Nosh is dream come true for former corporate executive
BY MELANIE MORRISSEY CLARK
Lila Anderson had a great job as director of operations with TD Ameritrade in Fort Worth, Texas. She supervised 300 people and found her work fulfilling.
A small part of her always wondered what it would be like to start a business of her own, but she wasn’t curious enough to quit her great job in the corporate world.
Then her company reorganized, and her position was eliminated.
In the second half of her life, with a nice severance and stock options, Anderson contemplated her choices. She decided to look at this as an opportunity to do something new.
“I always kind of wanted to own a bar—an upscale wine bar,” she says. The day after she got the news about her position, she and some friends went to happy hour at her favorite wine bar in Fort Worth. “I said to myself, ‘I’d love to own a place like this.’” She started researching the industry and possible sites, and decided to return to her Omaha roots.
“I have family here, I know Omaha, and I just felt like Omaha could really use a place like this,” she says.
It was 2009. She hired a business consultant, put together a business plan, and tried to get a loan. And that’s where she hit her first roadblock.
“The banks were very tight, and this is a tough industry. Plus, I had zero experience in it.”
Deflated but not defeated, Anderson took a job with Securities America for a year and saved more money. “I travelled a lot in that job, and every city I went to, I checked out wine bars. There were a few where women could feel comfortable having a drink alone, where you could relax in cozy furniture and have a conversation. They were more lounge-like than a sports bar. That’s what I wanted. “
During that year she also made some good connections, including one with an experienced manager who could teach her the ropes of bar ownership. Meanwhile, the economy had stabilized, so she went back to the bank. This time, she got her loan.
She started looking out west for a good location, but when Brix went into Village Pointe, she changed course and started taking downtown more seriously.
Nosh Wine Lounge opened at 10th and Dodge streets three years ago. “I found this place and it is such a great location, with Century Link, the ballpark, the Old Market. And the landlord’s mother’s name was Lila, so he worked with me in the beginning.”
Three years later, she has had to add the word “Restaurant” to the Nosh name. Why? Because the food is so good.
“I hired a chef because people kept asking if we had food, so we started off with just a few simple options. It was so good that people kept asking for more, and we finally started offering a full menu.”
Nosh Restaurant and Wine Lounge is open for lunch as well as dinner, and even offers a Sunday brunch. Live music on Wednesdays, Date Night specials, Happy Hour specials and Late Night Happy Hour on weekends keep things interesting.
Along the way, Anderson has had a few challenges—the toughest being finding the right people to work alongside her. “I had no experience in this industry, so I’d hire someone and rely on them to handle it, and some of them took advantage of what I didn’t know. Now I can do about everything myself. The only thing I don’t do is go into the kitchen and cook.”
Looking back, she thinks she could have made this part easier on herself. “A lot of people told me to work in the industry for awhile before I did this, and I didn’t listen. Now I would definitely advise someone who wants to open a bar or restaurant to do exactly that first.”
Now, she has lots of advice for would-be entrepreneurs. First on the list: “Don’t give up. It was hard, but I was determined to see it through. The first year was tough, but once we passed that everything started falling into place. Now I don’t even have to be here all of the time because I have a great staff.”
She’s also glad she never took on a partner. “It was tempting to take on investors, but now it’s so great to have it all to myself. It’s just me, and that’s the way I like it.”
There is no doubt in Anderson’s mind that it was worth every bit of the struggle. “It’s definitely a risk, and I could have easily just stayed in the financial world, but I didn’t want to regret not trying this, and I’m so glad I did. I love it when people come in from big cities and say, ‘I wish we had a place like this in Dallas!’”