Kyle Nixon, 34, initially didn’t know if he wanted to be nominated for Kelowna Top Forty Under 40.
“I felt the focus would be too much on me when my success and the success of BNA is owed so much with my wife, Carolyn, our seven managers and our staff and customers and suppliers,” said Nixon.
“I’m proud of our success and want to share it and the credit. It’s a great honour to be nominated.”
Nixon and his wife co-own and operate BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery in north downtown at the corner of Ellis Street and Clement Avenue.
The restaurant has done the enviable in Kelowna’s fickle market.
It opened to much fanfare last June and was the place to see and be seen during the busy summer season.
But, now winter is here and the newness has worn off, BNA has not experienced a seasonal sag.
In fact, it’s busier than ever.
“Our passionate recipe of beer, service and food in a one-of-a-kind location where everyone can have a great experience has clicked,” said Nixon.
The brew pub is in the handsome heritage brick and timber former British North America Tobacco Company building, thus the BNA name.
The restaurant has kept and spruced up all the original brick, beams, windows and floors, but added everything needed to create a retro-cool restaurant and bar.
Before opening BNA, Nixon managed the Hotel Eldorado for a decade, which was owned by his parents, Jim and Diana.
“Managing The El during the 2008-09 recession was the greatest thing that ever happened to me in my hospitality career,” said Nixon.
“People had to be careful with their money if you wanted to stay in business you had to really deliver on service and value and food. We did.”
When his parents sold the hotel to Argus Properties in 2014, plans started immediately for the BNA opening.
“I always wanted to do a brew pub,” said Nixon.
“We make and always have five beers on tap. You cannot drink fresher beer. And our chef Justin Best, who came with us from the Hotel Eldorado, does the best casual food with passion.”
In fact, seven managers from the Hotel Eldorado followed Nixon and his wife to BNA, a testament not just to their business vision, but their likeability.
Around the same time Nixon had his recession epiphany, he read Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by New York entrepreneur and restauranteur Danny Meyer of the Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern.
“It changed my life and I have all our managers read it too,” said Nixon.
For a restaurant, or any business for that matter, to thrive, Meyer advocates putting staff first because they are who will ultimately lead you to success, or not.
While Nixon literally grew up in the industry and started working for his dad at the age of 11 to learn the business, it hasn’t all been restaurants and hotels.
Nixon earned a four-year scholarship to Minnesota State University to play hockey for the Mavericks.
“I also qualified as a teacher while at college,” said Nixon.
“But, I always wanted to come back to Kelowna and work in hospitality.”
After Nixon’s mom battled and beat cancer, the family started the Big Dog Open bocce tournament eight years ago to raise money for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.
Over that time it’s raised more than $400,000.
For the first time, the Big Dog Open will be held at BNA this year because it has a specially-built bocce court upstairs over the bar.