By Jeffrey V. Smith
Derek and Becky Dwyer have solidified Whistler’s Café’s future by returning the iconic Nederland breakfast joint to its former glory. The couple, who first met and ultimately held their wedding reception at the restaurant, just took over operations in March and have already resurrected the restaurant’s reputation of “friendly service and over-sized portions of delicious food.” Now they are out to win over the hearts of both locals and visitors and once again be the best breakfast option in town.
Both Derek and Becky have a long history with Whistler’s. Derek took a job with the restaruant’s former owner Gary Camp in 1990 after moving to Colorado from Ohio. “He taught me everything I know, pretty much,” Derek said. “He even told me I’d own the place one day, but I was on [Grateful Dead] tour and told him it would never happen.”
By 1995, however, Camp sold the place to Derek and his friend Jeff Pancoast who ran it together until 2002 as partners. During this time, the restaurant became a much-loved breakfast and lunch stop for area residents and a destination for visitors. It’s also when Derek met his wife-to-be Becky. She had arrived in town from Michigan in 2001 and needed money to fix her ride. Derek hired her and his ex-wife trained her. By the end of 2002, Derek had been bought out, “sort of,” by Pancoast and he soon left for an extended vacation in Maui with Becky.
Many times over the next several years, Derek found himself routinely returning to town to bail out the restaurant in hopes of “bringing it back from the depths.” He finally gave up in 2006 then got into a “serious” car accident two weeks before the original Whistler’s building burned down. The present building was then finished, and the business re-opened, in 2008 with the help of both Derek and Becky. A falling out with Pancoast, however, resulted in the couple moving to Maui full time in 2009.
When Derek’s father’s health began to fail in 2011, the couple returned to the mainland and, following his passing, soon found themselves back in Nederland with dreams of running Whistler’s again. Unable to reach an understanding with Pancoast to acquire the failing business, Derek finally gave up on his dream of more than 20 years.
Becky began working at Sundance Café and developing her jewelry-making and sewing bsiness and working a “real job” making dog Frisbees in Boulder. Derek took a job as manager of SNARFs in Boulder.
When Pancoast’s son was seriously injured in a car accident in 2014, the situation changed and after negotiations with Pancoast’s father, Derek and Becky became managing operators of the business with hopes of owning it by October. They added “The Original” to the name to help let people know things are going back to they way they were during the business’ prime.
Although it’s been a “long road” for the Dwyers, since taking over “everything has been awesome” and local support “phenomenal,” Becky explained. “Locals are just as happy we’re back as we are.”
“It’s been over anything I expected, the numbers, projections, everything,” Derek said. “It’s been great to see people I haven’t seen in 10 years. They have been trickling in, one or two every week. We’re actually getting the 90s crowd back.”
Other than obvious cleaning, new covers on the tables and other minor updates the couple has their focus on food and service. One big addition to the menu is a return of waffles for the first time since 1992. “Gary threw the waffle iron at me because I forgot to put pan coating spray on it,” Derek explained, “we got rid of them from that point on. Until now.”
According to Becky, the couple are really focusing on raising the overall “quality of the product” and “making it right.” She says customers are saying items like the Mountain Muffin, something that’s been on the menu since Camp owned the place, tastes “like it should.”
“Consistency is my biggest point. Every plate coming out of the kitchen needs to be the same,” Derek said. “We’re getting it back to the old Whistlers.”
The two are doing what they can to improve service at Whistler’s Café as well. “We don’t hire, we recruit. We look for the best,” Becky said. “The servers and wait staff have improved 200 percent,” Derek added. “They are attentive, smiling. That’s the most compliments I get. But, we’re humbled right now. It’s hard to take compliments on my side because I’m just doing what I’ve always done. Same for [Becky], she was trained by some of the best waitress in this place.”
In the coming months, the Dwyers plan to add a dinner menu and stay open until 9 p.m. They will try out new menu items and “see what hits,” Becky explained. “It’s going to be a surprise, and it’s going to be good,” Derek said. Watch for the deck to open with warm weather and additional upgrades in time.
The couple also plans to bring music to the venue, but only on special occasions. “Bands will be very rare and very special,” Derek said. “We can only fit 100 people in here and don’t want to bring up bands, we want to make it big.”
No matter what has been experienced in the past, Derek and Becky are asking everyone to try them again. “That’s what I tell everybody,” Derek said. “Give us another chance, please.”
Whistler’s Café is located at 121 N Jefferson St. in Nederland. Call 303-258-0614 or find it on Facebook for more information
Originally published in the June 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly