Spotlight on Van Alstyne – The Roost
We recently visited The Roost, here in Van Alstyne, had some lunch and then sat down and had an enjoyable chat with owners Ben and Chantae Simmons. We had the opportunity to learn about them, their love for fresh food and how they ended up in Van Alstyne.
Running a small business can be challenging, and opening a restaurant definitely has it’s share of challenges! We wanted to know how Ben and Chantae got into the restaurant business and what brought them to Van Alstyne.
Ben told us: “I’m from the northeast and moved to Dallas in 2009. I’ve always cooked. I’m half Italian, we just always cooked and I like to cook! In New England, where I’m from, they specialize in Deli’s. Everything is made fresh right there, and I always thought that would be so cool down here, because you don’t see anything like that. My background originally, is all insurance. I was the manager of the claims department for Progressive Insurance for 17 years. Nine years in Connecticut and seven or eight here. I was just done with corporate America, and the commute was terrible. It’s always been my dream, and when this space opened up, we just walked into it. We live in Van Alstyne, and if we hadn’t done it, every time I crossed these tracks on my way to work I would have had a ‘what if’ moment, every day. So, we just put all our chips in and said ‘let’s just do it’. I like the concept stuff that we took from everywhere we’ve travelled, San Diego, Florida, Chicago, we took a lot of stuff that we liked at different places, whether it be decor or food and incorporated it into our own, and then while we were opening we started with a very limited menu, and it took two or three months for us to actually open. We officially opened April 11th of 2018. It evolved a lot faster that we thought as far as not only menu, concept, everything changed on a whim, and we just rode it through.”
Chantae said: “My family has restaurants in Dallas called Ojeda’s, and they’ve been established for many years. So growing up, we were kind of part of that, but I never worked there. We bounced ideas off of them, to see if our concepts were good or not. For Ben, it’s a passion, he loves to cook, and I mainly stick to front of the house.
People will ask me ‘what kind a beer goes with this?’ But ultimately, it’s a group effort. Everybody has a hand in it, someone will say ‘hey I saw this the other day and I think it might be cool, can I try it out?’ So, we’ll have the guys try it out and everybody gets to taste it, and if they like it we put it out there as a special.”
It’s always interesting to learn where people come up with their unique names for their businesses. When we asked Ben and Chantae how they came up with the name, The Roost, both of them started laughing and Chantae explained, “we had two roosters that my dad gave us. He bought them originally to cook them, and when my kids saw the roosters they fell in love and wouldn’t let him harm them. So, dad was like, “you have to take them home now.” So we took them home and named one Taco Tim and the other ‘Faluta’ Phil. When Ben first came to Dallas and we went to a Mexican restaurant he was like ‘what’s a faluta?’ I was like, ‘flauta???’ So now, we call them falutas! One of the roosters disappeared, and the kids would go outside and call for him; ‘Rooster, roost!’ So when it came to naming the restaurant, we chose The Roost.”
We were curious how many people The Roost employed, who their target audience might be and what Ben and Chantae saw regarding growth for The Roost. They were both eager to share with us the details as they let us know! They told us, “Currently, we have about ten total on staff. Two full time kitchen staff and the rest are part time wait staff. When we have our best days, it’s been with families of three or four, so typically families with young kids tend to be our target clients. We’ve tried to make it where its fun, by putting games on the tables to keep the kids interested. We wanted a place that had music and games on the tables. The kids have fun, which lets the parents have fun and enjoy conversations, and we wanted it to be close to home, so people didn’t have to drive to McKinney or Sherman. When we started we figured we’d start small, small menu so we could control and perfect what we were doing since we hadn’t been in this business before. We figure as the town grows, we’ll grow with it. Originally, when we first started looking for a space it was one that had an outdoor space too so we could be more like a destination. Eventually, we see ourselves at some point owning something, and we’d like to have an outdoor space or patio. Being a restaurant in a small town, it can be hard to survive because it’s hit or miss. You’re not constantly busy. But, thankfully, it’s been steady growth for us.”
Aside from the business, are you involved in any other activities in the community?
They both told us, “We are working with the Van Alstyne Education Foundation. About six weeks ago we started delivering discounted meals to the teachers. We started at Partin one week, and then moved to Sanford, then to the middle school, then the admin building. We offer discounted meals, free delivery, that way the can look forward to something fresh and new. We’re also working with them on the gala at the end of March, and we’re working with them on the 5K. We’re talking bout being co-sponsors for the Little Big Town 5K. We have a lot of ideas to help with fundraising. There will be specials in April where we will donate a percentage to the Education Foundation. The Education Foundation is, our kids, and it’s our community and it’s getting that support within the city, getting other businesses and getting everybody involved. It’s more of a partnership. The other thing we do is support other businesses in the area. We feel that’s really important to us, because we know how hard it is to have a family owned business. We try to promote other businesses like we do our own. We started that last year, kind of like these spotlights, I think the more community support we have here and the more positive messages we have about businesses, it will take away from all the negative stuff you see online. We want to be a part of that positive influence. We’ve established good relationships with Al (Romano’s Pizza) and Jafar (Jafar’s Mediterranean Grill). Competition is good for everybody. We repost their stuff, and they repost ours. We eat there and they eat here. We have a good working relationship, and I think that’s healthy for everybody. We want everyone to appreciate all the businesses downtown.”
When we asked them what they’d like people to know about The Roost, they both passionately explained, “The thing we take pride in, is that we make a lot of things from scratch. We don’t buy frozen meat. All our greens are organic. We’re not farm-to-table, but we’re not shopping at Sam’s. All of our appetizers are fresh, they come fresh and we bread them ourselves. That, we take pride in. It’s not like we’re cookie cutter fast food. The other thing we take pride in is the people we have here. We’ve been able to employ some really great people, and I don’t think everybody sees that. When people come in, they see their server. Each one of these people care, so when there is a negative review about their service, it is something that hits home, because they have families they go home to, and they want to be proud of what they do. The guys in the back, if we messed up on something, it’s a discussion because there is a lot of pride that goes into what comes out here. Because they do put so much time and dedication into trying to make it a great experience, trying to make the food, something that makes you go ‘wow, I want to go back.’ We’ve got guys in the back that are great with their ideas and we love to bring them out, so we can say ‘hey, this is our chef, this is who’s back there cooking your food’. We don’t always get to do that because they’re usually pretty busy. But to bring them out and say this person said this is the best burger they’ve ever had. And to let them hear and see that, they go home beaming.”
You could see and hear the pride Ben and Chantae have for The Roost and those that work for them. We wrapped up our conversation with them by asking them how they would like to see Van Alstyne grow and change? Both of them expressed a want and need for signage on the highway exit that would draw people to the downtown area. They told us they felt many people didn’t even realize when they stop to pull off for gas, that we have a whole beautiful downtown area with businesses for shopping and restaurants. Having some sort of signage pointing them in this direction would be beneficial for all involved.
The Roost has been a part of Van Alstyne Chamber since they opened in April of 2018 and the Chamber would like to thank The Roost and it’s employees for continuing to serve the community of Van Alstyne.
The Roost - Ben and Chantae Simmons, Owners
126 S. Main St., Van Alstyne, TX 75495