A little less than a year after opening his own restaurant in Nakusp, Tyler Leeson is calling it quits.
But he has a good reason to walk away from operating the Broadway Deli.
“I really would like a little more time with my family,” says the 37-year-old. With three children under 14, the dream of running his own establishment hit a hard reality.
“It’s a lot of hours. I have a three-year-old daughter at home, and she’s growing up fast,” he says. “Last week, because we had a dinner here, I worked three 17-hour days, a 14-hour day and a 12-hour day.”
The relentless hours, and all the paperwork and management that goes with running a small business, just made the Deli too much to handle.
“When you have to pay someone to do every little thing it can be pretty expensive, it eats into your profits,” he says.
And the historic Deli building needs serious repairs that were essential to his business thriving – repairs as a tenant it didn’t make economic sense to do.
“I could either afford to fix it or buy it, but I couldn’t do both. And they only make sense together,” he says.
With all the ongoing headaches, and his lease renewal coming up, a perfect ‘Plan B’ presented itself: the Lodge at Arrow Lakes was looking for a new head chef. For Leeson, it meant more of what he likes to do – cook – and far fewer headaches.
“I’m not saying I’m walking into an easy job, it’s still a chef’s position, so it’s going to get tough. But I’ll get to cook a lot of the time. Here, there’s a lot of other things that go along with that.
“And it’s a stable income. That means something with a young family. It’s nice to have a regular paycheck instead of ‘how much money did we make this month?’. Winter months are always a lot slower here. Plus there’s a benefit plan. That’s important when you have three kids.”
While the decision was clear, it wasn’t an easy one to make.
“I don’t think I slept for that week, it was a really tough decision,” he recalls. “I love what we’ve done here, I love the culture we’ve created, the food we’ve come up with, and our clientele, our business is fantastic.
“It’s hard to walk away from something that you put that much into. It’s tough.”
The new position is also a bit of a homecoming for Leeson, who had one of his first jobs at the Kuskanax, as the Lodge was known as then.
“I worked on and off there since I was 15,” he says. “But I was never the boss, so that will be a new experience.”
And he doesn’t rule out owning his own restaurant again some day.
“I would do it again one day, I enjoyed it, but maybe when my kids are a little bit older and I have a few more courses under my belt, some management training, some accounting training, Quickbooks, stuff like that.
“I’ve been working in this industry for 25 years, and you kind of think you know everything. But this was definitely an eye-opener on how much you have to learn. Its not all sunshine-and-roses.”
Leeson starts his new position in early April, giving him a week or so to hand off the coffee shop/deli operation back to the building’s owner.
He’s grateful on how his customers have received the news.
“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone, the support has been amazing from everybody,” he says. “It’s nice to know I have the support of the locals no matter what I decide to do.”