Tuesday, December 19, 2000
Steamboat Springs The final chapter is closing on one Steamboat business, Whitewood Jewelers, but that closure represents a new beginning for one of Steamboat's hottest little restaurants, Cafe Diva.
Whitewood Jewelers owner and custom jewelry maker Ron Pearl is ready to slow down and is closing his business after 18 years.
"I'm going to retire. I'm 64 years old," Pearl said. He has been a jeweler for 35 years.
Pearl owns his commercial condominium in Torian Plum Plaza as well as the space next door, which is occupied by Cafe Diva.
Pearl said Cafe Diva owners Paul Underwood and chef Seth Cheikin have agreed to expand into the space now occupied by Whitewood Jewelers.
"We're really excited," Underwood said. "We've always been a small restaurant that pays attention to detail and we intend to continue that."
However, a little extra space will help Cafe Diva prosper. The restaurant will double its dining area from 34 to 68 seats, giving it the ability to host small groups.
Cafe Diva currently occupies just 775 square feet including the kitchen. The expansion, which won't come on line until summer 2001, will also double the square footage.
Although Cafe Diva operates in a mini dining room, Underwood is mindful that the current space, which requires diners to rub shoulders, has created a lively buzz that attracts the crowd that enjoys Cafe Diva.
"That's something we've identified as a part of our success," Underwood said, and he plans to take care that his restaurant doesn't lose that spirit of conviviality.
When Cafe Diva opened about 27 months ago, it was initially known as a wine bar that also served light meals. Initially, Cafe Diva offered as many as 35 fine wines by the glass.
The wine list at Cafe Diva remains lengthy 200 labels at last count but Underwood has learned that in the interest of quality and freshness, it was wiser to cut the list of wines offered by the glass down to a manageable 20.
The emphasis on food has also changed. A recent entree prepared by Cheikin was a braised lamb shank in a roasted shallot coulee, atop a white truffle infusion on quinoa.
Pearl said Whitewood Jewelers won't disappear as quickly as customers might have guessed from his current promotion of a going-out-of-business sale.
"We'll be around until mid-March," Pearl said. And he doesn't plan to move away from Steamboat either, saying he's contemplating an offer to teach jewelry making at the Alpine Campus of Colorado Mountain College.
"I've been up here for 25 years and they'll probably bury me here," Pearl said.
Underwood said he's enthused about the opportunity to grow his business here.
"We started with almost nothing," Underwood said. "I think I still have a second loan on my car. But I can't think of a place I'd rather own a business than in Steamboat Springs."