, this is a great spot,” Butler said. “I mean, look at McDonald’s – they’re always busy, and lots of it comes off the highway.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.