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You can’t keep a good burger down

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | August 17, 2020 1:08 AM

Schmidty’s Burgers finds new home after fire devastation

It’s been eight long months without the juiciness that is Schmidty’s Burgers, but the wait is almost over.

After a fire destroyed Schmidty’s original location in downtown Coeur d’Alene, owners Denise and Nate Schmidt finally found a new home at 1524 E. Sherman Ave.

“It was devastating, You lose everything all at once,” Denise Schmidt said. “We tried to take care of all our employees the best we could, and our insurance took some time to come into effect, but then COVID happened.”

Besides the loss of their only income, the hardest part of losing their business was not seeing Schmidty’s loyal patrons. For Denise, whether it was a new customer or a longtime regular, the people who walked into Schmidty’s became part of her world.

“We’ve met so many friends and gotten to know so many people that it’s sad when you don’t see them for this long,” she said. “They become part of your life, part of your world.”

Both Denise, 39, and Nate, 40, grew up working in parent-owned restaurants, so opening Schmidty’s Burgers six years ago was like a dream come true.

“We always wanted the family-oriented, mom-and-pop shop growing up,” he said. “It was just the perfect thing for us to do.”

A staple of downtown Coeur d’Alene, Schmidty’s Burgers was always full of customers — and bellies.

Employing three of their children and a handful of workers who became family, to the Schmidts, their restaurant was home.

“We don’t know everyone who comes in but we try to,” Denise Schmidt said. “I try to get to know them personally and make them feel like they’re at home.”

The restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, but the Schmidts say it was perfect timing.

Immediately looking for new locations after the fire, the Schmidts struggled to find a perfect fit. According to Denise, moments before COVID hit the U.S., they had considered renting a space for $5,000 a month that was double the size they needed.

“Right after we backed out of that property COVID hit, so it was extremely lucky that we didn’t just jump into something like that,” she said.

In the darkest days of the state-mandated quarantine, the search for Schmidty’s new home was put on hold. As much as they wanted to get back to their customers, the couple knew it wasn’t the right time.

“COVID has been so hard for restaurants to deal with,” she said. “Especially in our old location we were so small that if we had tried to distance ourselves we wouldn’t have been able to serve that many people. It would’ve been a scary time to be open.”

Now, the Schmidts have found the perfect place for the right price.

“From the moment we walked into this building we knew this is where we wanted to be,” she said.

A bit larger than the last location, the new and improved Schmidty’s has a few surprises up its sleeve.

“We’re going to change it up a little bit,” she said. “It’s not going to be exactly what it was before but the food is going to be just as good.”

Locally sourced and fresh as always, the Schmidts say customers should expect some additions to their menu.

“It’s going to be a little different — it’s going to be better I think,” she said. “We were working on a new menu when the fire started, so there are already a few ideas about what we are going to do.”

Thinking about opening back up is the No. 1 thing on the Schmidts’ minds. Nate said if they could open today they would.

“It’s going to be a pretty pumped-up day, almost like when you’re a little kid and you can’t sleep on Christmas Eve because you’re so excited,” he said. “We’ve gone through the process. We know what it takes to be successful, and getting to do it in a new place is going to be pretty fun.”

If things go as planned, the new and improved Schmidty’s Burgers will be serving up juicy burgers and fries come November, but Denise is hoping it’s sooner.

“It’ll take a little bit of time, hopefully not too long, but we’re going to get an architect in then go from there,” she said.

On a recent Facebook post announcing their new location, comments from the community poured in offering aid and expressing excitement.

“Lots of people were asking what they can do, how can they help, when we were going to be open,” Denise said. “The love has been awesome. This community is amazing. We’re ready to see everyone again.”

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Denise and Nate Schmidt secure their new location for Schmidty’s Burgers on Sherman Avenue. (MADISON HARDY/Press)

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MADISON HARDY/Press