When Kendra Callahan, human resources director at Chad's Grill in Lakewood, sat down with owner Chad Hotchkiss in mid-May, she was sad but not surprised by the news he had to share. After 36 years …
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When Kendra Callahan, human resources director at Chad's Grill in Lakewood, sat down with owner Chad Hotchkiss in mid-May, she was sad but not surprised by the news he had to share.
After 36 years the restaurant, located at 275 Union Blvd., would be closing its doors at the end of the month.
“I was not caught off guard — all employees have felt the storm the past year,” she said. “We are all one big family and since moving to Denver 8 years ago, Chad's has been my home. The relationships built there have been the forefront of my mind, as we have employees that have been there for more than 30 years. It's hard to say goodbye.”
Chad's officially closed with a party of staff, family and regulars on May 30.
The restaurant was started in 1982 but Hotchkiss' father, who also owned the next door Mexican cantina, Jose O'Shea's. Hotchkiss took over both restaurants when his father retired.
“For many years, Chad's was like `Cheers' in Lakewood — everyone knew your name there,” he remembered. “In the days following the announcement regulars would come in and hear the news and say, `What do we do now?'”
One of those regulars was Jack Anderson, who was the first customer at the restaurant when it opened. Anderson become a regular at the restaurant, even after he moved to Buena Vista.
“Every time I came back down to the area, I would stop by Chad's,” he said. “It was the people that totally made the restaurant special. Everyone who worked there was a lot of fun.”
The people at Chad's not only provided Anderson with great service. When he had to spend a winter in the area, Hotchkiss hired him part time so he could earn some money.
“The people who ran the restaurant and the people who worked there were the best,” Anderson said.
Despite its long history and solid reputation in Lakewood, the current market is a difficult one for restaurants. Rising minimum wage and cost of living, in addition to one of the toughest housing markets in the country, make it hard for family-owned restaurants to hire and keep good employees.
“Restaurants have always been a unique enterprise, because you have changing food costs, labor costs and capacity issues,” said Robert Smith, Lakewood's economic development manager. “Even when you work really hard, sometimes it just doesn't work out.”
These challenges are being faced by restaurants of all kinds. Colorado Pie LLC, which owned and operated the Pieology located near the Colorado Mills Mall also recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
While Chad's had what would be considered a great location on the increasingly busy Union Boulevard, it's that same activeness has contributed to the restaurant's difficulties, Hotchkiss said.
“Our rent kept going up because this was such a popular area,” he explained. “Plus, you have so many restaurants coming in to compete for all the St. Anthony employees and new restaurants. There used to be a few of us, but now there's around 40 on this strip. Lunch was always our biggest meal, but with so many quick, casual restaurants opening up, our lunch crowd really decreased.”
Jose O'Shea's is still up and running, and Hotchkiss said some of Chad's employees will be transition over to that restaurant. Callahan said she's going to take some time to decide what to do next, but she still has some great memories at Chad's, like a Flight for Life relay done with other Union Boulevard businesses.
“I think foodies need to remember to support their mom and pop restaurants. Corporate America has replaced the values and emotional attachment neighborhood restaurants supplied to those that frequented them,” she said. “It's not only about where your money is going — like to the pockets of your neighbor to feed their family … or giving back to the community. It's also about nurturing the original values of The American Dream.”
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