Raspberry shakes. Sparkling blue water. The best intentions to not get sunburned. Warm sand between your toes. If any of this is reminding you of beautiful Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border then we know you have also shared this experience of heaven. If you haven't been yet, then immediately add this to the top of your bucket list! After a long day splashing and playing in the water, nothing sounds better than heading in for some food and a shake. In addition to the burger and pizza staples, there's a new sheriff in town that has been shaking up Garden City for three seasons running with their healthy and gourmet sammies, amazing donut things (more on those later), Daily Rise coffee and fresh ingredients. Who are we talking about? Ruca's Cafe of course! We sat down with owner Dalena Kelley to hear more about her childhood summers at the lake, why she opened Ruca's and what you HAVE to try on their menu. Keep reading!
UMLF: Dalena, tell us about your background and why you started Ruca’s.
Dalena: Starting Ruca's was a huge leap for me and my family. I am a single mother of 2 boys and to give them what they needed in life I have always worked 2 jobs to get by. I always had a dream of doing something greater, for myself and my kids that we could all be proud of and would allow me to spend more time with them and give them a life I always wanted to.
My whole life I would spend my summers in Bear Lake with my family and it was the best memories I have as a child so to me there was no more of a perfect place to create something special. I don't have special culinary training but I did have a love for food and cooking, I also had almost 19 years experience in the food and service industry and I have been a mixologist bartender for 8 years priding myself on the unique drinks and concoctions I would be able to come up with so with all that I felt that the food industry would be perfect for me. And so a seed was planted. I wanted to bring something to the Bear Lake area that was unique and hadn't been done up here and was lacking and Ruca's was born. At first everything fell into place. It was like it was meant to be in the universe. I received so much help from people in my life that made it possible and believed in me enough to take a chance on my dream.
UMLF: Tell us about Ruca’s. What are some menu items we HAVE to try?
Dalena: Ruca's is like nothing else around. I take a lot of pride in everything we put out, We use the freshest ingredients with items that are never frozen or prepackaged. We are most famous for our Aebleskivers and Sandwiches. Aebleskivers are a danish pancake-like ball. The recipe is straight from Denmark from a family friend and it has stayed the same. We will make up to 5 batches on any weekend day and they are always made from scratch. No pre-mixes here at Ruca's! Our gourmet sandwiches have been said the be the best in the state using healthy portions of freshly sliced deli meat that have all been hand picked by myself with homemade sauces that I have invented. All of our vegetables are sliced on site and we try to stay organic as much as possible. Our lettuce is never bagged and is chopped daily for all our salads. You can definitely taste the difference in fresh products. We also offer several vegetarian, Keto, and gluten free options (unfortunately our Aebleskivers can not be gluten free).
UMLF: What is your favorite thing about owning a business in Bear Lake?
Dalena: I love being in Bear Lake. The locals are amazing, the visitors are wonderful and it is on of the most beautiful places in Utah. The other businesses are always so great and we all support each other so much. Because it is a seasonal town and most of the places close in the winter you have a short time to make it but we all pull together and help each other out. I don't believe you could ever find that in a big town.
UMLF: How do you feel like Ruca’s is special compared to other joints in town?
Dalena: Ruca's is so different. There are a lot of places that you can get a hamburger and fries in town or pizza but not any that offer the healthier alternative. Ruca's also offers an environment that makes you want to come and hang out and relax not just grab your food and go type of place. We have amazing views of the lake with a great grass area and lawn games for families to play together that is also pup friendly. We also have that beachy feel that you don't get at most of the other places.
UMLF: Every business has its highs and lows. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Dalena: Starting off with nothing was the hardest part ever. I mortgaged my home, cars, and borrowed money from friends and family to get started, even the gentleman who owned the property had faith in me enough to do a lease to purchase until I was able to buy the land Ruca's sat on. After the first very short season, due to construction, things were very scary and we wondered if we would be able to make it succeed. Everything was on the line and if I failed it would have ruined my and my family and everyone that believed in me. It consisted of many sleepless nights and a lot of stress. But the faith and support from everyone that helped and the community in Bear Lake kept me going.
UMLF: How do you believe the Utah Microloan Fund has helped you and your business?
Dalena: By the end of the first year we didn't make enough money to get through Winter and get reopened in the spring. We tried everything we could think of to get through but it just wasn't looking good. I at that point reached out to my friends to ask for advice on resources I could turn to and one of my friends suggested the UMLF. I pulled up the website and filled out the application and sent it in. I was on pins and needles because this was the only way I would be able to survive. After my interview happened and I got word that I was approved I broke down in tears. I would be able to stay open and I wouldn't let the people down who believed in me. It was a true blessing. Now in my third season things just keep getting better and better. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am truly thankful for UMLF. I can honestly say without their help I would have been a failing statistic in the SBA world. They saved Ruca's and me!
UMLF: That's so awesome! Thanks for sitting down with us Dalena!
To visit Ruca's, they open in early spring as soon as it gets warm and close in mid October. To stay in touch with Rucas: