May 28, 2004

New owners thrilled to be running local ‘institution’ John’s Restaurant

EDITOR˜S NOTE: The Business Report bids a fond farewell to Stepping Out columnist Barbralu Cohen, who has written her restaurant and entertainment column since 1990. Barbralu is taking a break from her writing assignments this summer in order to pursue time for new projects. ExecStyle, in the second issue of each month, will continue a column writing about the many restaurants in the Boulder Valley and the people who run them.

Ashley Maxwell is gently poaching pears in a bubbling, thick syrup. She˜s giving some crepe batter a whipping in a huge mixing bowl. The phone rings nonstop, and she never loses her train of thought.

In the middle of an afternoon preparing the evening˜s desserts, taking reservations and talking about the new business she˜s taken on with her brother, she˜s clearly enjoying herself.
In February, Maxwell and her brother chef Corey Buck bought John˜s Restaurant, at 2328 Pearl St., from longtime owner John Bizzarro. “We took the plunge,” Maxwell says. “What a great opportunity to buy an institution.”

Maxwell, 37, came here in 1984 from the family˜s home in Cincinnati to study journalism at the University of Colorado. After earning her degree, she moved to San Francisco and worked in merchandising for The Limited. When she got engaged, she moved back to Boulder to be with her fiance and went to work at Peppercorn as a part-time sales associate. Eleven years later, she was merchandising manager.

“I did all the displays,” she says and helped owner Doris Houghland run the business. “Doris taught me a lot,” she says. “I learned so much — how to run the business, do the ordering, the books. Now I˜m running a business, and I˜m on the floor at the restaurant, and I˜m used to doing that.”

Meanwhile, Buck moved to Boulder in 1992 to finish high school and for a “change of scenery,” his sister says. He cooked at Flagstaff House for six years and attended culinary school at Denver˜s Johnson & Wales University. He˜ be finishing his studies next month. A couple of years ago, the brother and sister team began a catering business, Thymes Two Catering, “as if we didn˜t have enough to do,” Maxwell says. They catered a party for a client who “loved everything we did.” When she bought a canary from John Bizzarro˜s wife, Nancy, she described the great job the caterers did and the rest, as they say, is history.

After 28 award-winning years, John Bizzarro was ready to move on. Connecting to him “was a total fluke,” Maxwell says. “My brother and I thought it was meant to be.” They took over in December, “and we˜ve been really busy,” she says.

While a paint job or two will happen, “our plans aren˜t that huge,” she says. “We want people to come here and have a great meal, like they˜re used to.” They have added a catering business already, and Buck has made some changes to the menu, adding a black sesame-crusted tuna entree here or a roasted quail there. “But some things will never leave, and some come and go, Maxwell says.

“The gnocchi is a staple that people come here for,” she says. The shrimp Nancy and the steak au poivre also often are requested.

Buck and Maxwell may add a Sunday brunch in the summer. They˜ve already begun a monthly “winemaker dinner,” with five courses and six wines.

“We˜re having so much fun,” she says. “My brother is so happy. He˜s been cooking since he was 10 at the neighborhood grill near our house. It˜s taken him a while to get through school because he worked the whole time,” including at the Stage Stop in Rollinsville and at Back Country Pizza. “All he wants to do is make people happy when they eat. He˜s so creative — it˜s just inspiring to be able to work with him.”

EDITOR˜S NOTE: The Business Report bids a fond farewell to Stepping Out columnist Barbralu Cohen, who has written her restaurant and entertainment column since 1990. Barbralu is taking a break from her writing assignments this summer in order to pursue time for new projects. ExecStyle, in the second issue of each month, will continue a column writing about the many restaurants in the Boulder Valley and the people who run them.

Ashley Maxwell is gently poaching pears in a bubbling, thick syrup. She˜s giving some crepe batter a whipping in a huge mixing bowl. The phone rings nonstop, and she…

Related Content