Photo by Tyler Graef
Marriage is tough. Running a restaurant is tough. Here, local restaurateurs John Eric and Vanessa Klein share their life stories, wisdom on marriage and what they’ve learned from owning a restaurant with their spouse. Here’s to putting in the hard work to make both a marriage and a restaurant places that nourish others.
For John Eric and Vanessa Klein, owners of 36 Restaurant & Bar in downtown Cape Girardeau, owning a restaurant is their life’s adventure. They are doing what they love; having fun together through this is a main component of their relationship.
“Work to us isn’t work; it’s our life, and we enjoy it, and it’s fun,” John Eric says. “We love the food, the people, the wine and everything, so we look at it as an adventure everyday — what can we do together today that will be fun and adventurous?”
Being in the restaurant business has always been a part of the Klein’s relationship. The two met while working at Celebrations in Cape Girardeau: for a decade, Vanessa was the lead server (“Best server I’ve ever seen,” John Eric says,) and for approximately eight years, John Eric worked in catering, serving, bartending and management. They were friends for two years, dated for four years, and then got engaged. In October 2013, they were married, and on Valentine’s Day in 2015, they opened 36 Restaurant & Bar. The two are also owners of Klein Hospitality Management, majority owners of Seis Amigos and part-owners of BG’s Olde Tyme Deli, all in Cape Girardeau.
John Eric and Vanessa say their work at Celebrations taught them a lot about the industry, as has learning from being on their own as restaurateurs.
“The one thing with us is that we enjoy each other’s company, so we enjoy being around each other. So I would think just keeping that level of enjoyment is important,” John Eric says of advice he would give to newly married couples. “Now I mean look, you’re going to argue. You’re going to get into fights. And that’s OK. Just remember at the end of it the right things: love, companionship, having fun. Patience and love are very important. There’s no room for grudges. Fix those problems and move on.”
Vanessa agrees: “You’re in it together.”
Here, John Eric and Vanessa share the advice they would give to married couples who are also business partners:
John Eric: When it comes to marriage or business, you’re never going to get all of it done at one time. It’s a journey, and everything starts with one step in the right direction. If you can believe that and continue, then you will reach your goals in business and in your personal life, too. And remember to love and to be the best person you can be.
Vanessa: As far as working together with your spouse, you’ve kind of got to separate at times: you’re business partners and then you’re still husband and wife, so you’ve got to pick your balance, pick your battles. Whenever we leave [the restaurant], we try to leave work here. It’s hard, but you’ve got to make the balance between work and your personal and home life.