Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: Cafe Milano turns 1 in teeth of downturn
Vail, CO, Colorado
Dustin Aipperspach is crazy. That’s the only way to describe this lunacy.
Think about it: What do you do when your place of employment closes, throwing out you of a job in the teeth of the worst downturn since the Great Depression — and you are about to get married?
If you are Dustin, you open a restaurant in what already was a crowded field during the boom.
What was he thinking?
Yeah, he’s crazy. Like a fox.
You and I saw doom. He saw opportunity.
He saw space he couldn’t afford in the go-go days just past. After the marriage, he had nothing but time. He certainly had need.
And he had a dream.
So, a year later, he’s celebrating the first anniversary of Cafe Milano, where I’m having breakfast (my favorite in the valley) and pecking away at this column.
Scary? Oh yeah.
“But it’s working,” he said. “Every month is stronger.”
Dustin has been the chief chef at Beaver Creek’s Tramonte (the one that closed on him to start him on his new life) and Foxnut, among others, in his 20-year career.
He figured he could do Northern Italian food at Beaver Creek high quality without the high price to match. He’s going for locals who will come back over tourists. Not that the restaurant would turn traffic off nearby I-70 away, mind you.
But slowly and surely, it’s becoming less a secret. I was interested in Dustin’s story because who in their right mind gets married, starts a family and opens a new restaurant at the bottom of the worst economic time in our lives?
Reaching one year in business under these circumstances is big.
“Make it to one year and your survival odds go up,” Dustin said. “Way up.”
Construction of a new roundabout right outside doesn’t seem to bother him much. He’s looking forward to Cafe Milano becoming maybe a little easier to find when the work is completed.
Meantime, the restaurant is putting its own construction plans to work. Soon, they’ll have a patio reminiscent of a vineyard, enclosed and with lights for evening service.
He’s looking forward to bringing out the summer menu — with lots of fresh fish, clams and mussels — in early May.
This wild bet is looking pretty good at the moment. Losing his job in the worst economy in memory led directly to Dustin chasing his dreams.
I don’t think that’s crazy at all.
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