Roadhouse Hospitality Group, owner of The Dusty Boot, plots new concepts | VailDaily.com

Roadhouse Hospitality Group, owner of The Dusty Boot, plots new concepts

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily

If you've lived in the valley for a season or longer, you probably know of John Shipp — if not the man, then the restaurants that his group owns and manages: The Dusty Boot in Eagle and Beaver Creek, The Metropolitan and Luigi's Pasta House.

In Summit County, you may have enjoyed a few beverages at Kickapoo Tavern or a steak at Zuma Roadhouse in Keystone. All of these establishments, a couple of which have been in business for almost two decades, were part of Dionysus Hospitality, a restaurant group that Shipp managed.

However, a few years ago, things started to happen — big things. Now, Shipp and his siblings are steaming full speed ahead, growing what was already a thriving hospitality business into something bigger: a family affair that leaves a lasting effect on communities.

A brief history

In 1957, Jack and Judy Shipp were newly married and starting a family in Denver. In seven years, they added seven kids to that family, and the crew, which came to be known as the "lucky seven," all graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder and established ties to the Boulder community.

In 1991, John and his brother Dan opened Spanky's Roadhouse in Denver; other restaurants followed. John moved to the mountains in 1993 and started Dionysus Hospitality group, while Dan continued working in Denver under Shipp Hospitality. The brothers continued to invest in each other's projects, but it wasn't until about two years ago that they realized how much more efficient they could be if they merged.

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"All of a sudden, we have seven restaurants in the mountains, (Dan) has, like, nine in Denver, and we realize that it's becoming a big company," said Cameron Douglas, president of operations at Roadhouse Hospitality Group. "We have a lot of similarities, but we're not working together as much, so we started talking and getting into the merging process about two years ago."

John and Dan, with brothers Mike and Terry, formed Roadhouse Hospitality Group in 2014. Maintaining the same core values of focusing on customer service, affordability and community, the group could now leverage the 16 restaurants that it collectively owned. Looking forward, the group saw the rapid growth in Denver and set its sights on expanding there.

Defining the Roadhouse

As the brothers set out to define the new group, the idea of a roadhouse seemed perfect. After all, their first restaurant was Spanky's Roadhouse near University of Denver; it had been a gathering place for students for more than 20 years. Roadhouse Hospitality Group renovated it and rebranded it as Spanky's Urban Roadhouse. Sales doubled in the first week after the change, Douglas said, and the pace continued. Zuma Steakhouse in Keystone was next, morphing into Zuma Roadhouse.

The most recent addition to the Roadhouse Hospitality Group portfolio is the Roadhouse Boulder Depot, which is located in the historic train depot on Junction Place, northeast of the corner of Pearl and 30th. Opened in December 2015, the new restaurant is a blend of vintage and contemporary design, showcasing the history and looking toward the future of the historic building.

"Roadhouse Boulder Depot is really a culmination of 25 years of these guys' experience," Douglas said.

Moving forward, the group is anticipating opening or rebranding another five or six restaurants as roadhouses in the next two years.

"Roadhouse is our version of the bar and grill," Douglas said. "When each of our new restaurants come online, we'll have 60 (percent) or 70 percent of the menu as the same and 30 (percent) or 40 percent as regional flair."

For example, Roadhouse Boulder Depot features menu items with quinoa and kale; Zuma Roadhouse has a larger steak selection to meet the needs of hungry skiers and riders. Opening this spring in Denver's Belmar neighborhood, T Street will be a more high-end concept, offering lux items such as oysters.

However, despite the growth, the culture of the company remains the same: work hard, play hard and give back to the community.

Side of philanthropy

One of the core tenets of Roadhouse Hospitality Group is its dedication to giving back to the communities in which it operates through involvement and philanthropy.

"We decided early on that we'd rather spend money investing in local charities and organizations than advertising," said John Shipp, one of the founders of Roadhouse Hospitality Group. "From Walking Mountains to SOS to Cycle Effect to Pink Vail, we gave back a substantial amount of hard dollars, services and goods to the community. It makes us feel good inside."

This participation and "give back" contributes more than just warm, fuzzy feelings.

"John Shipp and Roadhouse Hospitality Group are a big supporter of all of the events that we have in the Vail Valley, from the mountain bike series to the trail running series," said Beth Pappas, sports event and partnership director for the Vail Recreation District. "We couldn't do the events that we do and make them affordable to participants without the support of the community, and The Dusty Boot is one of the largest supporters of those events, both financially and through in-kind donations."

The Dusty Boot is the location for several after-parties during the mountain bike series, and Pappas said it really adds to a sense of community during the season.

Looking ahead, Douglas said the new restaurants on the Front Range are going to follow the same guideline, giving back and getting involved. "If we're going to be a successful business, it's our duty to give back to the community that has supported us for all of these years," John Shipp said. "It's a good business philosophy that has kept us moving forward in the right direction all for all of these years."

Moving forward

Keep your eye on the Roadhouse Hospitality Group restaurants in the Vail Valley and Summit County. As the roadhouse concept takes hold, community mainstays such as The Dusty Boot in Beaver Creek and Eagle will see some changes over the next few years. However, the focus on philanthropy and individual character will remain.

"All of our restaurants are related, but they all have their own personalities," Douglas said. "We're not cookie cutter — we have a bunch of themed restaurants that have their own personalities. It's how we've been successful."

Roadhouse Hospitality Group restaurants

• The Dusty Boot, locations in Eagle, Beaver Creek, Foxfield and Greenwood Village.

• Smokin’ Joes BBQ, Centennial.

• Reiver’s Bar and Grill, Denver.

• Spanky’s Urban Roadhouse, Denver.

• Urban Roadhouse Downtown, Denver.

• The Whippletree Restaurant, Evergreen.

• The Metropolitan, Beaver Creek.

• Luigi’s Pasta House, locations in Eagle and Keystone.

• Kickapoo Tavern, Keystone.

• Zuma Roadhouse, Keystone.

• Wazee Lounge & Supper Club, Denver.

• Roadhouse Boulder Depot, Boulder.