Instead of using her elementary education degree from Ohio State University to teach youngsters, Stephanie Boehm chose to teach managers as a corporate trainer for Olive Garden restaurants.
She's never regretted that decision.
Boehm's background and on-the-job training as manager of a local Outback Steakhouse led to her current career as owner of CR Heroes Family Pub in Fishers.
Boehm moved to Indianapolis from Ohio in 1994, when her husband was transferred here. After spending time as a stayat-home mom, she went in search of a restaurant job where she could "talk to grown-ups."
Perhaps it was serendipity, Boehm said, that instead of visiting the Outback restaurant nearest her home, she instead went to the West 86th Street location, where she met proprietor Hugh Diehl. Eight years later, after he hired her, she joined Hugh and his wife, Liz, to open CR Heroes.
The "CR" is a play on "See Our." The owners wanted the children they hoped would visit their family-friendly spot to see heroes beyond sports figures and entertainers. So, the restaurant's walls are adorned with photos of firefighters and police officers.
"We wanted the restaurant to be a place where kids are happy," said Boehm, the mother of three. "If they're happy, you have a quiet meal and can enjoy yourself more."
That's why CR Heroes has a game room where kids can have fun while their parents relax and unwind-something Fishers residents Claudia and Paul Jones appreciate.
"We have a 12-year-old daughter and 7-year-old triplets," Claudia said. "The kids' menu is wonderful, and I always joke...that I've already bought the Ms. Pac Man game because my kids play it all the time."
Boehm, 36, purchased the restaurant from the Diehls in April 2005 for $260,000. Despite her formal business plan, two banks turned her down because independent restaurants can be risky ventures, she said.
But she persevered and Old National Bank eventually said yes, providing twothirds of the financing. The rest came from Boehm, her husband and father.
Marketing has proven her biggest challenge. Unlike national chains, Boehm doesn't have deep pockets to draw customers to her restaurant, so she's learned to be creative. One example is a frequentdiner program that boasts 1,500 members.
She also believes in giving back to the community by sponsoring nights, when 20 percent of the sales go to schools.
Besides usual pub food-hamburgers, ribs and tenderloins-CR Heroes also serves offerings like pasta and grilled salmon, and, of course, a kids' menu.
Unlike many restaurants, Boehm has little staff turnover-something she credits to hiring high school students as wait staff.
"Some people say I'm insane, but I think it's one of the best things I've ever done," she said. "If one is sick, they call a friend to fill in."
She considers her employees an extension of her family. "I always say I have three kids at home and 25 here," Boehm said.
Rising oil prices have affected operational costs but haven't resulted in fewer customers. In fact, sales, which totaled $750,000 in 2005, have been up as much as 7 percent in the first quarter of the year.
But when Boehm opened her gas and produce bills in January, she was shocked. The gas bill had gone from $850 in December to $1,250 in January. The cost of tomatoes had also skyrocketed.
"It's the gas and tomatoes that are going to kill me," Boehm joked. "You just bite the bullet because the costs will be back down sooner or later." She refuses to pass along the additional costs to customers.
So what are Boehm's plans?
"I hope someday to have a bigger restaurant-and perhaps a second location in Fishers," she said.
Stephanie Boehm does everything from cooking to serving in her popular Fishers restaurant.