Changes on Lincoln |

Changes on Lincoln

F Stop moving, Alpine Bistro expanding and Palomino opening

— A pair of longstanding local businesses aren’t as close to one another as they once were, and it’s all good.

The F Stop is gaining valuable street-front exposure, and the Alpine bistro is gaining a jazzy nightclub, after the F Stop moved a block and a half down Lincoln Avenue to the Chieftain building this week.

In an unrelated development, longtime local chef Richie Billingham and his wife, Teri, are planning to open their own restaurant, Palomino, next door to the F Stop in the Chieftain.

The F Stop, Steamboat’s only specialty retail camera store, has been located at the rear of the building fronted by Alpine Bistro for more than a decade. Alpine Bistro is at 521 Lincoln and the Chieftain is at 345 Lincoln.

“This space is too small for us now,” F Stop owner Dan Westrich said of his old location. “But the main thing is that now we’ll have street-front exposure. We’ve got people who have lived here for years and years and years, and still don’t know we’re here.”

Westrich and his wife, Laura, purchased their business from Gail and Lenny Brooks in June 1994. They operate Steamboat’s only specialty camera store and offer a range of photographic services, from film processing to matting and framing.

Although the Westriches’ new store offers only a small increase in square footage (up to 1,161 from 1,061), they are confident the open floor plan and 11-foot ceilings at the Chieftain will allow them to offer more products and services.

“I can’t wait,” Westrich said. “We’re so pumped. Nobody has lived in (the new store) before.”

Dan Westrich said receipts at his business were once evenly split between photography sales and matting and framing.

Laura is the framing expert and hopes to be able to expand upon the F Stop’s already sizable selection of ready-made frames.

Chef Brent Holleman of Alpine Bistro owns both the restaurant and the building. When he learned the Westriches did not intend to renew their lease, Holleman seized the opportunity to double the seating in his restaurant.

Alpine Bistro currently seats 50. The renovation and expansion will allow him to create a martini bar and create a large room for parties and weddings.

Holleman’s plans don’t stop there. The party room, which currently houses the F Stop, will transition into a late night jazz club with live music, he said.

Palomino represents a big step for the Billinghams Richie has been a fixture further down Lincoln Avenue at L’apogee and Harwigs Grill.

“I’ve left L’apogee after 12 years and I’m on my own,” Billingham said. “Jamie (Jenny, owner of L’apogee) and I have been together for a long time, and we’re still very close friends.”

Billingham, who also put in an extended stint with the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s fine dining restaurants, Hazie’s and Ragnars, said his primary motivation in striking out on his own is building up a business that has the potential to support him in retirement.

He and Teri hit the road before settling on the site of their new restaurant.

“Teri and I decided it was time to bust a move. We looked at a couple of places in Jackson (Wyoming) and looked at Big Sky (Montana),” he said. “We decided the Chieftain is an ideal location. We discussed our business plan with Bruce (Caplowe, owner of the Chieftain) and it worked out.”

Billingham promises he won’t attempt to replicate Harwigs, six blocks down Lincoln. He wants to retain the freedom to put out eclectic menus that range from French to Italian to Asian foods. Billingham also promises to keep the food affordable for locals. He plans on being open six nights a week and cooking all six nights himself.

“Something I’ve learned at L’apogee is that customers truly enjoy being recognized” by the establishment’s chefs and owners.

He intends to accomplish that goal at Palomino by building a kitchen that is open to the dining room.

“I’ll be talking to all my customers,” Billingham said. “We’re building a 23-foot bar with seating. It will add a lot of the ambiance.”

Intrigued with the thought of not having to work during Christmas for the first time in his restaurant career, Billingham is tentatively shooting for a mid-January opening.

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