Dave Query turns dream into reality with hard work, ambiance and a flair for fare

Working as a cook at Mustard's Last Stand at only 14 years of age, Dave Query knew he was destined to go into the restaurant business, whether as a chef, owner or both.

What he didn't foresee was just how much reality had in store for him.

With a collaboration of silent partners – a mix of friends and mentors who allow Dave to make the decisions – backing him, Dave has opened five restaurants in Boulder and two in Denver since 1994.

As a senior at Fairview High School, Dave wrote a 10-year plan that outlined his hopes to attend a cooking school, travel the country and work in as many great restaurants he could, then return to Boulder and open his own restaurant, for a class assignment. When the teacher sent the plan to parents' address 10 years later, Dave had satisfied most of his goals, graduating from the Culinary Institute in New York, and traveling to and working at restaurants in cities known for their high-class and unique cuisine: New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago and France, among them.

When he returned to Boulder in 1988, he implemented that last of his dream, working at if not co-owning restaurants in the Denver-Boulder area including The Lickskillet Cafe, Cliff Young's and Q's in the Hotel Boulderado.

"There’s never been anything else that I ever wanted to do," Dave says.

The seven restaurants that make up Big Red F are now among the most popular in Boulder and Denver – not only for their cuisine and libations, but for their ambiance and exemplary customer service: Zolo Grill, Jax Fish House, the West End Tavern, Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace and Happy in Boulder, and LOLA Coastal Mexican and Jax Fish House in Denver.

Dave says the fact that he grew up in Boulder hasn’t hurt. "Anytime you can do business in the town you grew up in, it’s going to be to your advantage," he says.

And most of his restaurants do not serve Mexican or seafood cuisine by chance: Dave enjoys spending time as well as eating south of the border. LOLA, with its Coastal Mexican fare, combines the best of both cravings.

Before Dave discovered his love and flair for cooking, the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well: he owned a shoe-shining business and sold beers through his family's fence to the golfers on the course on the other side. That spirit lives on in the parent company of the seven restaurants, Big Red R Restaurant Group, and in its managers, whom Dave encourages to come up with entrepreneurial ideas to keep the restaurants fresh and exciting and customers walking in the door.

The most recent brainchild of the management at West End Tavern is to host a tour of the breweries whose beers are served at the restaurant. The Boulder Brew Bus will provide tours almost every Sunday this summer starting June 20. (For more information, visit http://www.thewestendtavern.com/TheBoulderBrewBus/tabid/597/Default.aspx/.)

"It’s just as much fun running a 16-year-old business as opening a brand new one," Dave says.

Although he has a rather successful restaurant company to run, Dave has juggled that commitment with the responsibility of raising three children – two sons now at the University of Colorado and a daughter at Fairview. Though none of them seem interested in following in their father’s footsteps, he is happy they have all found their own destinies to explore – law, business and photography.

"It's a pretty hard career choice," Dave says. "If they don’t get into it, I won’t be that upset."

For more information about Big Red F Restaurant Group or any of its establishments, visit http://www.bigredf.com/.

Stats for year, May surprise & impress; market will remain flat for summer

For the first time in at least two or three years, the number of homes sold year-over-year in Boulder County has improved.

From May 1, 2009, through April 30, 2010, 3,321 single-family Boulder homes sold, compared with 3,236 during the previous year – about a 3 percent increase. And 1,319 condos and townhomes sold during the same time, compared with 1,233 the year before – a nearly 7 percent improvement.

"It's certainly been a couple of years since we've seen that," says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association. "The month of May actually exceeded my expectations."

Hotard says he expected sales to remain strong in May, thanks to people trying to get in under the federal tax credit for first-time and move-up buyers and the amount of activity he saw in April. But even he was pleasantly surprised with just how many homes sold last month.

In May alone, 362 single-family homes sold, a 45 percent jump compared with the 249 that sold in May 2009. And 134 townhomes and condos sold in May, about a 40 percent increase from the 96 that sold in May the year before.

"The year-to-year improvements are very encouraging indeed," Hotard says. "It’s been a long time since we’ve seen those numbers improve."

Though he hesitates to rain on anyone's parade, Hotard says it won't be all sunshine and rainbows the remainder of the year.

"There are a lot of challenges ahead," he says. "We're just beginning to see the indications of potential job growth, which will be a key to sustaining strong home sales through the balance of the year."

People are considering more than just their own financial situation when looking at buying a home, Hotard says. They are concerned about what's happening in the economy and it's important to them that when they buy a house, that the demand is sufficient to maintain or increase home values. If it isn't, they are less likely to buy, he says.

"If we want to see home prices appreciate, we will have to look for job growth," he says. "We don't see it. Based on the aggregate of Colorado and regional economists, we don't see sufficient job growth that will result in substantial change in prices up or down – just enough to keep prices stable and predictable."

A healthy amount of homes for sale and hard-working Realtors is helping keep the market stable, but with the end of the tax credit – homes that went under contract by the end of April must close by the end of June – Hotard predicts a "modest pull-back" in June. However, he still expects that June's activity will be an improvement over last year's.

"We've had a couple of good strong months, comparatively," he says. "These look like normal numbers, or at least approaching normal. The balance of the summer will be relatively flat."

Colorado boasts four locations in Top 25 Destinations in U.S.

When it comes to choosing a vacation destination, sometimes there's no place like home – especially if you live in Colorado.

According to TripAdvisor.com, Boulder is one of four Colorado locations making the Top 25 Destinations in the U.S. Boulder came in at No. 19, while Denver ranked No. 17, Colorado Springs No. 18 and Rocky Mountain National Park No. 24.

TripAdvisor.com recognized Boulder as the place for the extremely physically fit. Its 30,000 acres of "unspoiled land," 200 miles of trails, paths and river, and its proximity to skiing and snowshoeing, according to the Web site, draws more than its fair share of the outdoorsy type.

While Boulder's outdoor recreation received recognition, TripAdvisor.com noted that Denver is home to four major sports teams, major museums and a wide variety of neighborhoods that makes it an attractive destination.

Colorado Springs, on the other hand, is a "crossroads for historians, sportsmen, architects, artists and gourmands," and offers sunny skies and crisp mountain air for golfing, extreme sports or a picnic in one of the many well-maintained parks.

Last but not least, Rocky Mountain National Park presents opportunities ranging from rock climbing to hiking and biking as well as camping.

The only state to meet or beat Colorado's representation on the list was California, with the top three slots and nine locations total among the country's Top 25 Destinations. Here's the complete list:

For more information about all the destinations that made it on TripAdvisor.com’s list, visit http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/TCDestinations-cTop25-g191.

Boulder named among the best cities in the nation for the next 10 years

Touting the wealth and intelligence of its residents, Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine recently ranked Boulder fourth on its 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade list.

Kiplinger's states that each city on its list has smart people, great ideas and collaboration, resulting in an innovation factor that "supercharges a city’s economic engine."

"When governments, universities and business communities work together, the economic vitality is impressive," according to the magazine.

And not only are these cities innovative, they also have "livability," with creativity in music, arts and culture as well as neighborhoods and recreational facilities that attract "like-minded professionals," Kiplinger's says.

The magazine notes that Boulder is where "environmental and scientific ideas blossom into businesses." The University of Colorado, federal research laboratories, and more than 6,600 small businesses and corporations are the city's economic drivers "woven into an entrepreneurial fabric."

"The city is also a mecca for those seeking healthy, active lifestyles," Kiplinger’s states.

Austin, Texas, ranked first on Kiplinger's 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade, thanks to its dozen programs to assist small business, numerous venture-capital funds, educational opportunities, networking events, co-existence of varying cultures and live music, independent film screening and emerging technology.

The remainder of Kiplinger's picks span the nation:

For more details about Kiplinger's picks, visit http://budurl.com/yldl.

Tips can protect buyers of new homes

If you're one of the few Americans who is looking to buy a home despite the credit crunch and are in the market for a new home, specifically, RISMedia offers these crucial tips for your transaction:

1. Choose a Realtor with new home sales experience

Even if your Realtor's fee isn't covered by the seller, you can probably add it to the sales price and having an agent negotiating on your behalf can save you thousands more than what you’ll pay in commission. No matter what they say, the builder's sales agents are paid to represent the builder and may use high pressure to get the sale.

Use an agent to sell your existing home, as well, as hard bargaining is nonexistent when you've already left your home emotionally.

2. Carefully evaluate the seller's lender before committing

While using the builder’s lender ensures the builder that you are paying your mortgage, that lender may not offer you the best deal, especially if the builder owns the lending company. Builders will offer huge incentives to get you into your new home – up to 15 percent of the value of the home – but they may require that you use their lender to take advantage of the incentive. Doing so may result in higher rates and higher closing costs, among other risks.

To make sure you’re getting the best rates, ask to see a copy of your credit report and FICO scores, or order your own free credit report before home shopping. Insist that your lender guarantee its Good Faith Estimate. If the lender balks or makes excuses, go elsewhere. Reputable lenders will honor that request, even though it’s not required by law.

3. Check out the builder’s reputation

Fairly and accurately assessing builders’ history is the appropriate path to making sure they build solid homes. Check public records for lawsuits or complaints and evaluate their resolutions. Talk to the neighbors and scrutinize the construction quality of surrounding homes to see if the builder consistently builds same-sized or larger-than-existing properties, or if are homes shrinking in size, which could reduce neighborhood value.

Learn if the builder limits investor purchases – this ensures that the neighborhood doesn’t turn into a "rental" neighborhood, which may appear less well-maintained and reduce property value.

4. Hire a home inspector

Many construction flaws don’t surface until well after the 12-month "bumper to bumper" warranty expires, so have the home inspected before moving in. If the inspector calls for further inspection by another professional contractor, find out if the inspector has found what could be a serious issue or if the inspector isn’t licensed to address that issue.

An inspection provides education about the property, and offers the validation of a trained, independent third-party assessment of the structure and systems.

5. Obtain legal advice before buying a brand new home

Standard purchase agreements are supposed to keep everybody out of court, but they don’t necessarily contain language that protects the buyer. Hire a real estate lawyer and ask questions about removal of contingencies and your cancellation rights. Make sure you understand your liability and commitments.

If your contract contains a warning about materials used in construction that may cause health issues, it's probably because it's a valid concern and other buyers have gone to court over it.