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At the Colonial House Restaurant and Bar, we're all about improvement.
“We want people to feel that this is their home away from home” says a smiling Vicky Beshara. Seated in the back of the Colonial House Restaurant and Bar, it’s easy to feel just that. Cozy and comfortable, one can hardly ignore the smell of freshly baked caramel rolls and warm comfort food reminiscent of dinners straight from grandma’s kitchen. A favorite among locals throughout the Black Hills, the Colonial House offers something for everyone. Large menus of American cuisine are prepared with finesse unique to the Beshara family and perfected over thirty years of hard work and deep-seated commitment.
Like anything great, the road to current day Colonial House has been full of both challenges and triumphs. Purchased by Bill and Sandy Beshara in June of 1981, Sandy remembers the day the restaurant opened. “We were greenhorns…walked in the door to open, and we realized we didn’t even have money to put into the cash register.” The restaurant has come a long way since that day. What began as a five to seven year venture has grown into a family legacy.
Bill recalls the previous establishment, which had a less than desirable reputation and meager clientèle. Three of his children, Marcia, Kevin, and Pam, each had their first job at what was once Taylor’s Restaurant, and then The Raintree. After hearing their accounts, Bill knew he could do better. With Kevin in the kitchen, Sandy up front, and their son Bob keeping it all together, the Beshara’s were a united team dedicated to hospitality, family values, and a fresh take on traditional dishes.
Thinking back to the Colonial House of 1981, a smile spreads across Sandy’s face. “There used to be an open kitchen. There were five items on the dinner menu. We worked hard for the first three years to get people in the door, to get them past the old stigma.” Throughout it all, Sandy felt fortunate to be surrounded by family, which grew to include Kevin’s children, Lucy and Max, and wife Vicky. “It made us really close-knit. We know how to depend on each other,” said Sandy.
The significance of working with family has not been taken for granted by Kevin either, who serves as Colonial House Head Chef and “Jack of All Trades.” “Getting to work with my family is probably the greatest act, or best single things,” recounts Kevin, adding that “the dynamics, of course, were a huge learning experience.” After all, Kevin was only 18 when he began his career at the Colonial House. “I had the world by the tail. You couldn’t teach me anything,” laughs Kevin. “From June to September, we each had maybe two days off. We didn’t know any better, we were so busy having fun.” Well, most of the time. Kevin also points out that “There was lots of heartache. All of the sudden, a guest teaches you something. That’s usually how it goes, we learn from our guests. You live and you learn.”
One thing Kevin learned quickly was that countless variables of people under one roof meant hospitality had to come first. Ask Kevin, and he’ll tell you that hospitality isn’t teachable. Instead, it’s that warm feeling you get when you walk into your grandmother’s kitchen and know she’s prepared your favorite meal, just for you. “You don’t know where that person sitting at the table, or that group of people sitting at the table, you don’t know where they’re at in life,” explains Kevin. “You have to invite them into your house, the Colonial House, and you have to treat them the same as you’d treat your best friend. We may be serving 250 people, but we’re serving them one by one. Just like if you’d have a party at your house.” Sit down at a table on any given night, and that’s just what you’ll see. The restaurant’s staff, a handful of them employed by the Beshara’s for twenty years, knows their customers as beloved friends rather than mouths to feed.
Hospitality and cuisine set the Colonial House apart, just as community involvement does. While dealing with Bob’s passing, the Beshara family experienced firsthand the compassion and support of their home town during an especially difficult time. “The community has given us so much,” said Vicky. It’s their unwavering appreciation that has led to several programs dedicated to giving back. Civic Mondays, for example, support the restaurant’s Endowment Fund. Wear your local emergency responder, military, or school logo on Monday and the Colonial House will take $2 off your ticket and contribute it to the Fund, which is usually donated to a local school. Giving back to families in need is another priority. Each week, the restaurant saves usable products and donates them to a local family who could use a helping hand. Certified Pastry Chef Jeff Slather is what Kevin calls a “teaching junkie” and teaches baking classes open to the general public in the spring and fall. And fund raisers? The Colonial House will never turn anyone down. As Kevin says, “When you see face to face the people these things affect – that’s Heaven.”
As the Colonial House embarks on their fourth decade in business, the Beshara family and staff look forward to new growth, and the same values that have led to their success. The menu, for example, is one component that’s continually evolving. Finding inspiration in everything from national media and guest input to a collection of menus brought back to Kevin by travelers, the Colonial House menu seems to have a life of its own.
One factor that’s stayed the same? “People love comfort food,” says Kevin. “Whatever you grew up with…that plays a huge part in how we present ourselves as a business, and our food.” In the cuisine, in the hospitality, in the feeling you get when you walk through the door – the Colonial House treats guests like family, and welcomes them back with a smile time and time again. “We’re feeding individuals, as well as the heart and soul,” says Kevin. “If I’ve done that, I’ve done my job.”