Eating breakfast at The Buff is almost a Boulder rite of passage. Since 1995, when Jacquie and Chris Meyer opened what’s become the locals’ favorite breakfast restaurant, The Buff (2600 Canyon Blvd.) has been helping us rise and shine with pecan caramel quesadillas, loaded skillets and those 99-cent mimosas and Bloody Marys. We asked Jacquie how the 29-year-restaurant-owning ride has been, if she has any regrets and, yes, whether Deion Sanders is a customer. (We had to!)
Why did you originally want to open The Buff?
Chris was the manager at Le Peep across the street from the Best Western’s Golden Buff restaurant, and I was a server there. The restaurant was up for grabs. I was a mother of three living on $18,000 a year at the time, so we decided to put a game plan together and we did. We put a business plan together, they accepted it, and in 1995 we opened.
How did you get the money together to open a restaurant?
There was a hobby shop right down below Le Peep, and my little boys would always be so excited to go in. The hobby shop owner believed in us, and he said he’d put up some of the collateral.
Has the food been the same since the beginning?
We came up with all the recipes ourselves. A couple of the things are still the same—I think all the skillets have been there since day one, for the last 29 years. As time goes on, we filter through what works and doesn’t work. At one time we had a marinara sauce and panini machine; we’ve had sweet potatoes on our menu. Periodically we add something new or take something off if it’s not a winner.
The restaurant industry is notoriously brutal. What challenges have you faced?
The struggles were tough. There are endless stories over the years of what it took, but basically blood, sweat and literally tears, day in and day out. We worked every single solitary day, and that was really tough, especially having families. My oldest son is now 40—he started working at 13, bussing tables. We still have one son working there. All five kids have worked there at some point.
For some reason, back when we opened, I decided we had to have cloth napkins. Something to set us apart and feel a little fancier. If the washing machine went out, I’d have to go over to use the hotel’s, and I’d still be there until seven at night rolling silverware thinking, ‘What have I done?’
One of the things people know you for are the 99-cent Bloody Marys and mimosas. You have to lose money on those, right?
Oh yeah, totally. And it’s OK. It was a loss leader, and then it just became part of our DNA, so we couldn’t change it. Everyone knows at The Buff you get your 99-cent Bloody Marys. At one time we didn’t have a limit on it, and we learned quickly that you have to put a limit on it! (There’s now a limit of three per customer.)
The Buff moved across Canyon in 2014. Why’d you decide to change locations?
We didn’t have a choice. They sold the land. It ended up being great—from that time on, sales increased 40 percent. There’s better parking, better visibility.
What’s it like to mean so much to this community?
There are so many regulars; we know exactly what they want as soon as they walk in through the door. If you don’t change things too much, it gives people comfort. I had a note the other day from a sweet girl whose father passed away. She said she came into The Buff because she needed something to feel like home, and she said, ‘That’s what you guys gave me.’
And I have to ask—has Coach Prime been in?
Deion, all the time! The coaches’ wives come in all the time, too. It’s been that way from the get-go. A long time ago, I was [former CU football] Coach Bill McCartney’s secretary. We’ve been blessed by it. [For Deion] it’s tough on busy days—he pulled up not too long ago, but he didn’t come in because with so many people, he’s gonna get slammed. It’s better for him to come in in the middle of the week.