Love in the Kitchen
The owners of Cravings Café, Arepazo, Bake Me Happy and La Tavola share the secrets to being partners in business and in life.
When a fire suppression system covered the Cravings Café kitchen with 5 gallons of green goo on the last day that their old eatery in Italian Village was open, Lindsey Tewanger was there to calm her husband, Matt. “She talked me off a ledge,” he says.
When Cameron Mitchell ordered empanadas and a beer at the bar at Arepazo in the Brewery District, Carolina Gutierrez was there to share the excitement with her husband, Carlos.
When employees inevitably quit during the holiday season—Bake Me Happy’s “make it or break it” time—Letha Pugh was there to provide perspective to her wife, Wendy Miller Pugh.
And when restaurateurs Krista and Rick Lopez lost beloved employees to suicide and overdoses, they had one another and didn’t have to cry alone.
Running a restaurant isn’t easy. And spending all day and all evening with the same person can wear on anyone. But it’s not uncommon to find couples who choose to spend their lives together as partners in the service industry and in life. We ask four couples how they navigate the ups and downs of relationships in this all-consuming industry.
Lindsey and Matt Tewanger, Owners of Cravings Café
History: The couple met in 2007, married in 2010, opened their original location in 2011 and relocated Downtown in 2017.
At home: Two dogs
Roles: Lindsey primarily works front of house and does bookkeeping. Matt does everything related to the kitchen.
On quick decisions: “For Matt and I, it’s really great. We make decisions on the fly. We’re not trying to get a group of other owners, investors and managers together. When we see something that needs to change, we are able to make those decisions right away.” —Lindsey
“It’s easier to bounce ideas and come to decisions with your wife. There’s no one that I have more respect for. It’s a lot easier to do that than if you had a traditional business partner. Whether we’re going to change our hours, we’re going to hire someone or get some new decorations for the dining room, I don’t have to check with an investor. It’s like, ‘All right, we’re going to do it.’” —Matt
“Running the café is all built on mutual respect and patience. And also being able to say, ‘Hey, I need a minute.’ Once we figured that out, it was helpful.” —Lindsey
Cravings Café (114 N. Front St., Downtown)
Carolina and Carlos Gutierrez, Owners of Arepazo
History: The couple met in 2004, opened their first restaurant in 2005 and married in 2006.
At home: A daughter, age 8, and a son, age 6
Roles: Carolina covers the finances and front of house. Carlos focuses on the kitchen, maintenance and vendor relationships.
On balancing work and home life: “It is challenging. You’re not only sharing the space at work but coming home and figuring out things. We learned to respect each other’s space.” —Carolina
“At the beginning, we used to bring our work home. It was hard.” —Carlos
“You come home and you’re still thinking about work. You’re planning for work, asking ourselves ‘Should we do this new dish? Do you like it?’ That’s when it gets complicated trying to find that balance between work and home. More for me as a woman, we carry so many emotions. I learned to not make it so personal.” —Carolina
“When we opened in 2005, we didn’t have kids. For seven years, we were totally dedicated to Arepazo. Everything from washing dishes to doing groceries. And then we got pregnant with our first child. And then [the] Gahanna [location] came along. Throughout the pregnancy, we were opening Gahanna. I feel like I gave birth to my kids but also to the restaurants.” —Carolina
“Now I work one night a week so we can be with kids. Having a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to be there 14 hours a day. You have to have the right people and a good environment, so they like to work there.” —Carlos
Arepazo (515 S. High St., Brewery District; 93 N. High St. Gahanna)
Letha Pugh and Wendy Miller Pugh, Owners of Bake Me Happy
History: The couple met in 2006, started the bakery in 2013, opened a brick-and-mortar shop in 2014 and married in 2017.
At home: One daughter, age 9, one cat and a dwarf hamster
Roles: Wendy handles menu development, scheduling, social media and baking. Letha works on finances, certifications and networking and helps out at the bakery during busy seasons.
On encouragement and support: “I remember Wendy and I had a discussion a couple years ago. I was feeling isolated in the business. We were either at the bakery or at home, and it was kind of sucking the life out of me. And I still had another job. I was like, ‘This bakery has to do something. It can’t be this mom-and-pop bakery for 15 years and then just close up shop.’ Wendy realizes that I have a need for growth. And she goes with it. We just opened Dublin [at North Market Bridge Park]. And she’ll be good with the next thing.” —Letha
“Letha is super supportive. I heard someone say, ‘It’s like a compulsion when you’re doing something you love.’ And it’s true. You have to have that to keep it going. In tough times, Letha will ask, ‘Are you done? If you’re done, we can sell.’ And I’ll be like, ‘No, I’m just having a hard week.’ We know we can have hard convos and still depend on each other. At Thanksgiving when I’m super busy, I can count on Letha to offer support. Imagine hugging a non-partner partner when you’re stressed.” —Wendy
Bake Me Happy (106 E. Moler St., Merion Village; 6750 Longshore St., Dublin)
Krista and Rick Lopez, Owners of La Tavola and Lupo
History: The couple met in 1994, then married and started their first restaurant (of six over the years) in 1996.
At home: Two daughters, ages 16 and 13, one dog and one cat
Roles: Krista bakes for both restaurants. Rick makes pasta and runs the kitchen at La Tavola.
On learning together: “We learned to let a lot of things go. When you’re younger, you don’t choose your battles. But now we know one another’s strengths and weaknesses. We’re battle-tested. It’s been no picnic. We had kids. Went into bankruptcy. Lost a restaurant. Lost a couple restaurants. There were years that we didn’t even have a vacation. Now, I think we know what we want. We are happy with what we have. We’re content. We can’t control everything.” —Rick
“We used to try to do everything. You get older and decide that you don’t have to do everything. It’s better when people help you out and work with their strengths. We would share things like accounting, which is maybe why we had to close one of our restaurants. We’ve learned to delegate. Plus, we’re too damn old to do everything.” —Krista
“It takes a special relationship to be in this business as a couple. A trust. A give and take. It’s not for everyone. When you have someone who is your partner in life, it’s ideal. It’s not our career. It’s our everything.” —Rick
La Tavola (1664 W. First Ave., Grandview); Lupo (2124 Arlington Ave., Upper Arlington