Adams State alumna acts locally with fresh restaurant concept

(06-08-2017)

Window signage at Locavores touts "local farms, fresh veggies, craft sauces," and "real meat." "Real" is the operative concept at this new fast-casual restaurant in Alamosa, Colo. It features food sourced from within a 200-mile radius of Alamosa in southern Colorado's San Luis Valley, an agricultural region known for potato production. The restaurant doesn't even have a freezer - they roast fresh meats daily, starting at 5 a.m. "It's like cooking for Thanksgiving every day," said owner Wendi Seger.

"I'm not a real foodie. I like basic things," she added. The menu offers a half dozen entrée choices and gives diners flexibility to build their own on a base of pita, tortilla, baked potato, salad greens, or lettuce wrap. Customers place their orders at a counter and observe the meal preparation.

"I was put off by brands that were not honest. That's what people want, a transparent brand," she said, adding, "I also wanted to support and provide a platform for our local farming community - we have all this food here. I wanted fresh, healthy food. I wanted to bring wellness and goodness to people's lives. I wanted to prove a restaurant could be done this way, and the community has welcomed us with open arms."

The Locavore motto, "Fresh Inspired Food," is conveyed throughout the open, light-filled restaurant. Spring green walls display oversized photos of vegetables, and a large map shows diners exactly where their food comes from. In addition to potatoes, San Luis Valley producers provide honey, organic sausage, and lamb. The kitchen also stocks Palisade peaches and Pueblo chiles.

Locavores owner Wendi Seger (center) with restaurant staff at the lettuce wall.

"I always had a desire to create something of my own. I have lots of ideas. My business plan was like writing another dissertation," Seger laughed. She holds an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from Argosy University, in addition to a B.A. in psychology and M.A. in counseling from Adams State University in Alamosa. While that educational background may not obviously relate to the restaurant business, it all connects for Seger. She's the first to admit her career path has not been a linear one. After searching and researching to find her niche, she and her farmer husband, Matt, chose to launch a restaurant because it was something they could do together. "It combines our interests and talents."

"My master's degree program was a life-changing experience that helped me live a more authentic self. I couldn't promote the Locavores' brand without understanding authenticity," Seger said. "I don't think I'd be here today if not for my counseling degree. There's an element of psychology to business, understanding people's needs. I wanted to provide a place that makes people feel connected, feel important."

While Seger said it can be challenging to find employees who embrace that concept, she has clearly cultivated it in her staff. Manager Marc Danielson called the Locavore culture "real - real interactions, quality food." Like half of Seger's employees, he is a student at her alma mater. In fact, she said classroom discussions often extend into the workplace. That's beneficial as she and her staff work to refine and evolve their processes. "We talk about it a lot, it's very deliberate. I really love to learn, and I love mentoring," she said. Seger's goal? "I would love to take this concept regionally."

By Julie Waechter