We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Justa Ward a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Justa, appreciate you joining us today. One of the things we most admire about small businesses is their ability to diverge from the corporate/industry standard. Is there something that you or your brand do that differs from the industry standard? We’d love to hear about it as well as any stories you might have that illustrate how or why this difference matters.
It’s a Tuesday. I’m out on the patio dealing with city regulations, however it’s still jovial, “Hi Fernando”, “Hi Jeff”. The level of community & comradery brings a big smile to my face. After 15+ years in the industry, I feel like I’ve seen the restaurant biz done almost every way imaginable. Focusing on the elaborate plating, the fanciest food, novel things like throwing peanuts on the floor… restaurants have tried it all. Although plating, food quality, aesthetic & vibe are prominent goals, at The N.O.S.H.hospitality + experience are the ultimate for us. Our intention is to do so, but not in the standard way.
We are more than a place to eat, for many The N.O.S.H. is home. Regulars? Absolutely. Our accountant, electrician, plumber & handyman are all longtime customers. We meet babies, moms, friends in town and the like. My husband and I have gained life long friends. Our humble + eccentric art cafe has become something incredibly special to so many neighborhood folks, that I can’t help but be proud.
Knowing so many names, faces and orders seems like an extra step right? Why do it if you don’t have to? Food is a connection like none other. Personalizing it is a step above. Meaningful.
The biggest compliment is a returning guest. How lucky are we to know ours by name, order & face.
Justa, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My business card reads “Co-Owner & Community Culture Baddie”. As you can imagine I’m more than just that. I’m a chef, baker and hospitality professional. I’ve been in the kitchen since I was about 8 years old. When everyone else wanted toys, I wanted a KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
While for most it seemed like the obvious choice for me, it actually took a major life change for me to drop out of university, pack up my bags & move to New York City.
In my 7 years in the city I studied Pastry Arts at The Institute of Culinary Education, I managed multiple restaurants & was lucky enough to do food and beverage operations for music festivals + award shows.
As I was currently working remotely & looking for a change of pace, I moved to Denver in 2015. After applying for years, I became the Head Baker at The Noshery in the summer of 2017.
Almost 5 years later, I own it. I make it my business to be a part of our community and contribute however possible. Trash cans on the corners, donating books + pastries, participating on multiple boards. They say it takes a village, and they are right.
Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?
Shortly after beginning at The Nosh, I met Mike. He has been the Head Chef since the day the doors open. Now, I’m fortunate enough to call him my business partner, husband and best friend. Funny enough, I applied to work at the cafe 3 times before I was finally hired. I started out as the head baker, working very closely with the original owner. Five years later, we are proud owners of the shoppe.
Let’s talk M&A – we’d love to hear your about your experience with buying businesses
Mike and I were fortunate enough to buy The Noshery last summer. As a long time restaurant & operations manager, the decision to finally own a business seemed like the logical next step to advance my career. It was definitely a very involved process. Not only that, but incredibly nerve racking. Owning a business is a lot of pressure. I take providing jobs very seriously, so maintaining that + our customers is #1. Sometimes I just walk through the dining room, closed or open, to look around. Full or empty it’s an incredibly gratifying feeling. Empty or full, it’s like ” Wow. We did this”, and it makes it all worth it.
- Website: www.nosherycafe.com
- Instagram: @the_n.o.s.h
- Facebook: The NOSH