‘When you’re needed you go’: Owner of Mellow Fellow talks challenges of owning a bar in Tahoe
When Mellow Fellow first opened in 2012 it was one of the only restaurants in Lake Tahoe serving an extensive list of 40 craft beers. Though other bars have opened in the area since, owner Ryan Eller said his goal of bringing the best beer to Lake Tahoe hasn’t changed.
“We just try to find the weird and interesting and bring that to the forefront,” said Eller.
The first Mellow Fellow opened its doors in Kings Beach in June 2012. A year later Eller was forced to relocate to Truckee, after the building he was renting was foreclosed on. The bar has remained downtown ever since. With a background in business consulting and investment management, Eller said he felt like he had enough experience to open the restaurant/bar.
“The craft beer side of it was just passion of mine, something that I was really interested in,” he said.
Eller spent most of his life in big cities, working his first job out of college in Chicago before living in Dallas for seven years. After vacationing in Tahoe for nearly 15 years he decided to make the move.
“In big cities I think everyone just gets lost in the shuffle and you’re just part of this big machine,” he said.“It’s nice when you’re in a smaller town where what you do can have a real impact. You’re not just a drop in the bucket.”
While in Dallas he would frequent local craft breweries that had unique beers.
“I was trying stuff that I never thought I’d try,” he said. While visiting Lake Tahoe he thought the area needed something similar.
“For there to not be something that’s showcasing new styles of beer seemed strange to me. I felt like that was an opportunity and I thought, you know what, let’s just try it,” he said.
Since then similar restaurants and local breweries have opened in Truckee, producing beer that finds its way onto Mellow Fellow’s tap list. Eller has even opened a second location in Reno.
“In our area now there are probably 10 local breweries between Tahoe and Reno and a countless number of places that have an extensive tap list,” he said.
The challenge with his work now, he said, is managing two locations while finding reliable employees with the rising cost of housing.
“When I first started it seemed like there were a lot of folks who were eager, young and looking for opportunities,” said Eller. “Now there’s more jobs than there are people available.”
Keeping prices low enough to attract locals while taking care of his employees is a main focus of his business.
“You’re trying to keep your prices affordable for folks who live in the area, but to get good employees you have to pay significantly more than most places do in other cities,” he said.
Though day to day responsibilities are different from previous jobs he’s held, Eller said he’s happy he made the transition.
“It’s been a roller coaster so far,” he said. “You never know when you’re needed, but when you’re needed you go.”
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Truckee is offering a one-month extension for downtown businesses, allowing restaurants to continue to use outdoor patio spaces as a means to operate through the end of October, according to Assistant Town Manager Hilary Hobbs.