Jody Corey and Jeff Snook own and operate the Spoke & Vine Motel and Fidel’s, a cocina and bar in central Palisade. Jody and Jeff bought the old Mesa View Motel, remodeled it, and opened as the Spoke & Vine Motel in 2019. And then they very unexpectedly became restaurant owners when they bought the old Palisade Café and Wine Bar on two weeks’ notice, renovating that space into what is now Fidel’s. We talked about how they navigated both projects – relying on each other and the community for support, about the biggest surprises they encountered along the way, their favorite things about Palisade, and lots more.
Hello and welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that’s all about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m your host, Lisa McNamara.
Jody and Jeff bought the old Mesa View Motel, remodeled it, and opened as the Spoke & Vine Motel in 2019. I caught up with them on their equivalent of a Friday afternoon after a busy weekend and we shared some laughs and great conversation.
They shared my favorite kind of construction budget story: (clip), We talked about how they adjusted to motel ownership life: (clip), And about how they very unexpectedly became restaurant owners when the old Palisade Cafe and Wine Bar suddenly went up for sale: (clip). Keep listening to find out what I asked Jeff that surprised him: (clip)
All that and more, on today’s Postcard From Palisade.
Jody Corey (JC): I’m Jody Corey.
Jeff Snook (JS): I’m Jeff Snook, Jody’s husband.
Lisa McNamara (LM): We could probably spend two hours talking about everything you do, but when you introduce yourselves to somebody, what do you say you do?
JC: We usually sigh!
JS: Yeah, we usually take a break, like a, kind of really think about exactly what we do.
JC: What is our purpose here.
JS: Yeah, what’s our purpose in life?! I think the first thing that I say is, hi my name’s Jeff. I usually don’t ever say my last name, I don’t know why, but, I say, hi my name’s Jeff. My wife and I own and operate a restaurant and a motel in Palisade. And yeah, that’s about it.
JC: I usually add that I dabble in real estate and consulting. Interior design. Whatever you want, we can take care of.
JS: That’s right.
LM: So I read the story on your website about Spoke and Vine – the origin story, the myth, the legend. Can you talk a little bit about that – like, why did you decide to buy a motel?
JC: So, I was in Steamboat for twenty years in total and throughout my time there, I worked for a real estate developer, I had an interior design business, and then a property management business. And with that background, I started reading about a lot of motels going through a renaissance period. Where people were once again interested in them. Most of them were built in the fifties and earlier, and I think they have some inherent interesting qualities as far as the architecture is concerned. So I started reading articles about people renovating these old motels and making them into – refreshing them and making them into something new and attractive and desirable again. And that was just really interesting to me.
However, we were in Steamboat, and there was a motel for sale up there and it was just way expensive and it was just a story that kind of kept playing in my head. That I really like taking something old and turning it into, breathing some new life into it.
So fast forward, I came on a girls trip and a girlfriend of mine, she had a bachelorette party here, and she talked about Palisade every time I saw her. She just loves Palisade. So for her birthday, we came down here, four girls, and we stayed at the Mesa View Motel. And we stayed there because there really were no other lodging options in Palisade. So we stayed there and we checked in and we were, we were a little nervous, to put it lightly. We checked in super late, like I think it was quarter to eleven at night. And the lobby experience was very – a bit sketchy, and then the room was not much better than that. And so we checked out the next day. And the girls went out for drinks that night, and I was like, you know what, Palisade is darling. We went wine tasting, we took our road bikes through the monument, we had a great time. I’m like – we should buy that place! And they were like – what are you talking about?
JS: Granted, Jody and I, we were married at this time. We are together, we were together. So go ahead.
JC: So, so anyway.
JS: So she asked the girls about buying a motel before she even talks to me. This is just how life goes.
JC: But anyway, this is how, this is how the idea…
JS: This is how Jody goes!
JC: This is how the ideas get created! So, anyway…
JS: So anyway!
JC: I sent a friend a message who lives is Palisade, I said, what do you know about the Mesa View Motel? That night. So she responded, she didn’t know much, whatever. And a few months later, it got listed and her name is Jen Sliney, she used to live here for years, she texted me and she says, the motel is for sale. And this was, I want to say now it’s probably December. So I was in property management, Jeff was the GM of a restaurant…
JS: That was like, October/November, because I had just started as a – oh no, excuse me, it was in like, May/June, because I had just started at Salt and Lime.
JC: No that, so anyway, we were getting into our tourist season. And Jeff’s like, shut up, you don’t, this is the last thing we need to be worried about. And so that spring, we came down in May, and we did the, it was this race, called the Gran Fondo, put on by Jen Sliney. We came down with a bunch of friends and our campers and we stayed at Base Camp. And it was a beautiful weekend, we did this beautiful bike ride, went to the distillery, we did all the things, rode around on our bikes and our cruisers, and we had a great weekend. And on the way out of town, I’m like Jeff, just, just do me a favor, let’s just drive by, the camper’s hooked up, we’re ready to get on the highway, he u-turns it. And we drive by the old Mesa View Motel. We drive by, there’s like people hanging out, all the doors are open, it, you know, if anybody lived in Palisade they know what I’m talking about. It just was not visually appealing. And Jeff was like, what are you, nuts? There definitely was a curse word in there somewhere.
JS: Yeah, I was like what the f– do you want to do with this place? What are you, nuts?
JC: The trip back to Steamboat is three hours. I had three hours to convince Jeff that this was a great idea. By the time we rolled into Steamboat…
JS: And those were my words, I said, you have three hours to convince me about this. I was like, and once we’re home, we’re home.
JC: And then by the time we got to Steamboat, we already had a trip booked that following weekend, lined up, we were going to go see the place.
JC: Because it was still for sale. And we stayed at the…
JS: And we stayed at the Wine Country Inn for like two night. We brought our cruiser bikes, we like, checked it out. It was cool.
JC: We kicked the tires on the town. And we’re like, you know what? This is a town that we can see ourselves in.
LM: What was your objection to it originally?
JS: Uh, living in Steamboat. Disrupting our life. I had just started a job at a restaurant, Salt and Lime, I was a GM, and I was like, this is my dream job. Well, not my dream job, but a job that I want. You know, I was still very much invested in it and I had committed to them. I was like, if we do this, we have to drop everything. I’m going to be the one that has to leave. So I was like, I don’t really want to do that. And then she started selling it, and then she started talking about it, building it up. And then we came down here and it was like, OK, let’s put an offer in!
And they were asking an exorbitant amount of money for it, which they didn’t get. And, you know, we just spent that summer kind of doing the due-diligence. So I came back and forth from Steamboat to meet with the previous owners and plumbers and electricians and pest and everything you could think of. I mean, kicked the tires hard on it.
JC: And then we still had some surprises!
JS: Yeah, still do!
LM: You totally remodeled it, right?
JS: Yeah, it was interesting.
LM: What was the biggest surprise that you found?
JS: Biggest surprise? I mean…
JC: I think I would – I would like to say probably the volume of mold. The volume of mold on pipes that went…
JS: On interior walls…
JC: I think actually the biggest surprise was, we ripped, I don’t know, 85% of the place out. All the plumbing underneath the building. Even the drywall.
JS: All new electrical, all new plumbing.
JC: Some new studs. Like, we had to re-frame a lot of walls, including exterior walls.
JC: But, the biggest surprise to me, as somebody that is in interior design and construction, when we went to rip out one of the rooms, it was linoleum, linoleum, carpet, then carpet! And I don’t know how much money you’re saving by laying carpet over old carpet! That just doesn’t even make sense.
JS: Well, the labor of pulling it out, the new foam backing…it’s a lot of money.
JC: I guess. We lost a quarter inch on just pulling it out – or, gained a quarter inch in ceiling height! So yeah, that was probably the biggest shock to me.
JS: Yeah, I think the biggest shock was the rot on floors that you would never see unless you tore the place apart. And obviously we were told there were never any leaks. And the amount of mold. And the amount of money…
LM: Yeah, in a dry climate, that is just not expected.
JS: Yeah, right, well the budget just jumped, exorbitantly.
JC: Yeah, our construction budget was a bit of a…you know…it was…
JS: A moving target.
JC: Totally a moving target. And we did a lot of the work ourselves. But what we, what helped was, we’re a husband and wife team, and the days Jeff was low, I was there being the cheerleader. And the days I was super low, he was the cheerleader. And luckily they didn’t happen – we weren’t both in the lows. Not frequently.
JS: Not frequently. Sometimes.
JC: Sometimes! But I think what we kept saying as like our mantra, like, we’re just doing this once. When it was an option to do it right or half-ass it, it was like, we’re just doing it once, we’re going to do it right. So, but we did take some extra time and spend some extra money to make sure that this motel can last another hundred years. That was important to us.
LM: And did you do all the interior design and graphic design?
JC: I did the interior design. The graphic design we used a great friend of mine who I’ve been working with for years. She did the website, she had a great branding team, graphic designer.
JS: Tall Poppies?
JC: Yep, Tall Poppies. And then Jeff, he did, he GC-ed the project. We painted half of the exterior ourselves. Jeff, I don’t know, you…
JS: I don’t even remember what I did. I was, you know, I worked next to – we hired a carpenter who built the walls and I was just basically his assistant. I was the grunt. I swept up every day, I brought the wood in, I brought the flooring in, like I had everything essentially ready for the contractors to come in and do their thing and save on them having to babysit it and running around in circles. They needed an extra pack of whatever – paint? I’m going to go get it, you keep working.
JC: We built all the furniture ourselves, whether we ordered it. Seventeen vanities.
JS: Seventeen vanities, out of IKEA! Late nights at the motel by myself! And granted, I don’t know, that a lot of people probably don’t know this, but Jody was still living in Steamboat for the first year. While the motel was open. So I lived here by myself in a camper for the first two months in the parking lot of a shady motel.
JC: In the winter, with terrible heat!
JS: That I knew nothing about the town, so I’m like, waiting to get murdered, abducted, whatever.
JC: And really, not many people came over. Our first friend, for a long time, first and only friend, was Bennett Price. He’s a legend, we can’t say enough about him and Davy across the street at De Beque Winery, but they were, they welcomed us like family.
JS: Yeah. Also, Riley Parker was pretty cool.
JC: And Riley Parker.
JS: Riley kind of lives kind of catty corner to the west of us across the frontage road, man. And he would always – he’d see me out there, he’d always pull up. He’d introduce himself and from that point on it was, hey Jeff, how’s it going? You’re looking good man, you’re always working! And I was just like, thanks! They were just, they were cool, they were supportive. Because they both essentially live across the street from what used to be the Mesa View and it was an eyesore. So they saw the potential as well. So it was nice to kind of get the kudos from like, you know, the locals. It was cool.
LM: They were probably happy about what you were doing and glad you were here.
JS: And we didn’t know.
JC: Yeah, there was probably some nervousness from some people, like, what’s going on, here we go again. Waiting back and see what they see and allow us to do what we do. Which was great.
LM: I talked to Cody last week, from The Homestead, and one of my questions for her was a similar thing, what inspired you to buy a hotel and take this project on? And she said it was really seeing what you guys did and seeing the positive transformation of something that had been a really big part of Palisade and a visible part, and seeing it turned into something beautiful and productive and useful and that really inspired her to take on that project herself. And so I was curious what, like what does that mean to you, that you are now inspiring other people here?
JS: I mean, I think that’s the biggest compliment you can get, you know.
JC: Yeah, for sure.
JS: And their property is amazing. Like, and they’re amazing people. So it was kind of like – because we went down there for their grand opening. It was really cool to walk in and be like, this is what people probably felt like walking into our property when we were doing it. So kind of, to be on the other side of it, to kind of seeing what someone else was doing. Regardless of us doing it. But just to know what that property was and to walk into what it is now, is like, whoa. Nice work!
JC: And also know that there are blood, sweat, and tears. They went through all the emotions just as we did.
JS: Yeah. I’ve talked to him twice now, commiserated about something very similar now that we’re both open. And we’re just like, you too, huh? And we’re like yeah, OK, cool.
JC: Cody reached out to me a few months ago and introduced herself and we had coffee and I shared as much as I can with her to help her be successful and share the lessons that I’ve learned and hopefully, it’ll help them out. I’m sure they have their own lessons to learn as well. But we have a really good relationship with them and we’re really proud of them. And we went through it and there’s no reason to hold onto it. We all want the same thing for us, our families, for Palisade, for the community, for our guests. It’s an opportunity to show off why we live here in this beautiful place. And we’re attracting really cool tourists that are quote unquote getting it. Getting why Palisade is so very special. So yeah, it’s been fun to have them in the lodging community here in Palisade.
LM: Any flashbacks when you went to the open house?
JC: They were telling their stories and we were like, oh yep! We were there, we built tons of furniture too, you know, whatever it was. A lot of people ask about the motel renovation and they think it’s like, this glamorous thing. It wasn’t!
JS: No! I have a lot of pictures to prove it!
JC: You know, our lifestyle is not particularly glamorous. We have to have the phone on our nightstand. We have to be ready to drop plans, run in, and pitch in. I think it’s important. And we do run a business where we are ever-present, for better or for worse. We are always there to pitch in when it’s busy. We’re always there to take out the trash. We are never too proud. And that’s the kind of business I grew up in, in a family business that the owner has to do all of those things. And if you’re not prepared to do all those things, how can you expect your employees to do it? And in small business, we all have to touch every thing, you know? Everybody has to be able to help all the other parts of the operation for the ultimate success of everybody. It’s important.
LM: It really does feel like an extension of your home too, because you have the Motel Bar and then the outdoor patio. When we hang out there, it’s like you invite locals to hang out there and you also invite your guests in, but it also feels like it’s partly like that because you spend so much time there and it’s a homey environment.
JS: Well, we live there!
JC: It was our home!
JS: The bar was my home! Our home, excuse me. It was my home for the first year.
JC: It was the living room.
JS: Yeah, the bar was our living room. We literally, like, when we finally had the wood floors done and we could move in, we didn’t have any furniture and we just put the queen bed mattress right in the living room where the ice machine was right now. And it wasn’t open, obviously you couldn’t see into the lobby, but that double, that weird double door was there, you know? So you look back at it, and that’s, I think, outside from the mold, you asked that question earlier, like, I thought it was so weird that I was living in a motel.
JC: It was so weird that we were living in a motel! So everybody…
JS: A motel that we own, which was also weird! Because I never thought that was going to happen.
JC: Everybody that knows me knows that I’m from New York City. So, so, when we first opened the motel, people would be driving in, late night, and I’m out the window like, who’s in the driveway?! Like I just had that visceral reaction, like, someone’s coming in unannounced. And Jeff’s like, we own a motel! And I’m like oh right, right! OK, OK!
JS: They want to pay us money to stay here! For what we just did!
JC: OK, OK, we gotta get with it. Or you’re coming with your groceries and you know, the next thing you know, the guests are asking for directions…
JS: It’s July and the ice cream is literally dripping on the concrete because they want to talk about wineries. And I’m like, OK, I’ll do this! That’s what we do!
JC: Right, because we generally are helpful. That’s what we do. So, because we lived there, that was our only outdoor space. It’s not as if we hung out in the back alley – we had our family barbecues out there. So when we had people over or we’d just want to go out and drink coffee in the morning or go have a glass of wine, our guests were out and about.
Honestly, that was the best situation as far as market research. Our guests told us so much about what they enjoyed in Palisade, where they came from, what do they expect on vacations. We really got – we came away from those years with friends. Our motel guests became friends and there were many nights when you’d see us around town with, you know, the guests from number nine.
JS: We still hang out, we still – when people come to town, we still go out to dinner with them. From when they first stayed with us. Yeah, like Landon and Sarah. Cool people. It’s really cool.
JC: And that’s – when we built the motel, we were talking about, what is the identity, what kind of place do we want to build. It came from building a business that suits our personality and it has worked out because we have attracted people we generally connect with. We wanted it to be more than just a place to sleep. We wanted it to feel like a home away from home. That they were part of the Palisade community.
LM: And you’re building community around the motel as well, with bike nights and things like that. Can you talk a little bit about how you started that?
JS: It started with covid. Really. I mean, covid happened, and it was our first year. Our one year anniversary was May 1st of ‘20. Covid hit. And Jody had just moved to Palisade that February. So, very thankful for that. The motel was dead. We were scared, obviously. But then, we started to meet the community. This is when we really started to like, see Palisade people, because, you know, nobody else was here.
JC: And we had time!
JS: And we had time. So you know, people would be cruising around, talking, hanging out, whatever, and we were like, we’re outside, let’s do a cruiser ride. Let’s go cruise around town, come back, and then have a couple drinks. And it just kind of started happening from there. And then, I don’t even know how Pali Thai started. I think it was just kind of – hey, we should get a food truck!
JC: Yeah Mark, Mark from Pedicab…
JS: Oh, that’s what it was. We finally moved out of the motel and we has this space, and I was like, Jody we gotta do something with this space – let’s build a bar! And she was like, you want to build a bar? And I’m like, yeah, let’s build a bar! So we built a bar. Got a liquor license, did all the jazz. And then, then it started to really progress. Like oh, let’s go for a cruiser ride, get people to come to the bar and buy some drinks. Kept it reasonable. And then like, oh, let’s get a food truck. Like Pali Thai. A few other people. And then it really, Pali Thai just committed and they’re like, Monday nights are yours. And it was like, locals night. Just kind of started turning into something really cool. And it ebbs and flows like it does, but ultimately, everybody talks about it in the winter – like, alright, when are we gonna start this up?
JC: I mean, when we moved to town – Steamboat is a very special community and we had great friends up there, and a lot of the people in Steamboat are transplants, so many of us didn’t have family, and so your friends become your family. And so when we moved down here, we felt like we lost our family. And it was difficult for us, and again, we were working a bunch, to meet other locals. So we wanted to, selfishly, create a community for ourselves. And we thought this would be a good way to get people together, and for other people sort of like us that are looking to meet some other new friends to come and establish some relationships. So, it really has helped. And I know, like, going to the Monday night events, there are so many friends that are sitting together that didn’t know each other months ago. And now they, now they’re making plans outside of the Monday night.
JS: I think it’s still the Facebook page picture, of the original group, and we’re all like, oh, we should probably be wearing a mask. Like I think I have a mask on, and a few other people and we’re kind of spread out a little bit. So it’s kind of cool that that’s where it came from. It’s like, one of the positives from covid for us. Because, you know, covid was a negative for the motel for the first three, four months. It was really tough. And this was one thing that came out of it and it’s still happening three years later.
LM: I can’t even tell you how meaningful it was for Paul and me when we moved here. It was kind of the thing that made us say, we want to stay here.
JS: Oh cool.
LM: Because we didn’t intentionally move here originally. We just were looking for a place to buy and just needed an apartment, and this was the best one we saw, in Palisade, and then we started going on the rides and meeting people and I was like, wait, we just stumbled onto this community and this is exactly what I want. We’re going to stay here. So I think, for us, that was like, the biggest thing, in getting us into this community and just wanting to be part of it. So we really appreciate it.
JC: Oh that’s so cool, I didn’t know that.
JS: That’s awesome. And you know, Jody said earlier and I want to reiterate, Mark from Pedicab, he was right there. It was, it was probably more of his idea and we just had the space, so we offered that space up and it kind of all came together with it and it just developed. And it was cool to have Mark around for that – he’s still around today, but, he’s a cool dude.
JC: There really are a lot of cool people just rallying the community. The amount of things, like, at this point it’s kind of hard to pick what you’re going to go to, we have so many fun events and gatherings and…
JS: Right, we just had the Bluegrass Bash! It’s free music for people.
LM: For four days! Four nights!
JS: Right?! Four days of festival. People pay hundreds of dollars for that. It’s free in Palisade. Like, that’s cool.
LM: I guess before we move on to Fidel’s is there anything else about Spoke and Vine that you want to share, any other stories?
JS: I think Spoke and Vine is just a cool property. It’s important to us because it’s our baby. It’s the first thing we did together, as a couple. She was a business owner and I worked for other people. This was our first business together and we developed it together. Her idea and my sweat. Back and forth. I committed something to it!
JC: Wow, wow!
JS: It’s true! I still have the scars to prove it. You should see my lungs. But no, it’s a special property for us. I think. I think it’s special.
JS: And we’re, we have a great staff over there right now, and they’re pretty much running it. Which is allowing us, which allowed us, to slide into the restaurant industry. Which we never thought we were going to do, being that we had worked in it before. We’re like, we’re not going to run a restaurant. Are you nuts? And so, maybe that’s a good transition into Fidel’s?!
LM: Yeah! It’s a great transition. So Fidel’s, when I first came here as a tourist, it was the Palisade…
JS: Cafe! And wine bar.
LM: What made you say, you know what, we’re going to take this on?
JS: (long inhale) Again, pausing with the question, that’s what we do. We heard about it. And, we, I don’t know, um, go ahead, you go. I’m stumbling for words right now. OK. Here we go! Here comes my Queens girl! Queens is out!
JC: So we were at the Monday night cruiser ride at Spoke and Vine and it was one of the busier nights, and the rumor mill, it gets…
JS: It was the first week of May.
JC: First week of May, yeah. So, the rumor mill came around and we heard that John Sabal was looking to sell the Palisade Cafe, and if he didn’t sell the Palisade Cafe by the end of the month, he was going to close.
JS: New lease starting June 1.
JC: We had literally just opened up the bar. So we had grand plans – we’re going to open up the bar and whatnot. The paint is barely dry at this point on this venture that is the investment in the bar. And we look at each other and we’re like, oh no. Palisade…and I wonder who would buy it, and in a month?
JS: Less than a month!
JC: We’re going into tourist season, and it’s sometimes a struggle to find, you know, food on the busier weekends in Palisade. So we were just worried about our guests. And selfishly worried about us, that we were going to lose another food option. Jeff and I typically like to eat out. And so we were very worried and reached out to John to ask if it’s true. Often when we hear rumors, Jeff and I are the people that, we just go right to the source. So, anybody listening, you know if you’ve ever received a phone call from us asking.
JS: Yeah, this is what we heard.
JC: Right, this is what we heard.
JS: Let’s just kibosh it now.
JC: So I called John and he said yep, yep, it’s for sale. So I’m like, OK, well, just kind of kicking around the idea, just so we know…
JS: Let’s meet.
JC: Let’s meet. I’ll have my list of questions, you bring whatever you have to show me… I think it was like, the next Monday…
JS: It was two days. It was the next Monday night, I think, because I was working the bar and you guys met in room ten. Yeah, I remember that part now. But you guys met, and then came out, and he was like oh, someone else is buying it.
JC: Yeah, so he shows up for his meeting and someone else is buying it.
JS: All right!
JC: We’re like, OK, great. And then we started thinking, we started thinking, and then we heard, maybe the other deal, not sure if that’s going to go through and then, ah, so a few weeks later, or a week later, I go to Jeff and I’m like, what do you think? Should we, should we do it? Should we try? Don’t know? So we kicked it around for a little bit, and then, and then two weeks, halfway through May, we’re like, let’s do this. We got a lawyer involved, look over the contracts, and here we are, buying a restaurant, two weeks notice, we’re closing on June 1.
JS: So we had to work with John, not only for the restaurant, but the landlord. So it was a really quick transition.
JC: And a little complicated!
JS: And a little complicated. Because the landlord was like, well, hold on, maybe I don’t want you in there. Maybe I want to find someone else, because now the lease is up, it’s like, fair game. So we’re like, oh crap. One more hiccup. Because we had already worked it out with John, the restaurant owner, we’re going through the process. Then we’re like, oh wait, right. He might not. So he interviewed like three people, we told him what our vision potentially was, and he actually chose us. And he – the landlord lives in Palisade, he knows us, he knows what we did with the motel. So, he, it was kind of a no-brainer for him, because he knows who we are. But he still had to go through the due diligence for him. It was, yeah, so here we go…
JC: So here we are…
JS: We closed on the Palisade Cafe on June 1st, which was my birthday. It was a great birthday present! Best birthday present ever.
JC: Here we go, we bought you another job! So we got…
JS: Bought you another job…
JC: So Jeff, we close…
JS: We come in, we do inventory…
JC: And we were just, again, it’s the same thing…
JS: Interviewed the staff…
JC: It was like, what are we doing here right now?
JS: We didn’t want it to close.
JC: So, we closed, we had no runway if you will. To really know the operation, see what was going on, and both of us had pretty extensive restaurant backgrounds. So it wasn’t that hard, as far as the operating, but we inherited their whole staff, and you know, they were great. And we just thought, let’s keep it open for the summer, let’s see what we see, see what the staff is telling us, see what our guests are telling us…
JS: We’re not going to change the menu on the staff that’s been doing it for so many years.
JC: We didn’t have a vision, we didn’t have a concept. So we’re like, let’s just, let’s just keep running.
JS: They were nervous, they didn’t know what was going to go on. So they were very questioning to us, like who are you, what are you doing here? So of course we paused and thought about our answer. And then we got to it pretty quick. We knew what was great about the cafe – we also knew what wasn’t great about the cafe. So we focused on what we thought wasn’t great to kind of build it up for the summer. And I think we did. We had a great team, who, you know, you’re always going to lose some people, you’re always going to gain some people. We ultimately had a great team that got us through that season and then we decided to close. We finally talked about what our vision was going to be for what is now Fidel’s. Didn’t have the name at the time. And then closed and then we just started ripping the place apart. And that was a little nerve-wracking, because we didn’t own the building. So now we’re putting all this money, we’re investing all this time and money, into a building that we didn’t own.
JC: When Jeff and I discussed the concept of what we wanted to see, for us, when we would go out in Steamboat, we actually went to Salt and Lime, the place that Jeff ultimately came to be the GM. But when we travel, we seek out tacos and tequila and mezcal. And that’s always been our thing for the last seven-ish years. So, we thought, OK, what could Palisade use? And for us…
JS: In our opinion.
JC: In our opinion, we wanted to create a restaurant that was mid-range but had table service. And had a really nice bar where you could just come in and grab a drink. So we designed the menu so that it can appeal to locals and tourists alike. For us, consistency is probably the most important thing if you’re going to attract locals. We want to make sure the drinks are always made the same, the food is always the same.
JS: The service is always the same. Consistency with the product and the service. The personality. And that’s very much what it is, which is very much what Spoke and Vine was about when opened that. That’s what we’re about.
JC: Yeah. We don’t feel that there is many options for a Mom and Pop restaurant that is kind of middle of the road that has table service. So that was what we were hoping would set us apart.
JS: And again, since covid, a lot of restaurants had to shift. And this is absolutely not a dig on anybody for doing what they do, but we want table service when we go out. I mean, we go to places that has counter service and we enjoy it, it is what it is and we know what we’re getting into. But when we go out to eat, we want to have a server, we want to have a conversation with that person, we want to hear the story of the restaurant or the story of, or whatever their story was, and so it was important to us to get that back. Especially in Palisade, like, not that nobody else is doing that, but that’s what we wanted for Palisade. We were a little nervous, opening tacos, tequila, and mezcal! It’s different. It’s just different.
JC: It’s different. And then, the Palisade Cafe, we were the twelfth owners of the…
JS: Thirteenth owner! Palisade Cafe 12.0 was John, then he changed it to the Cafe Wine Bar. We were the 13.0.
JC: It was eleven, I thought.
JS: I don’t think so. Check the records!
JC: It was Palisade Cafe 11.0, we were the twelfth owners of the Palisade Cafe…
JS: No, no, I’m pretty sure it was thirteen, because I was like, we cannot be the thirteenth owner.
LM: Is this where they like, skip the thirteenth floor, so…
JC: Totally. It wasn’t the thirteenth. 11.0. So, anyway.
JC: We were…
JS: Sure. I’m wrong.
JC: So, as the twelfth owners of the Palisade Cafe, I think every owner put their own little spin on the place. And after awhile, the menu was a little all over the place. As was the décor. And the worry was, through that first summer, people would come in and they’d say, are you going to put back that Ruben that the fourth owner had on the menu? And I’d look at them like, I don’t even know who that was! So, what we felt like was that we were always going to be compared to the eleven previous owners, for better or for worse. And for us, we thought, let’s just scratch that plan entirely and build something, again, unique, fresh, that, that embodies our personality and our taste. The worry always is, are our tastes in line with what can keep the doors open? You know, restaurants are…
JS: Pay the bills, keep people employed… all that.
JC: Restaurants are fickle. You know, you might like it, but are you going to go? For us, in a tourism economy, Palisade is busy-ish from the middle of April until the middle of October. So you make money and you have to squirrel it away and hope that though the winter, you know, you lose less. And we really rely on the locals to keep us afloat year-round. When we decided on a concept, we kept asking ourselves, would they want to come here in January? Are the locals excited enough to come in February?
JS: And they were!
JC: We’ve had a lot of locals, a lot of the same faces showing up.
JS: From De Beque, Palisade, all the way out to Mack.
JC: Glade Park!
JS: Like what, oh my God, thank you! Like, I want to hug these people that are driving all the way in here for this restaurant. Like, that’s amazing. And again, Jody said it earlier, but we built Spoke and Vine the way we like to travel. We built Fidel’s the way we like to eat. We worked with a consultant on our menu. We worked on the cocktails. But it was ultimately how we enjoy our lives. It goes back to, welcome to our family. This is who Jody and Jeff are.
LM: Right, and you’re spending a lot of time there, so you’d better like the food and you’d better like the drinks!
JS: A lot! Right!
JC: Right! Absolutely!
JS: Yeah, if I’m not gonna eat it, why would I ask anybody else to eat it or drink it? I eat a taco pretty much every day! Luckily this is a podcast and not a video.
LM: There’s no taco belly! What’s your favorite taco?
JS: The bomb-ass fish, man! It’s, I love battered fish. I mean, I like fish. And then, carne asada, oh, it’s all good.
JC: I think the cauliflower taco.
JS: The cauliflower’s good.
JC: It’s different, it’s fresh. I feel like I’m eating veggies without having to eat a salad.
JS: You can still call it a taco! It’s in a tortilla.
LM: And you have an extensive tequila and mezcal selection, and it seems like you are so into researching everything there is to know about mezcal and tequila, and actually going to Oaxaca and places like that and touring and tasting and bringing things home. You can really see the passion for that in what you guys have.
JC: Absolutely. We really love any agave spirits, and Jeff is the tequila expert in-house and I am the mezcal expert and we love sharing our knowledge and talking to other people who are into it. We knew we were going to have an extensive list of mezcal and tequila, and then we came up with the idea – again, we’re in Palisade and people are used to tasting wine, you know. The brewery scene is big obviously, where you can have flights. So we were like, how does this, people who come here are generally interested in comparing. Being into the food and liquor scene. So that’s where we came up with the idea of doing the flights. We see many tables just getting a full flight or a half flight even, and just having that conversational piece to compare them side by side. And there’s so much to know about the spirits and we’re constantly educating ourselves and having cool conversations with our guests as well.
JS: And you know, it is hard. It’s really hard to go to Oaxaca once a year. It’s, it’s a tough life, you know. We’ve been there twice now, and we’re already planning next winter to go down with a couple of our employees who want to go and learn. I mean, I would never have gone away with my boss, like, what?! Are you crazy? These people want to go away with the owners of the restaurant who they work side by side with, like we don’t spend enough time together? Let’s go! That’s awesome.
LM: I mean, it sounds good. I’ll go!
JS: Let’s go! We should do a Oaxaca Palisade trip!
JC: I keep thinking about that.
JS: We’ll do the itinerary, you guys get your lodging…
JC: We know hospitality, we can put together a tour.
JS: Yeah, I don’t know if I want to do that full-time, though.
JC: Not full time! January!
JS: I mean, full-time for the two weeks while we’re there.
JC: We do really want Fidel’s to be a local spot. So there are a few things that we’ve done to help foster that relationship and show that we’re here for you, because you’ve been here for us. We only take reservations for the tables inside, but the bar we don’t take reservations for, and then we don’t take reservations for the patio, because we want people to be able to walk in and those sections can turn over a little quicker. We might not have that table right that second or a bar seat right that second, but that’s our hope, is to keep the locals counting on us – that they can get in the car, jump on a bike, walk on down and odds are we can get them in. We also do that…
JS: The rewards program.
JC: So we do a rewards program…
JS: I don’t know much about it anymore. I’m not the front of the house. I am solely in the back of the house at this point.
JC: So we have a rewards program at Fidel’s, where, if you leave your phone number and you pay with a credit card, it will remember your credit card, and basically – or if you pay cash, we can do the phone number – but what it is, if you spend $100, you get $10 off your next time in. So it’s basically 10% off. And that really is that thank you to the locals for helping us, sustain us through the winter. We know we’re going to be a seasonal business, but we really would love to be able to keep our staff employed through the winter. This winter we were nervous we were going to lose a lot of great people, but we limped along good enough and we were able to keep our stars from the season. That just propels us into a much better and smoother tourist season when it does happen. They’re trained and ready.
JS: We do Sparkle Donkey shots for people on their birthday. If no one knows what Sparkle Donkey is – it’s a really tasty vanilla reposado tequila. It’s really good. It’s fun to drink. It’s fun to say.
LM: Oo! I’ll be there on my birthday in September!
JC: Yeah! Please do!
LM: So the only negative feedback that I ever see about Fidel’s is, occasionally, people are like, oh, it’s so expensive. But I think I know a lot of the reasons for that, but how do you respond to those people?
JS: Um, there’s Jody’s response and then there’s Jeff’s response. You know, I get it. When we built the menu, we priced the food out and we literally said to ourselves, are we really going to have an $8 taco? Yes, we are. We’re going to have an $8 taco. We’re going to have more than one. Because of the type of food that we’re doing – scratch kitchen, everything’s prepped. Daily. Every other day. The type of fish that we’re using – wahoo, flown in, fresh. And the amount that it takes to actually run a restaurant. The invoices that we get, from our purveyors? They have surcharges. They have gas surcharges, regular gas surcharges, delivery fees. So, once our menu is set, we’re pretty much set, but everybody else gets to adjust their prices. So we have to balance that act out throughout the year, because we’re not going to make the same amount of money that we’re going to make in July as we are in December. So it has to balance out. And if it’s, if people don’t understand that, if they’ve never done that or realize that, then of course they’re going to ask, why’s it so expensive?
JC: There are so many extras that go into a brick and mortar operation. The fact that we’re a Mom and Pop restaurant – we don’t have the economies of scale that an Outback can have, or a chain restaurant can have.
JS: The buying power.
JC: The buying power, the advertising power, our software – our reservation software, the fact that you can make a reservation, actually does in fact cost us money for those conveniences. It does add up. Our bookkeeping, everything. It’s important that everyone knows that all of our pricing is based on the cost of running a business. And unfortunately, if we drop our prices, we’re not going to have the margins to sustain a business or have Jeff and Jody literally under the roof, making sure everything is right. That’s where that extra money does go somewhere. It sustains the heartbeat, it sustains the level of service. We have a host or a hostess. We have an expo, we have extra bartenders, all of these things. You know, pouring craft cocktails where literally, we pay, our day bartender is squeezing juice all morning.
JS: The hand-squeezer press!
JC: That, you know, it costs money. The cost of limes, the cost of avocados. It’s not taken lightly. We know, if we dropped our prices, we could be busier, but we might not be able to keep the doors open. So it’s very important, and I totally get that, to some people it is expensive because, you know, it is. And going out to eat is considered a luxury.
JS: But that’s also why it’s so important to us to have the service. Because that costs money too. We pay our people well. They’re taken care of. There’s a lot of hidden fees that people don’t know about. And while everybody else can adjust their fees, we can’t bounce that menu back and forth. I mean, that’s just not how it goes. It’s just not. And we have to swallow that very large pill sometimes to say, this isn’t the month for us, because we got all these extra charges. And you know, that’s just what it is.
JC: You know, we’re just one lowly little restaurant. We can’t strong arm our vendors. And that’s not who we are.
JS: Yeah, we want to work together with everybody, not against them. I’m not asking anybody to cut their price. I get it. I’m a business owner, I know what it takes, your price is your price. I’ll shop it, but your price is your price. I respect that. Much like our price is our price.
LM: I think it’s interesting too, because at the same time, people often compliment the service, and the food, and it’s like – these things go together. You’re keeping these staff because you’re paying them a living wage. And you’re keeping the restaurant open through the winter for the locals – and I appreciate that – and those things cost money. So yeah, I was just curious about that, because again, it’s an easy thing just to throw off as a complaint without understanding what goes into it.
JS: And I have to say, thank you for asking that question. We’ve done a few of these – the podcasts, and interviews – and I don’t know if anybody’s really ever – we’ve talked about money and vendors and all that, but nobody’s ever really directed the question towards why. So it’s a good opportunity for us – and it’s not a defense – we’re explaining it. There’s a lot more going on. So thank you for asking the question.
LM: You’re welcome. That’s me, I always want to know why. That’s why I wanted to do this.
JS: And we’ll talk to people left and right. If they ask the questions, we’ll give them the answers. We have nothing to hide from people!
LM: I’m taking up a ton of your time, but I just have a couple more questions. I think we’ve touched on this already, but what do you like most and least about running your own businesses?
JS: I’m gonna see how this goes. How different or alike our answers are.
JC: I always thought I would own my own business. As a kid, I was the one that was always rallying my friends to sell something, do something, invent something. I think it suits me, personally. Somebody said this and it’s always resonated: I work 80 hours a week so I don’t have to work 40. And I love the flexibility around that. I think of myself as an adult that knows how to manage my to-do list, so when my work is done, then I get to play. And if something needs to get done, well then, play needs to hang tight a little bit. And I really love employing people. I love having teammates, I love having people in it alongside of me, pushing me to create something and be better. I think that that’s important. And owning your own business, you have the opportunity that, if you work hard, you can get rewarded for it.
I think the worst part about owning your own business is, you can’t press pause on it. It’s very difficult to take a day off. It’s very difficult to relax your mind and switch off and think about other things. Jeff and I, and luckily, I’ve always liked my jobs and I’ve always liked the work I do, so we talk about work a lot. But, it’s a very difficult thing to press pause on.
JS: Yeah. I think the worst part for me is – and, it’s not even the worst, I guess. It’s just the time commitment. It’s 100% of your life. That’s what it is and we signed up for it. I accept it. But sometimes, you know, you’re just tired. You’re just tired, and you need a break.
LM: You can’t call in sick.
JS: Yeah, and you don’t get to call in sick. Unless you have covid. So, some days you pray you have covid. I’m kidding. Knock on wood. But, you know, it’s just the level of involvement, especially when you say, owning your own business. Hospitality business is different. A restaurant, a motel, because you have your employees, you have your guests, and if you don’t, if you’re not on with one, then you’re probably on with the other, vice versa.
So the best part is also that. I’m on with my guests, I’m on with my employees. Like, we have a really cool group of people that work here, as well as at the motel. And we hang out with all of them. And really, the ultimate best part of having our own business, especially hospitality, is the amount of time I get to spend with people. I like people, I really do. I get burnt out, of course, but I can recharge. But I get energy from talking to people and selling what we do and people asking about us and wanting to hear about us. That’s energy. That’s a positive thing, that people want to know about me. Like, what? Like, I grew up in Delaware! It’s kinda cool. Lot of cool stuff. And it’s hard to look at up close, and get out of your own way when you’re running your own business and just in the mix constantly.
JC: I was gonna say for you, that, I was gonna say for you, that the worst part is, Jeff wakes up every day, trying to figure out how the world is going to screw him.
JS: I’m not…!
JC: So everyday he wakes up and he knows something is going to break, someone’s going to call in sick, some delivery isn’t going to be made, and guess who’s going to pick up the slack? Jeff. So, Jeff lives in constant angst that something is going mess up his day.
JS: That’s not just this! That’s the way I grew up…
JC: And when you own your own business, the buck stops there. Like, you have to fix the problem. It’s only on you. You’re not calling in a lifeline. At the end of the day, you have to take care of it. And that is also the greatest thing. Because you are the problem solver. And that’s cool. People do look at you to fix it.
JS: Yeah, there’s just not enough time, really, for what we do in the day. Honestly. I wish I had more time, and more energy to do all the things. But yeah, I’m a glass is half-empty guy. Like, what’s going to happen today that I have to fix? That’s where I live. It always has been, and, you know, that’s just what it is. Thanks Jody. Like, my phone’s been ringing off the hook, so I can just imagine what I’m going to walk into when I go down…
LM: Well, I’ll just ask you one more question. What’s your favorite part about the Palisade community, or what’s your favorite … or wait, well, I want to ask you two more. What’s your favorite part about the Palisade community?
JS: My favorite part about the Palisade community? Um, I think, probably the chillness of it. Palisade’s – not that Steamboat wasn’t, but Palisade’s different because it’s small. We have 1,500 [LM note: 2,500+ actually] people that live in this town and it’s pretty chill, for the most part, it’s pretty chill. You have golf carts riding down the road for Pete’s sake. You can ride your bike without getting yelled at. The people that you do interact with that are out on the streets – they’re cool. They’re nice people. And I think that’s what I like the most about it. I walk into the grocery store – granted, I go into the grocery store about five times a day! But they know me. They’re like, oh, it’s the guy from Fidel’s! There he is again!
JC: There he is again, picking up salt.
JS: So, you know, I think that’s my….
JC: What was that question?
LM: What’s your favorite thing about the Palisade community?
JC: I think my favorite thing about the Palisade community is how supported we feel. At first, like I said, we didn’t know many people for quite sometime, but after we started getting out and about, there are other business owners in particular – Gary and Linda up at Restoration, Matt and Ashley over at Peche…
JC: Edwin and Shari at TWP, like so many people, like we’re totally going to forget…
JS: Mora and Bran, formerly known as Mesa Park. Like, really cool people!
JC: Really cool people, and…
LM: Aww, what?
JS: You guys come in, you’re doing this! This is supporting us. That, that’s…
LM: This is the community that I want to live in, right? I want to build the community that I want to live in, too.
JC: And I think, more people have helped build us up when we’re low than have put us down. And have reassured us to follow our instincts, keep moving forward, and I hope that we do that for them, and that’s the type of people that we want to associate and also that we want to be.
JS: Yeah. We want to support people as best we can.
LM: So when you do get that rare day off, what do you do?
JC: I would say, when we have a day off, we often…
JS: Wake up, drink coffee on our deck, talk about work…
JC: Talk about work! Then we’ll walk our dogs, we’ll take Fidel for a walk.
JS: Yes, Fidel! Fidel’s still alive, that’s not a tribute restaurant. He’s still very much alive.
LM: What does he think about having a restaurant named for him?
JS: It’s nerve-wracking. He lives much like Jeff, in constant angst. Like, he’s not sure what kinda pressure’s on him.
JC: So, we’ll take him for a walk down at Riverbend. I have a horse in Fruita. I will often go out and ride my horse out in Fruita, maybe go trail riding.
JS: I have a dual sport motorcycle I like to ride. Cruise around. Go for a bike ride. Play pickleball – we love to play pickleball.
JC: Oh, our courts here in Palisade are amazing! And then grab a cocktail and some dinner. Just out in Palisade. Cruise around and, our best day is when we don’t have to leave Palisade.
JS: Yeah. Yeah. Unless we’re going to Mexico.
JC: You’re smiling as you think about both things.
LM: It sounds like a nice day!
JC: That would be lovely!
JS: I’m looking forward to that day off in January, next year! It’s going to be a good day. I’m drinking a lot of coffee that day.
LM: Thank you both so much for your time, for sharing your stories. It was really cool.
JS: Yeah of course, it’s fun. We appreciate it.
If you listened to the last three episodes, you may have noticed a common theme. Nelly, Cody and Mike, Jeff and Jody – they all saw something that wasn’t working as well as it should be or that was in need of repair and they said to themselves – you know what, I think I can fix this. I can make this place beautiful. They all saw their vision through ups and downs until they achieved their goals. Because if not them, then who?
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Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.