The new operations director at Big Boiler Brewing may be a familiar face to anyone who has frequented Vitalie’s in Ada. Sarah Schofield worked for years as a server at the restaurant and was most recently its general manager.
“Vitalie’s was home for me, and I didn’t see myself leaving,” Schofield says. However, a chance meeting with one of the owners of Big Boiler Brewing changed her mind. The brewery owners invited her to be part of a restaurant group that is planning a Mexican restaurant in Lowell and possibly other restaurants elsewhere. They needed an operations director to join them and oversee the establishments. It was an opportunity Schofield thought was too good to pass up.
As someone who has spent nearly half her life in the restaurant business, Schofield relishes the prospect of being able to help fine-tune operations at Big Boiler Brewing and then use her expertise to establish other restaurants that will hopefully become dining destinations.
From Michigan to Hawaii and Back Again
Now 30, Schofield began working as a server at Vitalie’s at age 16. She soon realized she wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
“It’s about the people for me,” she says. “I love talking to people.”
After high school, she earned a degree through the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Then it was off to Beaver Creek, Colorado for an internship at a luxury ski resort before heading to Maui, Hawaii to work as a manager for TS Restaurants, owner of the largest chain on the islands.
Two years later, Schofield returned to Colorado for a job in Colorado Springs. However, after another two years out west, the mother of two decided it was time to return to Michigan to be closer to family. She picked up her original job as a server at Vitalie’s before being tapped to serve as the restaurant’s general manager.
Focus on Service, Community Involvement
Now in her position at Big Boiler Brewing, Schofield says Lowell is unlike other cities where she has worked. “The sense of community here is refreshing,” she explains.
Schofield describes Lowell as a small town with good people. She uses the example of falling off your bike on the side of the road. In other communities, drivers might slow down to make sure you get up, but in Lowell, three drivers will pull over to pick you up, drive you home and make you dinner if needed. That sort of neighborly support can’t be found just anywhere.
While Schofield expects to eventually oversee multiple restaurants, she is currently focused on improving the experience and service at Big Boiler Brewing which she acknowledges has been inconsistent.
“You walk in here and it’s a beautiful establishment,” she says. She wants the service and experience to be just as memorable so people will want to return again and again. That’s something she saw at Vitalie’s where many people arrived weekly to have dinner or drinks with friends at the end of the workweek. “I want [Big Boiler] to be somebody’s plan for a Friday night,” she explains.
Schofield also wants to increase Big Boiler Brewing’s involvement in community activities. The restaurant recently hosted a fundraising night for the YMCA, and the director would like to bring back the bike nights that have been so popular in the past.
Although new to Lowell, Schofield is no stranger to the restaurant business. She hopes the latest chapter in her life begins with Big Boiler Brewing providing great food and service in the former Superior Furniture building on E. Main Street and then expands to include overseeing a variety of dining concepts throughout the region.