ST. GEORGE — During a bike ride with his sons in 2014, Steve Hurst saw a sign advertising a commercial lot for sale at the corner of what would become 3000 South and Crimson Ridge Drive.
“They were both dirt roads then,” Hurst says, looking out the window of his newly-opened Crimson Corner Café at 3392 S. 3000 East in Little Valley.
“I bought the lot, thinking I’d just turn around and sell it,” Hurst says, laughing. “Then I thought I’d develop it. Then my wife, Sondra, and I agreed that at least one of the businesses that goes in there should be a restaurant. Then I thought: Why don’t we make our own restaurant? And here we are.”
The funny thing is, 14 years earlier, Hurst, a software designer, never imagined that he’d be sitting in his own restaurant.
“My family and I lived in Springville,” Hurst said. “We left our vacation home in Ivins one sunny weekend. And as soon as we got to Utah County, it was snowing. My wife and I looked at each other, and we had the exact same thought: Why do we live here?”
The Hursts moved to St. George at the first opportunity. Then he bought the lot where The Crimson Corner Café now stands along with its neighbors, Apple Valley Sourdough, which is owned and run by Steve’s brother, John Hurst, and Alumni Creamery.
Like many successful businessmen, Steve Hurst knows how to find and encourage talent within his family.
His brother, John Hurst, was a computational biologist before he became obsessed with sourdough.
“I worked out of my home for five years,” Hurst said. “I sold bread at the Design Canyon Farmer’s Market before it closed a few years ago.”
Hurst’s aspirations to become a baker were also helped along by the Utah Cottage Food Production program, which endeavors to help educate food vendors who make their goods at home while making sure their facilities and products are safe.
“They helped me get my kitchen in order,” Hurst said. “Starting in my home was great. Low overhead, you know. Then Steve approached me one day and asked if I wanted to help with the café.”
Since then, Hurst has made all the bread (except for the hamburger buns), and pizza dough, for the café.
“I don’t think I would have come this far without Steve,” Hurst said.
Bright sunshine pours in through the south- and west-facing windows, giving the café a spacious, airy feel. The sun is augmented by clusters of naked tungsten bulbs that dangle from exposed wood beams. The line at the counter is separated from the dining area by a row of large plants.
“Sansevieria,” Steve Hurst said. “All the plant design was done by Botanicals, a great local company.”
It’s nearly 1 p.m. on Monday. Hungry customers float up to the counter. The menu and a red-brick pizza oven vie for their attention as they wonder what’s inside.
In addition to an assortment of pizzas, like the Carnivore and the Vegetarian, customers can also get breakfast staples like omelets and French toast, salads and a variety of sandwiches.
“My favorite is the Reuben,” Hurst says. “Really, all of the menu items are things that we eat at home. It’s selfish, I know. But others seem to like it too.”
When asked how it feels to open a restaurant during a pandemic, Hurst sighs, looking out the window again.
“We weren’t ready to open in May,” Hurst said. “Or even June. Or even the Friday after Thanksgiving, which was our original plan.”
And Hurst was glad they delayed the opening because it gave them more time to train new employees and change the layout to better ensure social distancing.
“Our first priority is to keep everybody safe,” he said. “We had our grand opening Saturday, Dec. 5. It was busy, but people were very respectful and aware. They wore masks and kept their distance. It’s like everything in life. Balance is key.”
Of course, new business owners — especially restaurateurs — will tell you that balance is an elusive thing to come by. With all the various aspects of the day-to-day operations, keeping employees and customers happy, and making a profit, running a café can be exhausting.
“You think you’ve thought of everything until you realize that you haven’t,” Hurst said. “When I stop moving, I fall asleep.”
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