GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. —The life of a retired NFL star: charity work, endorsement deals, business ventures. Elway has the car dealerships, Favre wears the Wrangler Jeans, Vance Johnson does restaurants.
Johnson is set to open Vance's Epicurious near First and Grand in Smashburger's former location. He also owns VJ's Outlaw Ribbs in Parachute.
As one of the Broncos' “Three Amigos” alongside Mark Jackson and Ricky Nattiel, Johnson and his fellow “friends” were the go-to wide receivers of John Elway's passes in the late '80s.
Johnson came to the Western Slope in 2001. He decided to move to the Grand Valley after witnessing the Downtown Farmers' Market while in town for a kids football camp. “I did not want to leave Grand Junction,” Johnson, 49, said. “I called up home and told them to pack my stuff ... It was Mayberry for me.”
Vance's Epicurious will boast a diverse menu, with East Coast-style pizza, fish tacos from the West Coast, barbecue from the Midwest (including items from his Parachute restaurant), Hawaiian dishes, and of course, burgers. The burger menu will include sandwiches for every team in the AFC West, such as the Bronco and Raider Burgers. The restaurant will have a full bar, and breakfast will be served on weekends.
Johnson said he was inspired by a store in Aspen called Epicurious, which purveyed a multicultural array of fresh foods. Johnson said he was driving alone one day and:
“The Lord told me in the canyon, ‘Epicurious,'” Johnson said, and the name for his new venture stuck.
Johnson said the restaurant will be sports themed, but not necessarily a sports bar. Panoramic views of Denver's Sports Authority Field will cover entire walls. A life-size picture mural of Vance Johnson will catch a pass thrown by a life-size John Elway on one wall, while Tim Tebow “Tebows” on another.
“(We are) making the small location big,” Johnson said.
Johnson is in the planning stages of an event the weekend of Aug. 11 at a local park, before the restaurant's grand opening. Current Broncos players, cheerleaders, and mascot Miles will be present for autographs and horsing around. Menu items from Vance's Epicurious will be available for the public to try before the restaurant opens around Aug. 17. The event will be in conjunction with the NFL's “Play 60” program, which encourages kids to exercise for at least one hour each day.