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Meet Nyla Wolf

Welcome to another episode of the Cool People, cool job show. I'm Mark Schlaford. Today I am joined by Nyla Wolf. She is co founder well, actually, her and her husband Scott, co founded together wolfpack restaurant group, which you may not know that name, but you definitely know the restaurants that they are running and operating.

Most notably would be Wolfey's Grill. Welcome to the show, Nyla. Pleasure to have you on. Yes, we started a little bit ago with some technical difficulties, so we already are laughing together, so what could possibly go wrong?

So welcome to the show. Anybody and everybody in central Indiana definitely knows your brand, right? Wolfie's Grill 2004, I think, was the first one that you guys endeavored to, and you've grown into a couple of other things.

Make sure I got this right. The Italian house, which is in Westfield, and then the broken barrel, which is a bourbon style speak easy kind of joint that you have a couple of those, and then is Nyla's growing yet?

We have that one rolling yet that will probably be rolling in about two months. Okay. So we're getting close to that. It's fun, right? Because who doesn't want to have a chicken sandwich or any kind of sandwich named after that, which was a long time favorite of mine at Wolfe's, which is Nyla's chicken sandwich, which of course is great.

Then I come to find out, oh, my God, it's really named after a real person. And, oh, my gosh, she's here, right? She runs the joint. 2004, you and your husband say, hey, let's start this cool backwoods northwoods kind of gig.

What was going on before that? How did you guys wander into. What I would think would be a highly competitive business. It is highly competitive. And I think basically what happened was we had a breakfast house.

We met in the restaurant business, and then I had a breakfast house in downtown Noblesville. It was called Nylas. And then the guy that owned the Woofies on the Water had came to my husband and said, morris said, would you by chance want to take this over?

At that time, my husband was with Applebee's, and so he thought it'd be fun to give that to me as a birthday gift. So I ended up staying we ended up moving up there, but he actually stayed with Applebee's for the next three years while I ran it.

And then he would come home on weekends from his job and help me run it. So we kind of did that for three years. Oh, wow. Would you describe that as touch and go, a hope and a prayer kind of thing? Or like you just knew you were person?

I'm not systems. My husband is. I'm people. So I know I could get the people in the business coming in to eat the food, but it was a disaster. I wasn't very good at it. He would come home on the weekends and kind of lay things out, and then I would run it from Monday through Friday.

So we're a great team because I'm people, he's back of the house systems, and so it does work. Did you ever imagine that? What is there, six locations? Seven soon. Right now we have five. Wolfies one is going to be in Pendleton, and that will be our 6th location.

Okay. And then the Italian house is still rocking and rolling. Correct. That's our great one. Yeah. In 2004. Five, six. Did you think, man are awesome? And did you picture having a restaurant group? And I opened with that because it's a local brand, but it's not just a mom and pop shop around the corner.

It's bigger and better than that, right? Yeah. We thought. My husband always wanted a few. I did not. I thought, let's just stick with the Boris Reservoir. That's a big one. We got this. But then when he came back after three years, he wanted to do one more, and then things just kind of kind of fell in our lap.

And so we got Fisher's, the next one, then Carmel, then Westfield, and things just kept falling in our lap. And he was a franchise consultant for Applebee's, so he understands high level unit.

What a great background to launch into this, right? Exactly. Who cooks at the house with you guys? Is it you or is it neither one of us? We're awful. I have a personal chef. It's called DoorDash, and neither is he.

I mean, he does probably better than I do, but we're. Knowing that, so it's not even like you guys sit around and say, hey, let's try this recipe at home, and then let's see. Our son does the menu, and he is a very person.

We're foodie people, but we're not really gourmet or what everything. My son is very good at that, so he'll come up with recipes and put them together, and then we taste them and say, yeah, that's good.

So really, it is a kind of a family adventure. Yeah. Now you have a daughter too. We have a daughter, and she's at Geist, and she just works shifts because she has two boys. But she's been there with us since day one, since she's 19.

We've had this for 19 years. Yeah. What a great the American Dream family business. You couldn't write the story better. Right. I mean, mom and dad got the kids involved. Now they're grandparents. And what will happen with.

There's such an interesting story developing. I can't wait to see where this journey goes for you guys. That's interesting that you. That'S part of what the theme of this show really is. There's so many great stories to be told and really providing a glimpse into the rest of everyday people's lives.

Right. And restaurant, obviously would be one of them. And central Indiana is loaded with fantastic food. I know. I hear Chicago, New York, whatever, right? But I'm very content right here in the Midwest.

There's quite a few good restaurants here in Indiana. What's that like? Do you feel like you're competing against the Cunningham groups or Hughes or anybody or the big chains or is it just there's enough people.

You guys do your thing. We're going to do our thing. I think, honestly, if you were to ask me, I don't really compete against others because I think everybody has their own niche. I think we kind of look at our four walls and say, what can we always do better and try to change things as we go?

All of our restaurants are freestanding, and they have beer gardens or patios, so we're a little bit different than a lot of other restaurants. So it doesn't hurt to get ideas from other restaurants.

But I think we kind of focus on our people and our brand, and then we want to take it to the next level as much as we can. Yeah. Got you. So you're opening up a place in Pendleton. You want to talk about that?

Because that's coming up, right? That's pretty couple of months away. Next one that will be in two months, and that's going to be kind of a funky cuisine, 21 and older. It's in a barn, and it's right next door to the Italian house.

That will be our next the Pendleton Woofies is the first one we've ever done ground up.

We've always taken bad locations and fixed them up and kind of guided them ourselves. This had so much construction situations that we had to tear it down and rebuild it.

So this is our first one. This will be our biggest one. Okay. It's going to be beautiful. It's right off the highway. It's going to have a huge beer garden. It will be pretty yeah, it's going to be a good one.

So right off of Interstate 69, now I'll be able to see it from the road? Is that what you're saying? Kind of thing.

I think you can. I'm sure you'll be able to. Wow. Okay. Peddleton has just taken off.

Yeah, it really is. It's moving up from Fishers, Noblesville, and island to that area in Madison County. I'm thinking about it going yeah. Either some people would say we've been in a recession, some people say we are coming into a recession, and here you guys are plugging away new construction of a new facility, expanding.

Does that scare you at all? I mean, as a business owner? Or do you just like, now we know what we're doing, we've got this handle. We can just repeat this. I think first of all, we're faith based, so we always pray about what we do first.

And we ask for the doors to open, and if they open, then we keep going. So then I say, Lord, it's up to you. You better handle it because I'm not going to fail. That's kind of how we go forward. The doors open, they open.

So I really don't have fear about moving forward. Okay. I love it. I mean, you got to have that faith, right? What's been the biggest challenge on something like this? Where you're not taking over an existing restaurant and converting it, you're starting from I mean, is that challenge just around how do we design it?

Or is there something else that you have to play in that you weren't expecting or thinking about? Well, my husband's a great GC. He does all of our constructions. Probably answer this better, but I know personally.

Taking an existing building over is much easier because you're dealt with what you have and you can fix it up so new that you have to know where the walls go, where the plugs, all that. And so it's a lot more intense.

But we do have a great construction group, frederick's, out of Pendleton that's really helping us. So they're right next to us. But picking out so many different things. I've never really had to do that.

Before are so it's kind of fun then. Fun in a challenging way. Right. Oh, my gosh. So when you think back to 2004, when you guys were deciding to do this and take this new endeavor on, what did you perceive was going to be the biggest challenge for you?

I think, gosh, just because we're on the water and it's so flexible, meaning that summers are just packed, winters slow way down. So what happens is you got to really know how to staff, and I knew this going into it.

So that's probably our biggest challenge with both of the restaurants on the lake because we go from like 120 people down to maybe 40. So you really have to get that summer help. That was our biggest challenge, is staffing it and then figuring out what to do with them.

Right. Okay, so you handled that. Did everything go as planned for a loading? Yeah. You know what? I have to say, the first couple of years were a struggle, but we did everything we could. I was probably working 80 hours.

We did breakfast. So we were basically open 24/7 just to get the people in and get it going. And eventually we started building a culture, and our name got out there, and people said, we just like working here.

So after two years, we really had the same people come back and work for us. So we've had a lot a lot of our employees have been with us 1015 years. That's that's quite a testament, right? I mean, that means something there's.

Obviously you're building something that people want to be a part of and that lends to that term culture that you use for sure. You mentioned earlier about faith and I know you guys started a ministry out of the restaurant called Ribs.

You want to talk about that? I mean, I'm curious what that's all about? It's called restaurant industry Bible study. And we started it a couple of years ago. And basically what we did is we have a barn at our house, and so people would come over to the barn, and we would just have different speakers come and talk to them, and then we'd have dinner, and then people would go, and it was open to customers, it was open to employees.

And so we did that for a long time. And now we just kind of intertwine them into our church because there are so many outside activities in our church that we can get people inside there. So we do that also.

Oh, that's awesome. So you guys were just hosting that right at the house and come on over and let's have a little we. Have like a party on our property which is real fun and so we just had a party last Sunday for my sixty th and half of the staff came so that was really fun.

But we also do worship on the water and that is a huge thing. It's once a month both at Geist and Noblesville and we have like the Flying Toasters and all these different bands sing and then they give a little sermon or whatever, a little testimony and it just is a great place for people to come that really don't feel comfortable in a church.

So that's hosted at your locations at Morse guys, right? It's actually not on the water but actually in your. And Darren Early Wine kind of leads it and he's called the pub pastor so he used to go to our bars and preach in our bars and so we just started to worship on the water and it's really taken off.

It's neat. I've seen advertising for it. It is very. So I'm a boater on guy, so I frequent wolfies, just like you talked about. More in the summer than I am in the winter. Hey, can we bring back the service to the boat dock, please?

I know, I'm sure it's a staffing issue, but. Outdoor kitchen and it really would work. I have to figure that out if we are going to bring it back. Yes. I got ideas. Let's talk for my own selfie. Can I just get like a VIP number?

I need some burgers. Yeah, exactly. I love the idea. If you're not in the boating, you're probably like, what is this guy talking about? But if you're a boater or been out there, it's a fantastic place to go.

And then on Thursdays, we got some live music. So you just pull your boat up there to an open dock and you can chill out, listen to the music, right? It's a wonderful setting for me. At least I can't speak to everybody else, but it is.

So what's next? You got these other you're adding to the restaurants, right? Do you guys look at changing flair of food or is that really just your son's job and say, hey mom, I got an idea, what do you think?

No, he changes it probably every four months and we keep the things that are selling and then we'll add some things that we think would be what people like, what's new, what's trendy. But he pretty much changes it every four months to upgrade the menu.

So he does all that. That. Like I said, I don't cook. So how did you guys deal with the supply chain crisis? Well, actually before that we had the pandemic and COVID. It seems like there were a lot of restaurants that thrived to go pick up your food kind of thing.

Converting their indoor restaurant to more of, like, a staging site for Togo food. Yeah. Do you guys did a similar thing? We did. It changed so much because we didn't really do a lot of carry out, but then it was fully carried out, so we really had to change the way we did things, and that lasted probably a good eight months.

And then they allowed the restaurants to open tables set apart. But it was a tough year, but we didn't furlough anybody. We made sure we paid everybody through the entire pandemic, and then we would use them.

We, like, cleaned up our restaurants. We added things to our restaurants, and so if they were working, we would have them paint or clean or do something like that. But we kept everything full time. Yeah.

Way to take advantage of that situation and turn it into a positive, for sure. So all these we've seen crazy inflation over the last 18 months, two years. Obviously it's hitting grocery stores. I assume it's hitting restaurants too.

Are you guys feeling that pinch? Do you weigh that? Do we eat part of that Cost? Or just how do you manage that as an owner of a restaurant without trying to hurt your patrons, so to speak? Exactly. I think we go we've just been creative on what we can do.

Just different things about the menu. If it's like chicken, we try to use the chicken more in different areas or something that's not so high end. I mean, it is inflation, but we do take some of that Cost, but we can cut back in other areas to make the consumer feel like they're getting still a deal.

Got you. Just curious, what's the favorite item on the menu from that you see that customers are chasing after? Is it your name sandwich, or is it something else? Well, they love it's. Nyla's chicken salad.

They love that. But I do think it's hand crusted. Chicken is a big one. We have delicious wings. If you're a wing person, our wings are super good. So those are kind of the hot items. The pancrusted chicken, the wings nihilist chicken salad.

Yeah, I crave our food. Yeah. So that's a great question. So where do you eat if you're not eating in one of your restaurants? Do you have a favorite spot that you and Scott like to go to kind of get away?

That's a good question. Besides the beach? Yeah, we do love the beach. I like really many anything. I was just thinking of where do we usually go? We love Cunningham Group. Has some good locations. Love them.

Eat there quite a bit since we're right across from Hamilton town center. But yeah, really? I'm just hoping somebody invites me over so I don't have to cook. That's my big thing. I love it. So let's talk about this.

I'm interested. Husband and wife working together for this many years. And when you started, your kids were younger. Right. They were still at home. Right? Right. Was that just a fun juggle? And you guys were like, you have to set rules out.

I can't say it was fun because I would be working Monday through Friday, doing it the way I thought. Then Scott would fly in town and then he would change it so we would get in his heated fight and we'd have to go in the walk in so nobody could hear us screaming at each other.

He would come back and say, hey, it's worked great for you for five days. I'm here for three. We need to change this up. And you're like, to the cooler. To the walk in cooler. While we battle this out.

We would go at it and we'd come out and the toys would be. Like, is it okay? And we're like, we're fine. I just had to tell him how I felt. But he was really good because I knew he knew the business better than me.

But I was just trying to get it was so busy right off the bank that I thought. You know, I just don't know how to handle the growth so quick. So eventually, after three years and our kids saw it and they were in it, and my daughter still laughs because she says, I thought you were going to kill dad.

And I said, there were days. There were days. But anyway, when he came back, it kind of worked out. Yeah. So when did you guys discover, was it 2003 four, that you guys discovered that you had entrepreneurial bug in you, that you could do this?

Or have you always had that? Was that something that your parents maybe had an influence on, that you guys could be your own bosses, so to speak? I think we've always owned our own business, so Scott used to build golf courses for Pete Dye, so we owned a railroad tie company, and Pete Dye would use our railroad ties.

He did crooked stick, he did the speedway. Scott we always worked on our own, and then we had a barn where we kept the railroad ties, and Pete Dye stopped using railroad ties, so I just turned it into a farmers market.

And I did that for ten years, and it was a huge farmers market. From there, I went up and started my breakfast house. So we've always just kind of where we felt to go, we did it. But we've always been our own bosses, and we've actually always all worked together, probably since we've been married.

Wow, that's a great story. I didn't realize that you've always been like that. Not a side hustle, but really just wanting to be on your own, doing your own thing, I think that's really cool. What advice would you have for somebody who feels that itch to launch some operation, whether it be a restaurant or something else, but maybe a little afraid, fearful scared.

Right. What would you say to them as a successful business owner today? I think my biggest thing, too, though, is get your ducks in order. Make sure that your finances are right. Um. We started, to be honest with you, we started this company way in debt.

We lost a lot of money, but we said, you know what, we're never going to file bankruptcy. We're going to plug through. So when we opened Woofies on Noblesville, I want to say we were like $300,000 in debt.

And that's why Scott didn't come back. I had to work to pay off debt because we lost it through our other adventures. So my thing is it doesn't hurt to ask for advice. Think that's so important because somebody that likes to cook, wants to own a restaurant, will make sure you know how to manage people.

So that's the big thing is that you really want to get other opinions and talk to other people, lay out a business plan and then ask for advice. That's what I would do. And I'm so glad you shared that, Nyla, because you think about it so oftentimes, we meet somebody that the business owners, after they've made it, right after the tough times.

Not that it ever doesn't become that the challenge goes away. But if people would probably think about or know what you guys were doing to pull this off for three years, four years, that's not for the faint of heart, is it?

Oh, no. It was tough because I really didn't know if we were going to make it. And Scott said, I'll stay with Applebee's. He was making good money. And so all the money we made those three years, we just wanted to pay off our debt.

That was our biggest thing. And I just think the Lord honored that and said, you know what your kids are doing? You're paying off your debt. And finally when we paid everything off, we thought, okay, now we can do another one.

And our landlord down at Fisher's because they don't give I don't know if you know this, but restaurants do not give loans. Banks don't give loans to restaurants. And so we had to go to our landlord and said he wanted us to take it over.

He said he'd be our bank, so it was such a blessing. So he was our bank and then we paid him off and then we just kept going from there. So that really helped. The first two locations, our landlords were spectacular.

Wow, what a blessing, right? For sure. Yeah. Do you ever look back? I'm sure when you're with family, you probably do look back and go, wow, what were we thinking? Or the other side of it, like, wow.

Holy cow. This was incredible. We pulled off. Can you believe it? It's so interesting. We were talking about that with our kids. We need to sit back and enjoy what we've done. We're always absolutely.

And sometimes I think we need to it's more of my husband than me. So I always say, you know what? I think we need to sit back and really count our blessings, what we've been through, what we have done, because it's been a lot, and it's really just been scott and I and our kids and, of course, our wonderful employees.

But still, it's been a lot, and I don't think so. We don't appreciate as much as we should. Yeah, it's interesting. I talk with clients sometimes to give them perspective, and I ask the question, how much?

Enough is enough? And maybe that's a lesson for businesses that are on the rise and coming up, like, hey, don't shoot too far. Shoot far enough. Yeah. Take the time to exhale and enjoy the family. Enjoy the people that become your family through the business.

I think that's a great piece of advice. This has been a blast for me. I'm so glad that you came on now. I'm sure. Is scott in the room with you, like, sitting over laughing at you? Yeah, he's hiding.

He's like, babe, you got it. Huddy. You got it. I got to go do something over there. Oh, my god. Say hello. Yeah. So, there's the other part of it. There's the other half. That's right. So, what's the race helmet?

What is that all about? You got a bunch of signatures on it. Is that an indy car kind of thing or something different? That's actually a NASCAR on an Indy car helmet. But, yeah, those are all Kyle Bush and all the Dale Earnhardt Jr.

And all that. So it was a fundraiser. So we all jump in. Nice. And I'm a basketball junkie, so I see you have a signed Spalding ball up there. That's the ball of the NBA. Is that an NBA signed ball then?

Larry Bird's signature. Quintessential. Now, which one of your locations is an Indiana Hoosier bar? I'm just asking for a friend. You know what? I'll be honest with you. They all really are, because the Hoosiers travel well.

They do. We have a full house, and it's great to have that. I'm disappointed to see them go out so quick this year. Me as well. So you've guys got a location in Lafayette. How's that rolling? That's been okay.

COVID changed a lot of things at universities, and so the kids, they've been pretty still reluctant to get out as much as they did in the past. So it does well, but it's not doing as good as we thought.

But every week it's growing. So we got a great team up there. It's a great store. A little bit more time, it'll get there. It's been good. Do you need some ideas about Bloomington? Listen, you're going to kill us.

You're not supposed to talk about politics or your school allegiance in the state of Indiana during March Madness. That's right. I'm trying to hide mine. Well, you guys, thank you for coming on. What a great story.

I will definitely have to check out the Pendleton location when that gets going. And then roll over the Noblesville and check out Nylas, too. That sounds really interesting. I go to guys quite a bit.

Been upstairs a couple of times to The Broken Barrel, which is really fun. Little spot, for sure. But I wish you guys all the luck. Thanks for coming on, and let's check back after we get penalty going.

Sounds great. Nice talking to you. Thanks, guys.

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