Phil Castle, The Business Times
Spike Howard recalls his first year in the restaurant business and how his family started out with no money or experience, but lots of energy.
More than 40 years later, Howard still works nearly every day. While he’s got more money and savvy, he still brings lots of energy to the operation — along with an unwavering commitment to serving his customers and the community.
Given the changes in the Grand Valley and restaurant industry, Howard says it feels like he’s worked more than four decades. But that’s OK. “I still love this business,” he says.
Howard is one of two men who, along with their mother, launched Dos Hombres in 1977. The Mexican restaurant recently marked the beginning of its 40th year in business with a celebration that’s expected to continue throughout the year with drawings, anniversary specials and new menu items at both the Clifton and Redlands locations.
Howard attributes the longevity of Dos Hombres to its consistently good food and service. But the business also serves as an example for the aspiring entrepreneurs with which he says he sometimes talks. “They can start with nothing and succeed as long as they’re willing to work hard.”
Howard, his brother Scott and mother Gloria started out in 1974 in taking over a deli on First Street in Grand Junction. While they sold a variety of foods, Spike Howard says some of their most popular fare included burritos, tacos and other Mexican dishes.
On April 1, 1977, the three opened a restaurant they named Dos Hombres — the Spanish words for two men — on Brach Drive in the Redlands. Spike Howard says the idea from the start was to offer an American interpretation of Sonoran-style Mexican food that’s influenced by New Mexico and the chilies grown there.
In 1981, the Howards opened a second location of Dos Hombres in the Coronado Plaza in Clifton.
In 1983, they built a new restaurant in the Redlands. That restaurant remains in operation, although the facility underwent remodeling and renovations in 2013. A new Dos Hombres restaurant was constructed in Clifton in 2002.
Over the years, the Howards operated up to five Dos Hombres restaurants with additional locations in Glenwood Springs and Colorado Springs, although they subsequently closed those operations.
Spike Howard says he and his brother eventually agreed to divide the company, with Spike owning the restaurant in Clifton and Scott the operation in the Redlands.
In 2015, Scott sold the Dos Hombres in Redlands to Jake Sigle, his general manager. Scott and his wife, Mo, continue to operate the Dream Cafe and Rockslide in downtown Grand Junction. In addition to the Dos Hombres in Clifton, Spike remains a partner in the Elk Creek Mining Company Bar & Grill in New Castle.
Spike Howard attributes the longevity of Dos Hombres to its consistently good food and service in the midst of a changing economy that over the years has included the so-called Black Sunday announcement Exxon was pulling out of its oil shale development project in Western Colorado that triggering a regional bust as well as the more recent Great Recession. Despite the conditions, Dos Hombres has never missed a payroll or tax payment, he says.
The restaurant industry has changed over the years as well, he says. The profusion of national chains has made business far more competitive. Meanwhile, consumers have become more discerning in their demand for quality ingredients and preparations.
The Internet and social media have affected restaurant operations, too, he says, with quick feedback and reviews that are sometimes constructive and sometimes vindictive.
Howard also attributes the success of Dos Hombres to an ongoing effort to give back to the community. That includes Wednesday night promotions in which the restaurant donates 10 percent of sales to a local nonprofit group. “It’s been really gratifying and really fun.”
While Howard says he’s always trying out new menu items to serve along with the long-time favorites his customers enjoy, he doesn’t plan any substantial changes to Dos Hombres.
He also doesn’t expect to change the level of energy he still brings to the operation. Even after more than 40 years, he continues to work nearly every day. “I feel really good, and I like what I do.”
Dos Hombres restaurants are located at 421 Brach Drive in the Redlands area of Grand Junction and 3245 Interstate 70 Business Loop in Clifton. For additional information, visit the website located at www.go2dos.com.