Meet the Lady Whose Grilled Rueben Sandwich is Famous.

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Founder, Lucky’s Cafe

Heather HavilandWith her commitment to offering a creative menu using only fresh, locally grown ingredients, Featured Lady Heather Haviland took Lucky’s Café from a neighborhood coffee house to an internationally known eatery. In 2003, Heather rented space in Lucky’s Cafe for her pastry company and began baking out of a storage closet; three years later, she bought into the business and expanded the menu (and kitchen!). Last year Lucky’s Café appeared on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and was named recently 2010’s Best Brunch in Cleveland. Celebrity patrons include Chrissie Hyde of The Pretenders, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, REM, Quentin Tarantino and Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.

Heather chose the road less traveled on her journey to becoming a professional chef and business owner. Although her mom owned a catering company, and Heather herself worked in kitchens from age twelve to pay for college, she didn’t immediately see culinary arts in her future. After majoring in the anatomy of peaceful change at Kent State University, Heather left school to join Amigas de las Americas, a precursor to the Peace Corps. In preparation for an assignment in Haiti, she learned survival training, how to give immunizations and dig latrines.

Unfortunately, due to Haiti’s unstable political climate, Heather never went. Instead, she headed to Washington, DC and worked for a restaurant. “It appealed to me that despite the politics, great food was bringing people together,” Heather says. “Then I had an epiphany. Cooking was something I did all my life, but I was being hard-headed about it becoming my career.”

With no money left to attend culinary school, for the next decade Heather traveled and worked for chefs in Chicago, Maryland, Upstate New York, Seattle, Portland and Washington, DC. “Then in 2001 I realized being a chef meant there was no time to see my family.” Back in Cleveland, Heather’s mom was suffering from Alzheimer’s and her siblings were starting families, so she moved home. She did culinary consulting and continued working as a chef. Two years later, Heather launched her baking business, Sweet Mosaic, out of Lucky’s Café. In 2006, she became a partner in the business.

Lucky's cafe“When I was asked about becoming a partner, I looked at the books. Unless you’re a big company, just selling coffee is a hard way to make money,” Heather explains. “You need buying power.” She began cooking food on a 2×4 table using camping burners and a small oven. Heathers creative menu, combined with her beautiful presentation and farm-to-table ingredients caught the interest of patrons and food bloggers.

When Heather got the call from The Food Network about appearing on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, she wasn’t familiar with the show. “When I heard the name of the program I said, ‘Who are you calling a dive?’” The Food Network discovered Lucky’s Café when researchers perused local cuisine blogs and surveyed local food writers about unique eateries. Lucky’s Café was always mentioned.

“Lucky’s is different than other restaurants because our food is a very eclectic blend,” says Heather. “Plus, I’ll take a classic dish and make it more natural by preparing it from scratch with ingredients I grow myself. I don’t know many other restaurants that do that.”

Getting its seven minutes of fame on The Food Network doubled business for Lucky’s Café, which isn’t on a main drag. However, the winter before appearing on the show, the restaurant was struggling. “I looked at my payroll and personally went nine months without a paycheck,” says Heather. “My employees are passionate people who I discovered were working for less than they should.” Heather looked at the payroll hours compared with the number of people working and realized things didn’t add up. “I began researching who worked but didn’t clock in and discovered that the staff figured out what they needed to earn to get by and only put in for that amount of time.”

Thanks to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Lucky’s Café is gaining well-deserved attention. “Even though we were at max capacity on weekends before the show, we’re now full two to three times a week,” Heather says. “Financially, I’m current with my farmers and closer to paying my staff what they should earn as an industry wage.”

Heather is dedicated to supporting and promoting Ohio farmers and producers by showcasing the bounty of their harvest in her products. “We offer our customers an alternative to the mass produced by committing our passion for the craft to creating good, wholesome food,” she says.

What we learned from Heather: “Really think about what you’re willing to give up to be a small business owner.”

Family Ties

“Be careful about going into business with family. When you own a business, you’ll struggle and fight. You need your family for support.”

Getting Fresh

“My father had a farm and we ate a lot of fresh food. We had no money to buy frozen, prepared foods. Being poor, there were times I wished we could have had Wonder Bread or Kraft Mac and Cheese.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe® Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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