Ernie’s scrambles to open |

Ernie’s scrambles to open

William Ferchland, Tribune staff writer

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Judy Bruso serves a hot breakfast opening morning of the new Ernie's resturant.

Paul Bruso calculated that he slept three hours the night before his relocated restaurant opened. He was up late finishing last-minute details.

Based on the comments from customers who visited the new Ernie’s Coffee Shop on Wednesday morning, the extra work paid off.

The coffee shop that serves breakfast and lunch opened its roomy new digs at 1207 Emerald Bay Road, across the street from the previous location.

Bruso spent his time Wednesday cooking, socializing with customers, handling compliments and running to the store.

“The reception from people was really nice,” he said after the workday at the building he owns with his wife, Judy.

Ron Triano was the first customer to stroll through the two doors at 6 a.m. He declined the traditional menu. Triano baptized the restaurant with a pancake order.

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“Hey, Ron, you’re our first customer,” Bruso said. “You’re going to have to find a new leather seat.”

“I’ve been the first customer in your store many times,” Triano replied as he stood, scanning the inside. Walls are an egg-shell white. The arched ceiling is covered in knotty pine and dotted with lights and fans.

“We think breakfast and lunch should be bright,” Bruso later confessed.

Triano, a building contractor who helps build restaurants, settled at the counter, which holds four more seats than the old location.

“That’s the first thing I noticed: the room,” Triano said.

“It’s like walking into a new house,” said Norman Noble, who also positioned himself at the counter shortly after Triano. Sunrise had yet to arrive. Fifteen minutes after opening, 19 people were in some stage of breakfast.

The new building increased the capacity of Ernie’s from 53 to 83. During the summer another 20 seats will be added when patio seating is introduced. Many times, especially during the tourist seasons, hungry people are deterred by the line.

“I’m sure he’ll be able to fill this out,” said Doc Llamas, owner of Steamers’ Bar and Grill.

“It’s got that new car smell,” Llamas added.

Aisles in the kitchen and restaurant are wider. The booths are the same shade of jade green and the carpet has a similar look. Twenty tables are available, compared to 12. More eating space is available for groups of five or more.

More staff had to be added, but they were hired months before the opening so they could work with the regular crew, Bruso said.

Judy Bruso placed menus and new Ernie’s mugs on tables before the opening when she realized she forgot to make coffee.

“I like all the room back here,” said waitress Betsy Sommerfeldt. “That’s one of the best parts.”

Other amenities include touch screens for waitresses and a motion-sensored paper towel dispenser in the bathrooms.

“It’s cool and really easy for everybody to use,” Paul Bruso said about the electronic towel dispensers.

Across the street, the old Ernie’s location displayed a closed sign. Bueno Ketelsen, who owned Bert’s Cafe with wife Marty before it closed and was demolished for the construction of the new Ernie’s, said his cafe will hopefully open on Dec. 12.

There will be some reorganization and the Bert’s staff will make their return, Ketelsen said.

“I’ve been on holiday all summer,” Ketelsen said. He actually did construction. “Now I can put my gloves down.”

A sign, landscaping and artwork are the remaining tidbits left to be added at the new Ernie’s.

Noble, like the other Ernie’s followers, plans to make the location his new breakfast spot.

“The food and the people here have to stay the same,” he said at the counter as familiar faces passed by. “It’s definitely nice to have a new place, but it’s definitely the people.”

– E-mail William Ferchland at