The American pioneer is iconic and represents a group of people who were willing to sacrifice what they had for something better. Whether they were pioneers of industry, or took to wagons and handcarts to travel across the country to make a better life for themselves, the pioneers of the past were willing to risk it all. In our July issue, created in a place that celebrates that pioneer spirit with fireworks, barbecues and rodeos, we wanted to highlight and recognize some of the current pioneers in our community.
We talked to several trailblazers who have been vital to the ongoing enrichment and development of Ogden lifestyle and culture. We wanted to learn what it takes to be a modern-day pioneer. They include an ambassador and promoter of Ogden tourism, conscientious urban redeveloper, community-minded small business owners, women’s empowerment publisher/entrepreneur, innovative restaurant owners, and passionate purveyor of local music and nightlife. It’s a small representation of countless community pioneers who have helped shape Ogden, each leaving their own invaluable footprint. Big cheers to ALL the many Ogdenites who had a bee in their bonnet, and facing rivers and broken roads still chose to burn the breeze!
We asked the following questions: Was there a catalyst that encouraged you to set out on your track, a moment, a mindset or person that made your “destination” more attainable? Who paved the way for you, either in your field or in your life? What sacrifices have you had to make in order to pursue your vision? What untouched territory do you hope to explore? Using the pioneer metaphor, what were some unexpected “rivers” you had to ford, or moments you wanted to turn back along your journey?
Here are the answers from a few of our community heroes:
Kym and Pete Buttschardt took a bold risk in 1995 when they put all their eggs in one basket to bring Roosters Restaurant to 25th Street. At the time, there hadn’t been a family-friendly establishment on the mostly boarded-up, gang-ridden street in decades. It was a street nobody dared to roam let alone open a restaurant. Their pioneering quest began in 1991 with Union Grill at the Union Station, now relocated to the historic Berthana building on 24th and Grant. They’ve since expanded to Roosters in Layton in 2005, a lone independent in a sea of chain restaurants, and their most recent gamble, Roosters B Street Brewery in 2018. The new beer-focused venture resembles the first opening of Roosters on Historic 25th Street years ago, only this time sparking the revitalization of a whole new part of Ogden, the “Trackline.” More than just restaurant owners, the Buttschardts are innovative facilitators of Ogden’s community spirit and growth. They believed in Ogden at a time when very few people did.
Planting a Flag
“We kind of joke that we were young enough and dumb enough not to know what we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t know what we were facing. We just thought, “Well, if it doesn’t work we’ll just go get jobs.” I grew up in Ogden, but I never went downtown. I was never going to come back to live in Ogden, or even in Utah. But we chose Ogden. We put our flag here and said, “We choose Ogden, and you’re gonna like it!.”
“The one challenge is the risk, the simple daily risk of keeping it all going, keeping our employees working, having that balance of revenue and expenses. If this is what you choose you have that risk every day. It’s a big mantle to carry. To keep everyone working, to keep the product as great as you can. Friday night, at any moment in time, there’s probably more than 3,000 people eating a meal that we cook. It’s just me and Pete, and our amazing employees who really keep us going. We’re responsible for all of it.
My parents owned a restaurant in Ogden for 35 years called Sandy’s on 32nd and Washington. I was never going to be in the restaurant business because I saw how hard my parents worked. Pete’s parents were German immigrants who started from nothing. Our hardworking parents, both my parents and his, have been big mentors to us. We were inspired by their hard work, and their freedom. There is freedom that comes with the risk.”
“We chose to be gathering spaces first and restaurants second. I had said, ‘I want to make this town a place that our kids will be proud to say they’re from.’ That’s what our restaurants were a catalyst for. The personal reward for us is to see a town rise in its self-esteem.
When we first started everybody was bagging on Ogden. It is so gratifying to us now, to see this young generation who are proud of it and who want to be here. We’ve received so much more than we’ve given. It’s so fun to see the life that comes when you just pour your love into a place.”