It was in that moment of soul-searching that life’s directional tides began to shift course for Ebright and his family, pointing them to a new business venture and, ultimately, a new life.
And as it turned out, it was a turn for the best.
Ebright, his 24-year-old son Calob, and 23-year-old daughter Alex, are more than three months into their new lives as owners of established Telluride deli and bakery The Brown Bag, one of the town’s most popular breakfast and lunch spots with a menu comprised of quick, out-of-the-ordinary sandwiches, wraps and salads.
“Almost losing a child jars a person,” Ebright says, describing the bumpy path his family took to arrive in Telluride as new owners of one of the valley’s much-loved restaurants.
After selling many of their belongings and renting out their house in Cave Creek, Ariz., the Ebrights arrived in Telluride at the end of January. They spent all of February training with Brown Bag owners Shawn Merie and John Parent, with Jerry and Alex learning the ins and outs of high altitude baking while Calob took lessons in the deli from longtime Brown Bag sandwich master Benny Coe.
Preserving the foundation upon which the Parents built a lunchtime institution in Telluride was, as Ebright iterates, a vital objective for he and his children when it came time to take over Brown Bag this spring.
“One of the biggest reasons I was so interested in this business in the first place was because I knew Shawn Merie and John had built a good business, with a menu that was well received by the community. Nothing was broken, and I’m not inclined to fix it if it isn’t broken,” Ebright explains.
The commitment to upholding the taste traditions first introduced by Shawn Merie stands as a major reason why Brown Bag regulars have likely noticed little by way of change since the business welcomed its new owners, save for the three new faces behind the sandwich counter.
“This is a place that has a solid reputation, and we are committed to continuing that reputation,” both on the food side as well as in the realm of service, Ebright says.
Brown Bag favorites like the meaty Schmoo’s Club (chicken breast, house-roasted beef, bacon and swiss served hot on a ciabatta) and the classic Reuben still hold court on the Brown Bag’s no-nonsense chalkboard menu, alongside other Brown Bag twists-on-old-favorites like the Snapshot (turkey, swiss, and avocado spiced up with Siracha sauce) and the perfectly-spiced Curried Chicken Salad. Those from-scratch baked goodies that made Parent famous still sit tantalizingly on the front counter, as well.
The Ebrights may be new to Telluride, but they aren’t newcomers to small business ownership. The family has owned a string of small businesses, mostly retail and one franchise restaurant, most recently in Arizona. As the architects of many family-oriented businesses, this business-oriented family already seems at home in their new venture, molding effortlessly into Telluride’s community of small business owners.
Son Calob speaks of the family’s recent about face, in picking up their life in Arizona to follow a long-held dream of coming to Telluride, with an insight typically reserved for someone older than his 24 years.
“It has definitely been an eye-opening experience, making such a drastic change,” he says. “It’s more of a life lived scenario, instead of just getting caught up in that daily grind.”
The Brown Bag deli and bakery is located in the Shirtworks breezeway on the south side of main street. They are open daily during the off-season, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed on Sundays. They will be open seven days a week starting Memorial Day weekend, with extended hours in the afternoon. For take-out, call 728-5556.