LEAD | Jordan Sewell couldn’t find work as a welder, so naturally he decided to open a pizzeria.
Sewell is a Minnesotan by birth, but he hails from a lot of places, really. He was just passing through the Black Hills earlier this year and fell in love with Lead.
He rented an upstairs apartment at 312 W. Main St., but with no luck in securing a welding job, he took a fresh look at the vacant first floor of his building, most recently a Hawaiian-themed café, and something clicked.
“I walked through and everything just seemed too perfect,” he said. “It all fell together for a pizzeria.”
Never mind that while he had worked in pizza places before, he had never actually run a restaurant.
However, he had traveled widely, circling the globe a couple times. Beside welding, his eclectic background had included sheepherding in Switzerland and training horses elsewhere in Europe. His cellphone number has an area code from Hawaii.
Feeding both a desire to put down roots and to give back to his newfound home, he poured himself into the nuances of running a pizza joint and proved to be a quick study.
“I learned the whole gig in about three weeks,” he said. “I’m still learning to this day.”
Sewell had a soft opening for his Gold Mine Pizzeria on July 29, a day otherwise marred by significant damage from a massive hailstorm that struck the Northern Hills, including a tornado touching down in Spearfish Canyon.
Sewell started with a small table-top sized commercial pizza oven, but has since upgraded to a larger oven to handle the demand. He obtained the 1,200-pound oven via an online auction and had it shipped from Pennsylvania.
“It’s upped my game a little bit,” he said.
Sewell said he often relied on the hospitality of others during his world travels and now relishes the idea of welcoming others to his pizzeria.
“People can literally come into my place because I live upstairs,” he said. “I love the joy that food brings to people.”
Elsewhere in Lead, more recent additions have added to the culinary diversity of the Mile High City.
High Country Grub & Waterin’ Hole
Just up the street from Gold Mine Pizzeria, Tom Moysis and his fiancée Chelsey Swanson opened the High Country Grub & Waterin’ Hole at 32 Baltimore St. in late July.
Moysis said his passion for smoked meats, especially pork, and Chelsey’s experience in bar management dovetailed in the new bar and restaurant, drawing on the altitude, mining and logging heritage of Lead for its name. Friends offered menu suggestions.
“We saw the need for a restaurant that served breakfast in Lead, because there was nothing,” Swanson said.
Besides breakfast, including bacon which has been drawing raves, she said, other specialties include steaks, smoked meats, large portions and a relaxed, family atmosphere.
“We’ve been full bore since July 30,” Moysis said. “I definitely want to thank all the people that helped make this happen.”
Even with an extensive menu, Moysis and Swanson say they are willing to cater to customer wishes. Want a chicken-fried steak for breakfast? No problem, they say.
They are also focused on the small-town cohesiveness, with once-a-month benefit events, and with Tom’s prior service in the Marines, honoring veterans.
“This isn’t our place. We might pay the mortgage and the bills, but this is a place for family, friends and the community to come,” Swanson said.
El Jefe Fresh-Mex Cantina
Tom and Karen Kean’s desire for a decent fish taco helped them decide to open El Jefe Fresh-Mex Cantina at 161 W. Main St. in late August.
“I tell people we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for fish tacos. We just couldn’t find good fish tacos here,” said Tom Kean, who can list former executive chef for Gold Dust Casino on a long food-service resume.
Tom also spent 20 years near Rocky Mountain National Park, learning the ins and outs of preparing authentic salsas
His wife, Karen, is a former director of the Lead Chamber of Commerce. Her background also includes property management, cafe ownership and work as an insurance auditor
She grew up in southern California not far from the Mexican border where the cuisine was part of the lifestyle.
Tom Kean said the new cantina is set up like a Qdoba or Chipotle restaurant, where patrons choose an entrée, then personalize it with their choice of meat, sauce and toppings.
They opened El Jefe later than planned because of delivery and plumbing issues, missing the bulk of the summer tourism season, but that’s OK, since they don’t want to be limited as a seasonal restaurant.
“We’re after the local year-round business,” Tom said.
Tom and Karen are also planning to start a dinner club in Lead at some point.
“That where Tom can really strut his stuff,” Karen said.
The social and business atmosphere in Lead is greatly enhanced with the addition of three new eateries in the downtown corridor, she said.
Additionally, a new coffee house, Java Joint, recently opened at 145 Glendale Drive, and a beauty salon is coming later this year to West Main Street just a few doors from the pizzeria.
“There’s fun feel here,” she said. “There’s a lot of life going on.”