Restaurant Warehouse moves

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bob Nelson gets right to the point.

“Can we talk while I work?” he asks the visitor in the midst of pricing items going on the shelves at The Restaurant Warehouse. “I have to be out to the fairgrounds to help open the 4-H dining hall kitchen. It’s going to be a busy week with the county fair in town.”

Nelson, obviously a very busy man, is The Restaurant Warehouse’s owner and consultant.

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Restaurant or dining hall sales, equipment and supplies — Nelson has it all.

Now located at 608 10th St. N.E. in the former Kolorkraft building, Nelson has a building four times larger than his previous location at 509 East Oakland Ave., where it was a victim of the June 14 flood that struck Austin.

“We take care of their paper products and a lot of the vendors who go over there, we’ll take care of their paper products, too,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be a busy week. In fact, it’s been really busy last couple of weeks. There are a lot of concessions people in Austin.”

When Nelson finishes pricing a box of items, he pauses to answer questions standing, not seated.

A native of Upper New York state, he married Michelle Buxton.

The couple met six years ago, when Nelson was the general manager of a restaurant at Winona and she was a waitress there.

The couple has a 4-year-old son and another son “on the way.”

Nelson has a 21-year-old son in the U.S. Air Force serving in Iraq, and another son, 16, who works at Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que in Austin.

“I’ve been doing this every since I was 15 years old,” he said. “My first job was doing dishes.

“This is all I’ve ever done — work in kitchens,” he said. “I went into the Army in the early 1980s and I was a cook. Went to culinary school in upstate New York after I got out of the service and bought my first restaurant when I was very young.”

“We’ve owned restaurants and bars; I’ve general managed them and consulted on them and designed them for a lot of years now,” he said.

The couple came to Austin four years ago. He worked for a Kasson firm as an outside sales representative. The firm went out of business, but customers continue to call him.

At the suggestion of his wife, he opened a small business in Austin.

“The little store turned into a bigger store and then along came the flood,” Nelson said.

The flood did an estimated $70,000 in damage, some of it covered by flood insurance, but, “You never have enough flood insurance,” Nelson said.

The Restaurant Warehouse currently has St. Olaf Lutheran Church of Austin among its clients.

“That’s a beautiful addition with a commercial, licensed kitchen, meaning they can cater from it. It’s very big and it’s all brand new. They can do weddings and banquets from their new kitchen,” Nelson said.

The Restaurant Warehouse owner remembers the bad times of the flood as he reviews the present turnaround.

“We were down for about a month,” he said. “We had customers calling and I had nothing. All that has changed now.”

“We had no home and nowhere to go until Joe Furhman (a realtor) tracked down this building, the old Kolorkraft business, and the square footage is perfect. We’ve got two loading docks and a lot of floor space and then First Farmers & Merchants came on board and we moved in here a month ago,” he said.

A formal opening with the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors will take place later in August.

What makes this business comeback even more special is one fact: Last winter The Restaurant Warehouse was named the Chamber’s “New Business of the Year” winner.

“We are very fortunate to be in this business,” Nelson said. “There aren’t many people who do what we do and we’re growing.”

Nelson does it all; even helping make restaurant menu choices and pricing menu items.

“I’ll even train their cooks with my culinary experience,” he said.

He has a warehouse full of freezers, ovens, grills, stoves and you-name-it.

Nelson furnished the new B&J Bar and Grill in downtown Austin.

Last November, Nelson organized a highly successful free community Thanksgiving dinner for the needy at the Salvation Army Austin Corps.

Giving back is a part of his business philosophy.

He is not bitter about the flood devastating his new business in June.

“Because that happened we had the opportunity to get a four-times-larger building where we can stock so much more inventory. You just have to keep looking on the positive side of things in this business,” he said.

The energetic Nelson said his favorite part of the business is working with restaurant owners, church groups who need a small quantity of supplies and concessionaires.

Judging by the business’ success, they would say the same about Nelson.

The Restaurant Warehouse is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information about The Restaurant Warehouse, call 434-7714 or e-mail or go online to