The San Juan Mountains are magnetic. They attract people from all over the world who appreciate nature and the robust richness it adds to life. Sometimes people seek out those mountains, other times, life brings them together.

For Richard “Juice” Pinney, True Grit Cafe’s new general manager, it was all the above. “I chose Ridgway, but actually Ridgway chose me.”

Before making the move from New Orleans, Louisiana to Ridgway, Juice worked as the co-owner and general manager of the southern casual dining restaurant, Galliano.

“The restaurant was doing well, but an accumulation of things weren’t making me happy,” said Juice. “One day I started talking to two friends of mine and told them how I felt like I was in a rut. There were a lot of things shifting in New Orleans and I didn’t like feeling like I always had to look over my shoulder.”

With his friend’s encouragement to try something new, Juice began researching locations where he’d want to live.

“I was looking at places like Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Northern California that had great climbing,” said Juice, “but of course I was also looking for a restaurant that I thought would be a great fit.”

Part of the appeal in moving to Ridgway is that Juice is a backpacker. While he lived in New Orleans he would drive 8-12 hours to get to southern Arkansas or Tennessee for mountains.

“I would have to take a week off from work just to go backpacking,” said Juice. “But now, I don’t have to do that. On my days off I can just grab my dog Finn McCool, head out on a hike and be back by sundown,” he said.

After coming across True Grit Cafe’s job posting for a general manager, Juice reached out to True Grit Owner, Tammee Tuttle. The two hit it off and decided that Juice would come out for a face-to-face meeting and a trial run during Mother’s Day weekend.

“Tamme and I found that we have similar values when it comes to running a restaurant,” said Juice. “We want a place where people can have a good time, where they’re taken care of. We don’t necessarily care about the almighty dollar, we just want to create a great environment for customers.”

During the five-day trial run, Juice impressed Tammee with his “jump-right-in,” attitude, and it was clear that he would fit in with the True Grit Cafe family.

“One thing I take pride in is that I don’t ever ask my employees to do something that I wouldn’t do,” said Juice. “By the second day, I was wiping down counters and making sure the staff knew that I didn’t feel like I was better than any of them.”

The town of Ridgway quickly befriended Juice and he talked about his excitement and awe at how the community is so open, friendly and welcoming.

“That’s why I thought it was so crucial for me to live in Ridgway,” said Juice. “I want to walk down the street and be able to say hello and make connections with people so that they know me. Since moving here at the beginning of the month I have already met a ton of great people here.”

If you witness Tammee and Juice’s interactions it is clear that they make a great team. She expressed excitement at her ability to learn from his 20 plus years of experience in the restaurant industry and is excited to have a support system in the restaurant.

“I thought Tammee and I were a great fit,” said Juice, “and now that I’ve seen how friendly the people are I am even happier with my decision to move here.”

Juice said he also wants to bring True Grit Cafe’s “Ranch To Fork” identity to the forefront of the restaurant.

“My goal at True Grit Cafe is to really help move it forward,” said Juice. “I want to maintain the menu favorites that keep the locals coming back, and I also want to incorporate new dishes that will help elevate True Grit Cafe.”

As the True Grit team gears up for summer, it will be an exciting time for Juice to experience Ridgway and the surrounding areas during its busiest time.

“So far it has been great,” said Juice, “and I just know that I will continue to love it here.”