We had the good fortune of connecting with Jaimie Mackey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jaimie, can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Assembly is a community-focused restaurant that brings people together over fresh, seasonal, globally-inspired food and thoughtfully produced wine that is designed to share. Our mission is to create memorable experiences and care for our community through inspired and innovative flavors, exciting wines made by thoughtful producers, and exceptional service in a welcoming, inclusive environment. We always dreamed of owning and operating a restaurant and wine bar, and when the opportunity presented itself down the street from our house, we jumped at the chance. We couldn’t imagine anything better than getting to follow our dream in the town we call home, surrounded and supported by our friends and neighbors. Of course, opening a restaurant in 2020 came with a number of unexpected challenges.
The process began in August of 2019, when Jaimie went into labor the day we signed the contract to purchase our real estate. From there, we spent almost a year renovating the space while raising a newborn. We gutted the entire restaurant, including tearing down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and redesigned every element to reflect our sense of style but also to foster the feeling of community that is central to our concept. If that wasn’t hard enough, COVID happened. Just when we felt that we were finally making some headway, the world came to a halt as we were thrown into a global pandemic. We were so lucky to have a devoted team of professionals who were prepared to stay socially distanced, work one crew at a time, and keep us moving (slowly) forward so that we could eventually get the restaurant open. The timing was scary, because we had no idea if people would even WANT to eat at a restaurant in 2020. But it was a blessing in disguise, because we were able to watch what our peers, as well as industry leaders, were doing to keep their staff and their customers safe, and we could build that into our opening plan and standard operating procedures. What we’ve learned is that there is no right or easy way to open a restaurant, but when it comes to starting your own business, there will come a time where you have to take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.
We’ve learned on the fly, shifted and adapted at every turn, and continue to grow alongside an incredible team. We don’t think owning and operating a restaurant will ever feel easy, no matter how many years we have under our belts, but this wild ride has shown us that we can roll with the punches. It has also proven that the concept we’ve championed from day one was – and is – a good one. The response from our community, even in the throes of a pandemic and with all the restrictions social distancing has put in place, has been both humbling and inspiring.
What principle do you value most?
Our strongest value as a company is community – so much so that even the name of our restaurant, The Assembly, speaks to the idea of both being part of and creating a community. We care for our community by offering competitive wages, building relationships with local suppliers, partnering with local non-profits, and proactively implementing sustainable business practices. As residents of a small town in Colorado, we knew that we wanted the business we created to play an integral part in the place we call home. Eagle is incredibly close-knit, and we wanted The Assembly to be a place where our community could gather and come together over globally-inspired food and thoughtfully-produced wines. We also wanted the business itself to exist as a community. As husband and wife business owners with a 1-year-old who was born just 2 days after we signed a contract to purchase the real estate (Jaimie went into labor that night!), The Assembly is first and foremost a family business. We wanted that concept of family to extend to our staff, and have worked diligently to hire people who are looking for more than just a job, but an opportunity to be part of something in their community. We are working to foster community amongst our staff by providing a welcoming and exciting place to work and emphasizing living wages for our employees. The feeling of community then radiates further outward to our guests, our neighborhood, the town of Eagle, and the Vail Valley. We work with local suppliers, such as Buttercrunch Farms, whenever possible, and feature locally-made craft beers and spirits from creators like Bonfire Brewing, Vail Brewing Company, 808 Distillery, Stoneyard Distilling, and 10th Mountain. This idea of community is also apparent in our commitment to local charitable organizations. We are devoted supporters of the Eagle Valley Community Foundation. In lieu of giving out free dessert on a guest’s birthday or anniversary, we make monthly charitable donations in our guests’ honor. We’ve made donations to EVCF as well as the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, and will be making donations to organizations supporting California, Washington and Oregon winemakers who have been impacted by the recent devastating fires.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Eagle may be small, but there is so much to do here! We always encourage our friends and family to take advantage of Eagle’s bike path and trail system, whether it is for walking, biking, or hiking. We love going to Sylvan Lake, as it’s a beautiful and easy walk – especially with a baby in a carrier! – but also love the Shrine Ridge Trail at the top of Vail Pass. Yoga Off Broadway is the perfect place for a relaxing yoga class or a great barre workout, followed by coffee and a pastry at Color Coffee. For dining, our favorites are Grand Avenue Grill for breakfast or lunch, Bonfire Brewing for delicious local beer or to hang out for the afternoon (they have great live music!), Pickup’s Pizza for dinner at Bonfire or at home, or The Assembly for a great dinner out.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We owe so much of where we are today to our incredible consultant, Kelly Liken. As eager entrepreneurs with no restaurant experience, we hired Kelly early on to help us make sure things were done right. She was an invaluable resource, connecting us with the best suppliers and vendors, helping us design and select equipment for our kitchen, selecting plates and glassware, and even joining the interview process as we hired our executive chef. Over the course of nine months, she helped keep us on track, point us in the right direction, and turn our big ideas into big goals and big plans. We are so grateful for all she has done for us professionally, and are so lucky that she has become an amazing friend of our family. Her daughter was the very best kids menu taste-tester, her husband Rick offered his incredible restaurant expertise to help us kick-start our wine and beverage program, and we get so much joy from seeing them in the restaurant nearly every week. It is a business relationship-turned-friendship that we will cherish forever.
Susi Thurman of New Roots Photography https://www.newrootsphotography.com/