It was just two years ago that Frank's Kitchen opened its doors. The regular e-mail that Dina Berta, a longtime restaurant reporter, and her contractor-turned-chef husband, Frank, sent out last week was full of plans for the future after a successful car show. They were talking about doing more events, more dinners at their spot that had turned from a little breakfast and lunch joint into a true gathering place in the Whittier neighborhood. And then yesterday, the news: They've sold Frank's Kitchen and are getting out.
Dina spent seventeen years writing about the restaurant industry for the Rocky Mountain News and Nation's Restaurant News. When we chatted with her soon after she and Frank opened Frank's Kitchen in May 2011, she told us: "Nothing truly prepares you to step out and do something you've never done before. And after a dozen years of interviewing restaurant operators and writing about them, you would think I would have all this down, but looking back on it, when I talked to owners and restaurant executives, I was listening from a journalist's perspective: 'How can I tell your story in an interesting way for my readers?' rather than, 'How can I take the information you are giving me to improve my own business?'"
Finally, she and Frank decided that the best way to improve their business -- and their lives -- was to get out. Here's the message now posted on the Frank's Kitchen blog:
Goodbye and Thank You
The end happened as quickly as the beginning. Just three years ago Frank was sliding a check across a table to our future landlords and we were in the restaurant business.
On Sunday, sitting on the patio of Frank's Kitchen, the buyer's accountant was sliding a check over to Frank. It was a down payment to our asking price. And just like that, we closed our restaurant.
For all our stunned customers, friends and supporters let me tell you how we got here. I was not lying when you came in and asked how is the business and I said doing well. After about a year and half it was paying for itself. It probably would have turned the corner in the third year, especially if we obtained a liquor license.
It was in the pursuit of a beer and wine license that we came to a realization about who we are and the kind of life we wanted to live.
The alcohol licensing was going to take six months. We probably weren't going to be able to serve beer and wine until November. Our lease is up in December. We needed the warm spring and summer months to recoup the investment in the license and product. That meant we would have to sign a new lease, most likely for five years.
The thought of another long-term lease made us both sigh, heavily. A little too heavily. That's when we knew. We have worked extremely hard and for long hours day in and day out since we opened. Frankly, we're tired and did not want to keep going. Some people have the restaurant business in their blood. We had to admit we did not. This was no longer what we wanted to do with our lives.
We listed the restaurant for sale on Craigslist.com.
Joe Van Dyke, aka "Jammin' Joe," a blues guitarist and restaurateur from Virginia, was our first serious response to the ad. Jammin' Joe has owned and or operated several restaurants in his life. He carved out a pretty good reputation for barbecue back east and wants to do the same in Denver. He liked our restaurant and accepted our price. He plans to open in early July.
Thank you everyone who supported us in our endeavor. We appreciated it more than you know. And thanks to our awesome employees. A few are staying on with Joe. May God bless all of you.
Dina (and Frank)
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It's sad news -- but a good barbecue joint could be quite a consolation prize for the Whittier neighborhood.