By Jeffrey V. Smith
In under a year, Heather Pellouchoud and Mark Rose have elevated the reputation of Dot’s Diner, a Boulder breakfast tradition for more than 30 years, while reviving Nederland residents’ desire for an intimate, affordable breakfast joint. Despite a few early bumps in the road, the co-owners of Dot’s Diner “On the Mountain” feel the restaurant is doing “better than expected.”
Opened in December 2013, to provide the town a “reliable, good, comfortable breakfast and lunch spot,” Dot’s Diner “On the Mountain” is an independent licensee of the Dot’s Diner name. Rose and his partner Pellouchoud bought the former Savory Café and a licensing agreement from Dot’s owner Peter Underhill for recipes and the name.
Although independent, the Nederland location is part of an extended Dot’s family. Pellouchoud, who takes care of the front of the house, worked at Dot’s Diner in Boulder beginning in 1988 when it was at its original location connected to a gas station at 8th and Pearl streets in Boulder. She was just 15 and needed a permit for the job.
For Rose, who’s owned a restaurant in Nederland before, the connection to Dot’s began with his stomach. “It was the first place I stopped when I rolled into Boulder,” he said. He also explained that the Boulder restaurant has a tradition of passing the torch to long-time, loyal employees that he hopes to continue in Ned.
“I’ve already talked to one of my employees about it. We’re not always going to want to do this. There’s going to be a point where we’re going to want to check out and be on a beach,” Rose said.
After almost a year in business, Rose is is not stopping any time soon and is happy with the how the diner is working. “It’s been good,” he said. “We’re getting by. We’re paying our employees. We’re paying our bills. And, we’ve had enough left over to make some improvements on things that when we bought the place I knew I’d have to replace sooner or later, but wasn’t sure if I would be able to this quickly.”
The co-owner and cook says their success has actually exceeded their expectations. “We were just hoping to carve out a niche for ourselves,” he said, “but it’s turned into a situation where… we’re able to help a lot of people out with employment.”
Rose explained staff turnover has not been a problem, except a dish washer or two. “Our core staff has been really tight, which is really nice. Last time I had a restaurant in Ned, I went through 60 employees in six years. I learned my lesson back then: You can’t hire just anybody.” Before they opened the diner, Rose approached the people he wanted to work for him, and they all agreed. “That’s why Heather and I really did it more about that than anything else,” he said.
The restaurant has also been embraced by many locals. “We have a lot of regulars that come in; mainly to socialize, if nothing else. Local support been good.” When the couple first started out, they received what Rose called “a lot of constructive criticism.” He said they took it all to heart and made improvements. One quick change was going to better products. “We learned a lot,” he said. “Now the criticisms are pretty rare.”
In the future, Rose hopes to add additional gluten-free options to the menu. Currently, pancakes and green chili can be ordered gluten-free. Rose says he “definitely” plans to introduce gluten-free biscuits, but is still “experimenting.” at this point. “I want to do them justice,” he explained. “Eventually, even our red-eyed gravy will be gluten free.” He also plans to add new specials, including Japanese dishes, for lunch.
One thing the couple doesn’t plan to do, at least right away, is add a liquor license. “A lot of families come with kids and appreciate we don’t have alcohol. They tend to gravitate toward us rather than some other places in town because of that,” he said.
They have, however, been in talks about moving to the end of the shopping center into a larger space currently occupied by Dr. Michael Camarata. It would allow for more seating, larger kitchen and an attached deck. Rose is unsure if it will work, however, unless the business gets help from the shopping center’s new owner. It would be costly and Dot’s had numerous issues and delays when obtaining its kitchen license for its current location and Rose is wary, and a little fearful, of doing it all over again.
Ultimately, the owners don’t want to do anything to lose the intimate feel of the diner. “Not that we want people to wait and not be able to get in or anything, but I think a lot of people enjoy that part of it,” Rose said. “It’s kind of cozy with a lot of talking to neighbors. There is a lot of socializing going on.” He also explained many locals look back on Annie’s Café and Bakery, a restaurant that occupied the same space in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with “fond memories” and are “partial to the spot.”
Although it’s only been about a year, Dot’s Diner “On the Mountain” is fast becoming a favorite Nederland gathering spot, as well as the place “where folks get their yolks.” Pellouchoud and Rose plan to keep “trudging ahead” and doing what’s best for the business, which they plan to be a reliable, tasty, affordable mainstay of the Nederland restaurant scene for years to come.
Originally published in the November 2014 issue of MMAC Monthly