IHOP exec takes on liquor | SummitDaily.com

IHOP exec takes on liquor

FRISCO – From Red Barn to red roofs, from pancakes to Rumpleminz – if Dennis Leifheit’s career sounds dreamy, that’s because it is. This is just the next phase.

Leifheit was most recently chief operating officer and executive vice president of International House of Pancakes (IHOP), the Los

Angeles-based restaurant company with flapjack franchises around the country. In January, Leifheit and his wife, Patty, purchased Antler’s Liquor from Antler’s store entrepreneur Dan Sederstrom.

The career tour that brought the Leifheits – Denver natives – back to Colorado and Summit County was a winding one.

“I can remember coming here when the tailings went right up to Breckenridge, you had the airport, and Frisco was a one-horse town,” Dennis Leifheit said Thursday, looking out the one-way office window in the corner of the Frisco Station store. “Ski tickets were $11.”

Then, he worked behind the counter of a Red Barn burger franchise. Leifheit worked his way up to manager, and in 1978, he took a job at Red Barn’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Two years later, he was working with Pizza Hut as a division vice president. IHOP called in 1995 and lured him to a new executive position. The moves took him to Kansas and Iowa, and back and forth between the coasts.

But with five of his seven brothers and sisters in Denver, and a son and grandchildren on the Front Range, Leifheit said it was time to get back to his roots. Leifheit said he and his wife, a partner in the store, looked at land and businesses elsewhere. They enjoyed the area around their Boreas Pass home bought in 1992, and Patty volunteered each summer at the Breckenridge Music Institute. When Dennis Leifheit learned Antler’s Liquor was for sale, all the parts of the equation seemed to fit.

“We wanted to buy a business,” he said. “For support, but also to be involved in a community.”

The couple has spent the past two months learning the ins and outs of the business. Dennis Leifheit said he’s even worked double-shifts on the floor and mopped the floors to learn about his employees’ jobs. Leifheit said the business, despite the difference in product, is a lot like the restaurant trade – high volume sales and interaction with the public. It’s just more efficient and can be run with a smaller staff, he said.

Curiously, though, the Leifheits are not drinkers.

“We told our relatives, and they said, “Why?'” Dennis Leifheit said. “They still don’t understand it, really. But, I said I didn’t want T-shirts or gasoline. This business just fit the characteristics I was looking for.”

The Leifheits said they plan on getting more involved with the community as they learn the business better. Dennis Leifheit said he believes in socially conscious investing and business – something he recognizes as especially important in a risky business such as selling liquor. The family plans to continue its support of the Breckenridge Music Institute and will find other ways of engaging in Summit County life.

The couple is also building a home and horse property at the Ptarmigan Ranch along I-70 across from Dillon Valley.

Meanwhile, the contest to see who breaks the fewest items at the store will go on.

“I’ve only dropped one thing – he’s dropped three,” Patty Leifheit said. “I’ve got to stay ahead of him, you know.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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