A Wife's Eye View
Owning a restaurant was a dream we fantasized about as dating evolved into married with kids. My hand to his glove, a partnership in life and in business. But like many dreams imagined on the back of young love, they were left at the door as reality and life took us in another direction.
A few years ago, we moved to Cleveland from Chicago. As our perspective changed that dream came back around nipping at our heels. A plan was created that included culinary school and experience in someone else's kitchen. Then, after the years of saving - maybe just maybe - we would have a good shot at our dream.
We moved to Rocky River for the great schools and fell in love with the community, ready for whatever came next. When he stumbled upon a closed pizzeria in the CVS plaza, it seemed too good to be true. Could we turn a “doomed location” into a thriving business?
As parents of young children, we were irritated by the lack of imagination on kid’s menus, the poor quality of ingredients offered, and shelling out money for food they wouldn’t touch. Often the places where our kids would eat would have nothing appealing to us, and we cringed at the processed food they were eating. We couldn’t be the only parents who felt this way.
So, what we couldn’t find, we decided to create. Our focus was on fresh local produce, meats without fillers and chemicals, and options - for the whole family.
Christian spent months developing the menu, dissecting every ingredient until it was right. I teased him that we needed a business plan before we finalized the menu! As he became lost in thought while scrutinizing each dish, I fell even more in love with him and this life we were creating.
Tasting nights were a favorite among family and friends, with everything made from scratch, even the salad dressings. Step by step our dream fell into place and became our reality in April of 2014. I will never forget standing in the empty parking lot the night our sign was first lit - River Dog Café shined brightly. It sent chills down my spine. We made it! We were ready to tackle the hard work of running our very own restaurant.
So much has happened that I can’t believe it’s been only one year. At the same time, I am blown away that it has been that long. We lost too many vital loved ones this year, we welcomed with joy our youngest of four children, we added a food truck, and we made it through our first year of business.
It seems surreal watching my kids run into their friends at our cafe, rushing to see who in their kindergarten class has a certificate posted for hitting 100 site words. I see my husband thriving and loving what he does every day. I am so proud that my children will grow up knowing that this is who we are. Their father is the example we set forth to guide them in life - follow your bliss and trust that it will lead to happiness, adopt a good work ethic to navigate through this world, and follow your dreams - it's never too late.
I see a community that has embraced us and I feel so blessed that what we are doing is appreciated and valued. One year down and hopefully a lifetime to go!
Jennifer Barnes is the mother of four children, the bookkeeper for River Dog Cafe, and an occasional blogger.