Customers sliding up to the bar to order a drink are met with dozens of colorful coasters from bars and pubs all over the country. Some are favorite hangouts of the past, and others, places of employment. For Drafts Bar and Grill owners and alumni Brent and Jasmine Melsa, the coasters are symbolic of the aspiration this husband and wife team had of owning their own restaurant.
Brent graduated in 1994 with his bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management—part of the first graduating class ever to earn their baccalaureate degrees at the University of Minnesota Crookston. He says an early interest in cooking (and eating) culminated in his decision to earn a degree in the field.
Following graduation, Brent went to work for Marriot Corporation Services. The very nature of the hospitality industry requires working long hours, but Brent hoped some day those long hours would be spent in a place of his own. “I always wanted to own my own sports bar; I just never thought it would be possible,” Brent explains. “Since opening Drafts in the summer of 2013, Jasmine and I probably work harder than ever before, but we enjoy the satisfaction of owning and operating our own business.”
Jasmine ’06, a dietetics major, started out in the same program as Brent, but left school after a year to work in Hawaii. When she returned to campus to pursue a degree in dietetics, Brent taught one of her classes and her future fatherin-law, Cleon, was her chemistry instructor. “UMC brought Brent and I together,” Jasmine smiles. “Our dads both worked on campus, we are graduates of Crookston High School, and we both chose to go to UMC.”
When the idea for Drafts came together, the couple had been considering a move to Colorado, but the notion that there might be a niche for a sports bar in Crookston grew. Encouragement from the family and a shared dream drove them forward.
“We looked at spots in town to remodel, and we looked at other building sites, but when the city approached us with the idea to put the restaurant near the Sports Center on Fisher Avenue, things really took shape.”
The two talked to banks and investors, and came up with a business plan. Over the years, they had developed ideas on how the restaurant they hoped to own should look and what they wanted to include. Today, Drafts is what its owners designed it to be—a sports bar with an off sale on one side and a dining room on the other.
They opened in August 2013 with what they refer to as “test kitchens”—a few selections from their menu tested on a small group of about 50 customers. Eventually they tested every item on the menu and were set for a limited opening during Ox Cart Days.
Over this first year, Drafts has welcomed crowds in town during hockey tournaments, home for reunions, and headed to and from the lakes. For the Melsas, it has been hectic, rewarding, exciting, and exhausting all at once, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
For Brent, his core classes in the HRI program were some of the most enjoyable of his college career. Cooking breakfasts, developing menus, and costing recipes were all a part of the classroom. Those lessons proved worthwhile as they laid a foundation for a career in the hospitality industry.
Drafts has proven to be the hard work the Melsas expected and the very place they dreamed of creating together.
Article featured in University of Minnesota Crookston’s Torch Alumni Magazine, Summer 2014.