If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
Today, we’re joined by Jeff Dalling. You can normally find Jeff managing his Commercial St. restaurant, Coffee Mug, which his grandparents started here in Elko back on January 1st of 1987. Jeff has also recently opened a new events venue just down the road from the Coffee Mug; this space is a perfect location for a reception or meeting hall. Jeff himself plans to hold his upcoming birthday party in the building! Furthermore, this week it was used as an interview room as AAT sat down with Jeff to talk about his work and his love for downtown Elko. However, before we get into any other topics, let’s take a moment to get to know a little bit about Jeff, himself. “I was brought to Elko when I was a year old after my parents got a divorce; I was born in Silicon Valley. I lived with my grandparents out in Pleasant Valley before moving away when I was five and bounced around for a while. I used to spend Summers here, and Elko had always had a warm spot in my heart; I had a lot of good memories growing up. After high school, I went to attend the University of Nevada Reno to get my bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and when I was doing that, because I couldn’t afford college, I joined the Nevada Air Guard for twelve years. Joining up with them was probably one of the better decisions I’ve made; I met lifetime friends there and just had a good time. However, the best decision I ever made was learning how to fly! I spent six months in Uzbekistan; it wasn’t a great place, but after I got back I started taking flight lessons. Flight lessons opened a whole new world for me. I flew everywhere; those were the good days!”
“I was flying, working in Reno, and everything was great. And then, in November of 2009, I flew back here to Elko to help my grandparents close down the Coffee Mug after some of their other associates let the restaurant get into a lot of financial trouble as they were going to take it over from them, but my grandparents’ names were still on all of the guarantors on the licenses and with the vendors. We closed it down for five days, but the staff talked us into re-opening it. Again, I was only supposed to help for a bit and then fly back to Reno and get back to work, but my grandma asked, after seeing how good of a job I did managing everything, if I would take it over. It took a while for me to finally make my decision because it was such a big move, and I did have family here who could have done it. However, I said yes, and I moved back in December of 2009. From there, we just hit the ground running and… shoot; it’s been nine years, now! We just celebrated five years at our current location, back in August.”
Thanks for sharing some of your story with us, Jeff. Now, your businesses currently reside at the downtown corridor, but that was not always the case. The Coffee Mug, for example, as moved locations a couple of times in its existence. When I (Anthony Crosby) moved to Elko in 2011, the restaurant’s home was over in the Elko Junction Shopping Center. After some unfortunate chain of events, you had to move out of that building and set up shop downtown. How as that whole transition worked out for you overall? Do you enjoy operating out of the city’s center? “The move has been great, for downtown Elko and us. I’ll be honest, when I first moved here, it (downtown) was sketchy, and the block we’re currently on was the worst because everything was boarded up. It was rough; I was afraid to come downtown and not be off the freeway. However, I feel as if we get more people off the freeway now because when people come into town, they go to Google and look at our customer’s amazing reviews. Therefore, we get people who want the coziness of a local mom and pop joint. And in a perfect world, because the Mug is bringing in five hundred to seven hundred fifty people down to our area a day, I would like to see these people stay downtown and visit some of the other businesses down here like the museum, the antique store, have a coffee at Cowboy Joes or a beer at The Stray Dog etc. People are just downtown, shopping, having a good time because that synergy is there! It would be nice because sometimes I feel like my customers come into the Mug and then go on their way, which was not what I was expecting. But that’s where something like my event venue comes into play, something to help bring a little more of that synergy to downtown. You can have a wedding reception there and then walk down to Machi’s or The Star when the official party is over! That’s what I’m hoping for our downtown area.”
As a Downtown Business Association board member and someone on the Elko planning commission, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when Jeff insisted that we turn the interview into a walk and talk as he was excited to take me around downtown and further share with me his heart for the area. Our entire conversation would be a little much to fit into this one article, but you can believe the passion from Jeff was there. We made our way over to the Chilton Centennial Tower and the “Train Park” and continued to chat as laborers were already hard at work improving the area. “I’m pretty proud of downtown,” Jeff explained. ” We’re not all the way there, but at the end of the day, we are trying to do something nice. It will get there. I believe most big cities would give their right arm to have our downtown corridor! I would like to see a little amphitheater, for live music and maybe something like Shakespeare in the park, and a splash pad out here! That’s MY vision to see this whole thing be very family friendly, but you have to compromise with everyone else; you can’t just have my vision. I feel like we’re on the right track now; a lot of us are on the same the same page to get things done.”
“I’m fully committed to downtown; I believe in it. I’m committed to making this place go! More than just being involved with the board and the committees, I try to really put my money where my mouth is as I do have a big investment with the Coffee Mug. It is a lot of work, but I really do enjoy it, and I want to see this place succeed.”
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See you around a local business, Elko!