It’s Kind of a Funny Story: Ex-Husband and Wife Have Big Plans as New Owners of Yellowstone Garage
"It's kind of a funny story," she started...
And so began the tale of Bryce Harvey and Sierra Schmidt - an ex-husband and wife team who are still friends and business partners. Harvey and Schmidt are the new owners of Yellowstone Garage Bar, Grill, and Venue and they have big plans for the downtown eatery and events venue.
John Huff, the previous owner of Yellowstone Garage was one of the first business owners in Casper to really see the potential of Downtown Casper. That's why he turned the former car dealership into a bar and restaurant. He knew that if he built it, people would come.
At first, Huff was content to just use it as a garage for his vast collection of muscle cars. Downtown was a dirty place back in the day. It wasn't nearly the sprawling Metropolis that it is turning into.
“I was gonna fix it up and have a man cave space,” Huff admitted. “At that point in time, nobody had done anything in this neighborhood. This was a rundown, dumpy part of town. It wasn’t a place you wanted to hang out at after dark.”
But after Huff turned the Yellowstone Garage into a restaurant, a funny thing happened. More and more businesses realized the potential of Downtown Casper. The Downtown Development Authority built the David Street Station. The Gaslight Social was created. More and more bars, restaurants, and events venues popped up downtown and Huff realized what he had helped create was, quite simply, the future of Casper.
And now, the future of Yellowstone Garage Bar & Grill is even brighter. Huff announced earlier this year that he was selling both the Garage and its subsidiary business, 'The Hall on Ash.' We've already told the story of who bought 'The Hall on Ash' and what he plans to do with it, but the question still remained: What's gonna happen to Yellowstone Garage?
Enter Bryce Harvey and Sierra Schmidt.
"I think literally the day it came out in the news that John had shut it down, I got his contact info and reached out to him," Schmidt told K2 Radio News.
Neither Schmidt, nor Harvey were strangers to starting their own businesses. Harvey comes from a family of entrepreneurs; men and women who have not only started their own businesses, but have actually been successful in them; no small feat in the ever-changing economy. Harvey's 'family business' was starting businesses, so that's exactly what he did when he partnered with Schmidt to purchase the coffee hut, 'The Perfect Cup.'
"'The Perfect Cup' came up for sale on Facebook through Allisha Collins, and we pretty much jumped on that right away," Schmidt said. "We had some things fall through with the bank and it just didn't work out. The timing wasn't right. But then Helen Spaulding, the old owner of it, got back in touch with me a few months later and she really thought that we were the people to take it over."
Schmidt said that everything fell into place, except the bank aspect.
"It was right in the middle of COVID and the banks weren't really working with anybody," she said. "So we worked out a deal and it was just perfect timing. We got into that and opened on January 1st, 2022 so we're almost at our one-year now."
Most people would be content to just rest on their laurels (or yannies), and take a breath to appreciate that they made it through a year of owning a small business. But Schmidt and Harvey decided that one business wasn't enough; they wanted the Garage, too.
"It was a very similar situation," Schmidt revealed. "We had the conversation but things didn't really line up well and it just went silent for a while. But then two months ago, the conversation reignited and we started talking about the kinds of plans that John had for down here, and what would be right for downtown and what wouldn't be right for downtown. And we basically came to the conclusion that we wanted to bring back Yellowstone Garage to what it used to be, except even better!"
Yellowstone Garage, for years, has been an integral part of the Downtown Casper scene, via Rock the Block, various car shows, other outdoor concerts, and more. It was the first place in Casper to really make downtown a destination, and that's exactly what Schmidt and Harvey want to replicate as its new owners.
"This is a place that's been missed by a lot of people," Schmidt said. "It's like the epicenter of downtown. So we started up the conversation again with Wendy and John and told them our vision for it, what we planned to do with it, how we planned to do it, and the pieces just fell into place."
So, what is their vision, exactly?
"I've always wanted a restaurant," Harvey shared. "Cooking's been a passion of mine, but I've never been involved in a restaurant area. But I love serving good food and I want it to be presented well, in an atmosphere that you can't get anywhere else in town, and have food that you can't get anywhere else in town. We want to bring more of a gourmet menu into town, without being super high-priced."
The menu at Yellowstone Garage will be much more streamlined than it years past, featuring gourmet items without gourmet prices. Additionally, it will continue to serve up all of the various beers, wines, and cocktails that it used to have, plus some. The liquor license is getting transferred to Schmidt and Harvey at the December 6 City Council meeting.
Yellowstone Garage will have 24 different beers on tap, with many of them coming from local breweries like Gruner Brothers, Blacktooth Brewing, and more. They also plan to partner with Backwards Distilling Co. and other places around town. A big component of this venture for Schmidt and Harvey is being able to work alongside the other businesses in Downtown Casper.
"I love downtown," Schmidt said. "I think Casper has one of the most beautiful, interwoven downtowns in Wyoming. And I am so passionate about locally-owned businesses. Even for the coffee hut, I don't source anything outside of Wyoming. If I can get it in Casper, I will. If I can't get in in Casper, I'll get it in Wyoming and I don't stray from that. I'm most excited to be an asset to Downtown Casper, and I'm even more excited for the events and collaborations with other locally-owned businesses."
Which means, yes, Yellowstone Garage will be hosting Rock the Block next summer. They will partner with Dynamic Sound and Lighting and, while the day might be different, they understand how important Rock the Block is, both to the Garage and to the community.
They will also continue to host car shows and other events as well. They're starting slow, and they're not in a rush for anything. They want to get the basics down pat, first. So they'll be spending the winter and spring perfecting the art of running a restaurant (which is so much harder than it sounds). But they'll do it with passion, with grace, and with respect.
Schmidt and Harvey met in high school. It was the classic tale of boy-meets-girl. And this story did end with happily-ever-after, just not in the typical way one would imagine.
"We're actually ex-husband and wife," Schmidt shared. "We actually met in high school. We were together for 10 years, married for six. It didn't work out, but I always like to say we're better business partners than life partners. We're very good at communication, very good at understanding where the other is coming from."
The two have a daughter together and, if you didn't know any better, you'd swear that the two were still romantically involved. They look at each other with a mix of respect, admiration, and compassion and the chemistry is off the charts.
Which is exactly why they make perfect business partners. Schmidt will lead the front of the house and Harvey will lead the back.
"We're planning on being very hands-on, and very present, pretty much the majority of the time," Schmidt said. "I will be doing front of the house and bar and pretty much all the operations up there while Bryce heads up the kitchen. Dustan and him are doing that in tandem. We've given Dustin (the head chef) a lot of free range and responsibility and pretty much creative choice for him all the way around."
Both Schmidt and Harvey agree that Dustan Mark is an integral part of the new Yellowstone Garage team.
"He's been a huge asset," Schmidt said. "Having his knowledge from before; he's been around since the inception of Yellowstone Garage and having his knowledge base that he came in with, it's been...I can't even find words for it."
"We definitely would not be ready by now without Dustan," Harvey added.
It's going to be a vast undertaking. Schmidt is 26 years old and Harvey is 28 years old. They're young, they're hungry, and they have a vision of what Yellowstone Garage Bar & Grill can be. They have a vision of what Downtown Casper could be. And they want to be a part of it.
They also realize that none of this would have been possible without the 'Godfather of Downtown Casper,' John Huff.
"Thank you," they both said to John.
"They have so much fait in us and so much trust in us right now," Schmidt offered. "So just thank you for believing in the vision and that we have the capability of doing it. John's told me multiple times he doesn't know if I'm crazy or stupid, but we're going with it."
"He's been a huge help in lessons that he's learned and helping us get this off the ground," he said. "He's really been a part of what's gonna be successful here. He's built the foundation that it is."
A strong foundation is important in any venture...or in any relationship. Bryce Harvey and Sierra Schmidt have that solid foundation. They started building it as kids, in high school. They built a life together and though those lives have changed in some ways; they've stayed the same in many others. The relationship may have changed, but the love for each other has not.
"Thank you for the support," Schmidt said of her partner. "Thank you for the nudges to push forward in something so big and scary, especially because we're so young. We understand each other so well. Thank you for being the voice of reason and the logic when sometimes my dreaming spirit gets a little out of hand."
Harvey, unsurprisingly, thanked her as well.
"Thank you for being involved in the businesses," he said. "She does a lot between the two places; stuff that I can't step into right now cause I'm still working another full-time job. So she takes on crazy amounts of work. And she's just been a huge stress reliever and a huge help around everything. She's a great business partner, she's great with people, great with money; she's just great all around and she's helped me get into the businesses that I want to be in."
Owning and operating a restaurant is a big venture. It's going to require a lot of work, a lot of learning, a lot of growing, and a lot of community support. But they'll do it. They'll do it because they don't have another choice. They'll do it because owning their own restaurant is a dream of theirs. They'll do it because failure is not an option.
Most importantly, they'll do it together.