Inspiration can come from the most unexpected sources. While the concept of Osgood’s had been rolling around in my mind for awhile, it took a fortune cookie and a visit to a Vermont hardware store to get it off the ground.
I had been working in the field of educational assessment, first at ACT and then The University of Iowa. Being a history geek for as long as I can remember, writing history questions and creating social studies tests was right up my alley. While at lunch one day, I opened a fortune cookie that contained this slip of paper:
That little piece of paper made me realize I missed working in restaurants, where I started my adult working life as a manager for first a national Mexican restaurant chain and then a national bagel chain. Those jobs had their share of frustrations, but I enjoyed the fast pace, the comradery of the employees, and the interaction with the regular customers. I began putting together the pieces of what my own restaurant would look like and began discussing the idea with my wife, Sandy. At first the challenges and pitfalls seemed too large, but then Sandy and I visited tiny Cabot, Vermont.
Cabot has a population of 1,500 and is best known for its cheese factory. We enjoy taking factory tours while on vacation and love cheese, so this tour was a no-brainer. Having some time to kill, we strolled into downtown Cabot, which consists of not much more than a grocery store and Harry’s Hardware. The hardware store has a gas pump out front and a small diner in the back. Its most interesting feature, however, is the sit-down bar smack dab in the middle of the store. It is one of only three hardware stores in the country to also be a bar. Harry’s owner was the only one working and despite it being 10:00 a.m., a conversation was started over a flight of local beers and some popcorn. In addition to owning Harry’s, this friendliest of bartenders and his wife also owned the town’s grocery store. Despite the challenges he faced on a daily basis, he said he was glad he took the plunge. It was at that moment Sandy realized we could make Osgood’s a reality.
Sandy is an Iowa farm girl at heart. She now works in IT for United Fire Group (UFG) and has a more practical way of looking at things than I usually do. Early in our marriage, one of my employees asked me if Sandy was a good cook. My reply was, “Well, she has Hamburger Helper down pat.” Twenty-six years of marriage and raising two sons has helped improve her cooking abilities (she makes the world’s best pumpkin cheesecake!) but she is content to let me handle the food side of Osgood’s while taking care of the day-to-day bookkeeping.
Our sons Josh and Calvin were instrumental in making Osgood’s a reality by taste-testing products, making menu recommendations, and helping move in kitchen equipment. Josh is a senior at Iowa State majoring in civil engineering and Calvin is a freshman at Iowa State majoring in Forestry.
About the name Osgood’s – Osgood Shepherd was Cedar Rapids’ first permanent settler, having built a cabin in 1838 approximately where the Tree of Five Seasons stands today. This was eight years before Iowa statehood, and the territory was still part of the nation’s frontier. Osgood was very much a pioneer. While Sandy and I don’t claim to be pioneers in the sense that Osgood was, this move into restaurant ownership is new territory for us. Having been raised to value friendships and a good day’s work, we hope to provide downtown Cedar Rapids fresh, fast breakfast and lunch items in a friendly atmosphere that will add to the history of Cedar Rapids for many years to come.
We look forward to meeting you!