Waitress Susan Cardenas serves breakfast to Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant regulars, clockwise from left, Chuck Klesath, Eugene Germain, Chris Neil, John Maynarich, Bob Johnson and Pete Koler on Thursday morning in Oak Creek. The restaurant closed Saturday. A new restaurant called The Oak will open in its place.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Waitress Susan Cardenas serves breakfast to Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant regulars, clockwise from left, Chuck Klesath, Eugene Germain, Chris Neil, John Maynarich, Bob Johnson and Pete Koler on Thursday morning in Oak Creek. The restaurant closed Saturday. A new restaurant called The Oak will open in its place.

Economy, changing ownerships affect Oak Creek restaurants



Douglas Diamond, owner of Black Mountain Tavern, said it feels like he is giving away food for free with the specials he has been offering to help lure customers.


Waitress Susan Cardenas puts in an order Thursday morning at Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant. The Oak Creek restaurant closed Saturday and will be taken over by a new restaurant called The Oak, which received its liquor license Thursday.


Customers sit outside The Mugshot coffee shop in Oak Creek. Jane Sindell, the restaurant's owner, is putting the shop up for sale with no intention of closing it.

— The "Blights of the Round Table," as several Oak Creek locals jokingly call themselves, are being bounced from restaurant to restaurant as eateries in the town change hours, owners and menus to cope with the economic downturn.

Gathered around a table at Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant on Thursday, the group of regulars who gather for morning coffee said they had to move across the street from their usual perch at the Colorado Bar & Grill because the bar had closed for mud season.

Saturday was the last day for the group to sit around Dinty Moore's table, too, as the restaurant held its final food-serving shifts under owner Tina Zywicki. When her lease came up for renewal, Zywicki said, she decided she had had enough.

"My lease was up, and I got thinking about it. I've been cooking for 12 years, and I'm just burnt out," she said.

The building next will hold The Oak, a restaurant that received a liquor license from the Oak Creek Town Board on Thursday evening.

Everything inside Dinty Moore's is for sale through Tuesday.

Zywicki said the economic slump made business difficult, but the restaurant was sustainable.

"It's been hard, but we've been getting through," she said. The restaurant primarily employs Zywicki's family members.

Up the street at Black Mountain Tavern, owner Douglas Diamond said the recession has forced him to cut back everything he can. Staff, menu offerings and hours of operation all have been sliced as much as possible to help the restaurant make it through the slump. He eliminated four staff positions and has stopped serving lunch. He said he will not offer pizza until early May because the few pizzas served per night don't

justify the cost of the propane to operate the oven.

"There's nobody working the construction trade around here. That was our lunch (crowd)," he said. "And turning on all those ovens for five or six lunches, it didn't make sense."

Lonely shifts

Diamond, who now is Black Mountain's sole owner, often is the only worker in the kitchen, he said. He employs one bartender and two waitresses - one waitress per shift. The business now is open from 3 p.m. to close Tuesdays through Saturdays, and closed Sundays and Mondays.

He also has amended his menu to include several $6.50 options. Steak is off the menu because no one was ordering it.

Even with the cutbacks and layoffs, Diamond said he's sure the restaurant where he's worked for five years will pull through the recession, relying on previous profits and management.

"We're not going back to where we were, but I think we've hit the bottom," he said. "I'm optimistic. Being a restaurant owner, I've got to be optimistic."

Chelsea's Restaurant has reduced hours for mud season, along with the Colorado Bar.

Travis Blare, who took over the operation of Judy's Country Donuts and Bakery at the beginning of April, also is using optimism to expand the business.

The shop lengthened hours of operation under the direction of Blare's wife, Lia.

The store now will be open Sundays, which the previous owners did not do, and Blare said he hopes to become "the Krispy Kreme of Routt County."

The shop also distributes to convenience stores, construction companies and the Yampa Valley Medical Center each morning.

Jane Sindell, owner of The Mugshot, said she is putting the business up for sale without any intention of closing the restaurant.

She said she's talked to one potential buyer, but she will continue to run the business as usual as long as she can. She has owned the shop for four years and worked there for eight.

"I had a very slow winter. A lot of people want to save their money, and I can't blame them," she said. "I can't close it. It's not really an option."

In the meantime, Eugene Germain, who described his morning coffee group as the "Blights of the Round Table," said he and his friends always will be able to find a table in Oak Creek.

"There's always places to go," he said.


max huppert 8 years ago

just to many restaurants in Oak Creek,, the town should not have allowed that many to operate,, they need to have a new buisness model for what the town can offer to attract people to come,, that is the problem, they elected non thinkers and people with no vision,, Dont worry I will run for Mayor..


Scott Wedel 8 years ago

Max, It is not government's business to decide how many businesses a community can support and to then prevent more than some number to open.

Seems to me that the economic model for towns in a similar situation as Oak Creek is to have several motels and offer cut rate lodging for deep bargain hunters that might take a ski vacation and ski Howelson. And the motels also serve as affordable housing for seasonal workers. And people staying in motels are likely to go to restaurants and bars.

I think it is rare that a Town 20 miles to a major ski area has only one small motel. I know part of the problem is that the Town has a reputation for resisting development while Hayden has a reputation for welcoming development because that is what someone that chose to invest in Hayden told me.

So Mr Huppert, I suggest your economic plan would be better if it did not concern itself with regulating how many restaurants are in OC, but instead promised to increase lodging to increase the customer base for local stores and restaurants.


max huppert 8 years ago

scott,, you cant even fill your own rental property,, so why would you want to build more at this time.. why would u think tourists are going to stay in oak creek to ski in steamboat? I like Oak Creek and that is why i chose to live here. but there is nothing to draw me here if i lived in steamboat.


Scott Wedel 8 years ago

I don't rent by the day or by the week and I have been able to fill my rental properties.

"but there is nothing to draw me here if i lived in steamboat"

And so why do you live in Oak Creek? If you see no reason for people living in SB to go to OC then why do you live in OC?

And I suggest that whatever is your reason for living in OC instead of SB is probably a better foundation for bringing more customers into OC than trying to invent some new reason why someone would want to be in OC.


Dave Ege 8 years ago

Hi Max! As a trustee for the town of Oak Creek, we would welcome your input in the proper forum. As far as businesses in town, please join in on the discussions and development of the Compresensive plan currently being developed at Planning meetings. As to being elected, I would highly suggest that you attend Town Board meetings, get involved in the day to day, month to month, and year to year planning and decission making that goes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm at Town Hall. Looking forward to seeing you at any of these meetings!


dogking09 5 years, 12 months ago

and now look ...is there anywhere left in oak creek


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