Living the Dream!

Silver World Newspaper column - Life From My View - March 2021

 March is International Women's Month; thus a fitting time to congratulate Chef Linda Lovegreen at CLIMB. March 17th is 5 years since she first saw her dream become a reality. Linda and her husband, Jerry Johnson, can’t believe how fast the past 5 years have gone. The couple says that the plan was always to have their restaurant for at least 10 years and that is still the plan.

 “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?”—Robert Browning 

To achieve anything worthwhile, a person should attempt even those things that may be impossible. Following your dream is an inspirational foundation for happiness that most people find too obscure or difficult to follow. Most people are fortunate enough to have an income providing the time and money for their passion with vacations and weekends to enjoy gardening, photography, travel or cooking. But to make a living following one’s passion, that is most unlikely. Yet Jerry helped his wife Linda achieve that very goal.

 The couple met while she was attending her first year in college,  where Jerry  was working at his first job, shortly after receiving his master’s degree. They married as soon as Linda graduated and celebrated their 35th anniversary last year. Linda says that her husband is a patient man, and she is so grateful that he stood with her in her dream of opening a restaurant.

Linda took culinary classes, restaurant math, classic sauces, modern sauces and such and started working as a cook in Minnesota. She and Jerry discovered Lake City about 20 years ago while driving through Colorado looking for a place to retire. In finding Lake City, they knew they had found their special spot. After building their home, it was too hard not to be here full time. They made the move to Lake City much sooner than planned. Linda worked for a season as a cook in Crested Butte, followed by working for Chef Bruno for 2 seasons in Lake City. By then Linda and Jerry had to make the plunge and open their own restaurant. Linda says that she wishes she had followed her passion sooner as she loves what she’s doing! Initially, the plan was for Jerry to retire. During the first few months, as the restaurant started up, it was clear that they desperately needed him up front! 

Jerry is indeed just the right balance out front in the dining room to Linda’s culinary skills in the kitchen. Jerry welcomes patrons by name, as if they are guest in his home. The man makes it look easy, which is the secret to any great skill. Out of the restaurant, Jerry likes to get away in the mountains with a run or hike; he also works at Gunnison Airport performing ground service work for various commercial airlines.

Linda dreamed about and wrote business plans for at least 30 years before the couple opened CLIMB. It took a full decade from the start of the actual plan of opening a restaurant in Lake City until the actual opening. CLIMB is the type of restaurant the couple missed when visiting Lake City; which seemed like a sign to them. Linda credits their success to her restaurateur Uncle Don. After he begged his niece not to do it  but saw she wasn’t budging, he helped write a business plan and shared his knowledge on how to plan for the successes and failures that would follow.  

Linda and Jerry found out that indeed, it was, just as everyone said it would be, much, much more difficult than expected. Because of the unique Lake City location of their restaurant, there are unique challenges on top of the restaurant challenges. The most troublesome issue is always having enough staff for the summer and their housing, along with having hours for them in the winter. Razvan and Malie have been with CLIMB from the beginning. Linda and Jerry say they can’t imagine their restaurant without these exceptionally loyal team members who are more like family.

Running a restaurant is also much more physical than expected. Yet, it is all worthwhile because of the support Lake City gives to CLIMB.  This iis beyond any expectations; it feels like it was a calling. 

Chef Linda says that a strange occurrence since opening the restaurant is how food for her has lost a lot of the pleasure and excitement it once held for her. On her days off in the summer, Linda will happily eat Ramen or Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and just relax at home on the deck. But it’s fun to go out for a nice dinner, for inspiration, where the restaurant owners are always critiquing. Vacations spots like Las Vegas and Napa are a favorite because of the food experiences that inspire them and then make it back to their restaurant. Time spent visiting their kids and 2-year-old granddaughter are always on their vacation agenda.

Linda and Jerry truly love bringing people together to celebrate with food and seeing how happy and thankful people are that they are here. High customer appreciation of what they do is everything. Jerry and Linda are very grateful for how supportive Lake City is of CLIMB.

Dreams really can come true!

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