Three weeks. That was all the time Gin Bergman had to recreate her restaurant when ABC Country Restaurant gave her the opportunity to leave the franchise.
And so, Creston’s ABC closed on Sept. 30, reopening as Gin’s on Canyon on Oct. 1.
The change came about when Ricky’s All Day Grill franchise owner Frank di Benedetto bought the ABC chain, and since that meant Creston now had one of each, one had to go.
“We are direct competition,” said Bergman.
Of course, that meant that anything with any ABC proprietary design had to be changed — even the coffee.
“I really liked the ABC coffee,” she said. “I think I tried about 70 different coffees before I found something I liked.”
Finding the new coffee allowed Bergman to set Gin’s apart from many other restaurants in a simple way, by offering two different roasts — something that customers have appreciated. And she should know what they like, having started there as a waitress in 1997, before buying the ABC franchise with her husband six years ago.
The Creston-born and –raised restaurateur was sure of one thing when renaming the place in the fall: “I wanted something from Creston in the name.”
And she got it — twice — with her name and the name of downtown’s main street, which her 122 Northwest Blvd. restaurant is barely a block away from.
Changing from ABC to Gin’s allowed Bergman to change the food, as well, which meant dropping a number of prepared items from the menu.
“We try to do just about everything from scratch,” Bergman said. “It’s whole turkeys we cook now. We peel our own potatoes to make mashed potatoes.”
Soups, too, are homemade, and the borscht she serves is a recipe from her husband’s family.
A lot of meals come in better portion sizes, too — small, and therefore less wasted food — and at prices better suited to Creston’s demographic. It’s been a welcome change.
“The community has really come to show their support,” she said. “It’s a great feeling. … They’re saying it’s so much better.”
And that’s only the beginning, with a gluten-free menu and homemade burgers and fries in the planning stages.
After so many years working in the restaurant, Bergman is at home in almost any part of it, having spent time in the kitchen when a cook left soon after she bought ABC. But the interaction with the customers is what she enjoys the most, “making sure they’re treated like somebody special.”
“We try our hardest to give the best service we can give, with great food and prices,” she said. “Seeing smiling faces as they go out the door is great.”
She appreciates, too, the chance to be part of Creston’s business community, something she didn’t dream of while growing up.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” she said. “It’s kind of surreal. When you’re a kid you have all these plans and dreams, and when you’re here and part of the community, it’s just different. It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.”