With all the change in 2020, you’d be forgiven if you missed something new: an ownership change at The Dickens. On March 1, Anthony Sanschagrin and Noella Colandreo took over at the well-known Main Street restaurant.
A quiet sign change gave clues that things were different. On the windows, some observant people noticed it now features a new name, Dickens 300 Prime, and a beef- focused logo. That quiet change offered a hint to what the new Dickens is about.
As an experienced restaurant owner and the venue’s new executive chef, Sanschagrin plans to reorient the menu from tavern food to steak and seafood dishes.
“We’re planning to focus on Colorado upper two-thirds beef. Things like a prime-aged filet, beef striploin, ribeye and roasted prime rib,” he said.
Sanschagrin also is planning to fly in fresh seafood three days a week, an approach that calls back to his Florida restaurant past.
The new menu focus isn’t the only change the pair are planning — they’ve completed big renovations to the restaurant kitchen and the Opera House. When customers head upstairs for an event, they’ll notice the formerly dark walls are lighter, that the booths are missing, and there’s new flooring that replaces the carpet.
The pair plans to use the Opera House space in a new way— as an events venue. While they’ll continue to host shows, they’re also ready to host weddings, group gatherings and corporate functions. Colandreo, who has event planning experience, will head up this initiative.
The pair, who moved to Colorado in 2017, settled on purchasing the Dickens after an extensive regional search. They learned the business was for sale through an anonymous ad and, charmed by the building’s nostalgic appeal and Main Street location, finalized the purchase.
As it turned out, the timing of their purchase proved to be stressful due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mandatory restaurant closures were put in place weeks after they took over and just prior to St. Patrick’s Day, traditionally one of the restaurant’s busiest holidays.
“It was just in time for us to order thousands of dollars in food and liquor for St. Paddy’s Day,” Sanschagrin said ironically.
While things were uncertain, the pair controlled what they could, keeping to the tavern-style offerings until they knew they’d get enough customer volume to support the new menu.
“You can only imagine just buying a new business and going into one of the biggest holidays of the new year, with all of that excitement that built up, and you’re just getting ready to execute and your ground is pulled out from underneath you. It’s challenging. All we could do was push forward and adapt,” Sanshagrin said.
As in-service dining for restaurants remained closed during both Mother’s Day and Easter, the stressors didn’t ease up. With that in mind, Sanshagrin and Colandreo used those holidays to introduce the new menu and test how the public would respond to the food. Eventually, they felt confident enough to officially debut the new menu.
Diners seem open to the changes. John Jacobs, a Longmont resident, returned to the restaurant after a two-year absence. As he sat on the shady, street-level patio, he tried the mango-topped salmon filet over rice and said he appreciated the new menu.
As dining maintains what might be a new normal in a world with COVID-19, Sanschagrin and Colandreo are looking forward to settling in and being part of the community. To date, they’ve connected with other business owners and community members through Zoom meetings.
“It will be nice to see them face to face,” Colandreo said.
They’re also planning to slowly open up the Opera House to events. On Sept. 12, they will host Eagles tribute band, The Long Run, with attendance capped at 50 people, heavy sanitation methods in place, and a request for attendees to social distance and remain seated. Tickets weren’t on sale as of press time but will be listed on the Opera House website.
Sanschagrin also is looking forward to continuing to engage with the community at events like Longmont Restaurant Week in September.
“We’re excited about being here, being a staple in the community. Restaurant Week gives us that chance to engage with people,” Sanschagrin said.” We want to invite them in and have them see what we’re all about.”