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Yampa Sandwich Co., named for the valley that drew its founders to the area, is focused on sandwiches.

Yampa Sandwich Co. embraces nature

Two high school friends from New England made Colorado their home and filled a gap in the restaurant scene

The Yampa Valley in Colorado is known for its lush greenery, bubbling river, and soaring mountains. It’s so beautiful that it could draw anyone in, and that’s exactly what happened to David Pepin.

The native New Englander went to visit his high school friend Peter Boniface in Steamboat Springs, Colo., a town the Yampa River runs through, when he fell in love with the environment.

“I came out here and visited [Boniface] in the summertime, I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me, man, is it like this all the time?’ He said, ‘Yep, all the time,’” said Pepin.

An avid outdoorsman, the bountiful nature drew him in and he moved his family from Boston to the Yampa Valley in 1998.

Pepin had plenty of restaurant experience when he moved to Steamboat Springs. He worked for Back Bay Restaurant Group for over 10 years. It’s there he said he learned about hospitality and what makes an upscale restaurant brand successful. But when he moved to Steamboat Springs, he didn’t want to continue in that direction.

“[Boniface and I] wanted to sort of offer something a little bit more approachable and relatable, as far as the product goes,” said Pepin.

That’s how Yampa Sandwich Co. was born.

Named for the valley that drew both Pepin and Boniface to the area, the restaurant company is focused on sandwiches.

Pepin and Boniface had been exploring outdoor activities in the Yampa Valley for a bit when they realized that the area was lacking a good sandwich shop.

Growing up, the two would spend the day surfing and then go to Boniface’s parents’ house, where they would be greeted by his Italian mother, who would set out an array of foods so the two could make their sandwiches.

“We would sit there and just start building sandwiches, and then all of a sudden, sandwiches would turn into dinner,” Pepin said.

With that personal connection to sandwiches, the two went forth and conquered the Steamboat Springs sandwich scene using fresh and locally sourced ingredients like Italian meats and cheeses, roasted red peppers, and chutneys.

“We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel by any means,” said Pepin. “But we were certainly trying to offer it in a different perspective. And it was received very, very well.”

Steamboat Springs had at that point been known as a “cowboy town,” according to Pepin. One with hamburgers, French fries, and other traditional American foods.

“What’s sustainable about what we’re offering is that it’s approachable,” said Pepin. “You know, it’s recession-proof, and we wanted to do something that seemed to make a little bit more sense instead of trying to do what everybody else was doing.”

All eight units of the fast-casual brand feature different design elements. Many tables are covered in local maps of hiking paths through the mountains.

The company is still growing — and experiencing a franchise push — and Pepin said it’s important to him and Boniface that the employees at each location feel supported and appreciated.

Pepin said that once employees feel that way, they’re more likely to be hospitable toward customers, ultimately leaving everyone feeling like they’ve had a good experience at Yampa Sandwich Co.

“No matter what kind of integration we're trying to do, whether it be training or menu development or technology, it has to come down to the customer experience,” said Pepin.

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