Tucked in the beautiful red landscape south of Colorado Springs sits the sweetest adobe restaurant, Juniper Valley Ranch.
Long ago homesteaded by Guy Parker with the help of his wife Bessie Cross’ family. When developers approached the two and asked for an easement to build Highway 115, it drew wariness around the inevitable change of the landscape this would cause. However, the promise of having electricity brought near and living in the midst of what was staged to be "the Gateway to the Southwest" helped determine that the highway would be welcomed, after all. In conjunction with serving as the Front Range’s entrance to San Luis Valley and down through Taos, Guy and Bessie knew it would offer better connectivity to several population centers like Florence and Canon City.
As we experience so much growth in Colorado Springs today, it’s easy to relate to the adaptability they mustered to anticipate the good that comes with more people, more traffic, less quiet, and change.. The Parkers leaned in and good arose.
The Early Days
The family was involved with restauranteurs and a natural unfolding of serving sandwiches to the workers building the road launched into a Mexican food restaurant, and later transitioned to what we’d now call a farm-to-table concept. In 1951, Guy and Bessie’s daughters, Ethel and Evelyn, conceptualized the menu including fried chicken, baked ham, cream gravy with potatoes, handmade biscuits, and okra that is still served identically today. They wanted to share what they loved of their own Sunday supper with their community and others who would make the trek to their restaurant. They foraged plums and cherries from the land for their jams, jarred homemade apple butter.
As time went on, Ethel’s daughter, Sydney Dickey, held much involvement with the restaurant, preparing the soup that starts each meal, making the dressing for the slaw, and sharing her mouthwatering desserts each night. During Sydney’s lifetime, she spent countless mornings alongside her grown children preparing the food their guests would savor during open season and crave throughout the off-season. Her grandchildren spent hours in their company, watching every step and allowing it to become a part of their rhythms.
Generations of Memories
You see, Juniper Valley Ranch isn’t just a restaurant, but a part of the heartbeat of so many of us. Sydney’s son, Greg Dickey, would eventually take over ownership and his children, too, would participate in the operations of the restaurant.
Greg’s son Preston shared generously that some of his life’s most valuable memories are held inside of those adobe walls: experiencing his family working together; his grandmother’s processes; his great-great grandfather’s painting on the walls; the cozy, warm fire during the cooler evenings… These are all moments woven into the history of this treasure that’s still feeding people—seven decades later.
Ethel and Evelyn were only doing what they knew, but the way it ingrained traditions into the generations succeeding them is a gift to their family and JVR's loyal guests.
“Ms. Frances Brewer who is 104 has come for so many seasons. She celebrated her 100th and 103rd birthday with us,” Preston shares.
Colonel Tryzna, one of the cherished guests that became family, “his wife passed before him but he kept coming, every week. He has since passed, but his daughter still comes in,” Preston's voice perks with kindness as he recounts guest after guest whom they adore and are so thankful for.
Unsure of what 2021 would bring, JVR collectively is full of the deepest gratitude to celebrate their 70th season.
“We don’t cut corners, we use unfrozen chicken, we slice the vegetables every morning. My dad starts at 4 AM in order to make sure everything is just right, according to tradition,” says Preston.
Many family members help run the restaurant, including Greg and Cindy Dickey, Preston, his daughter and son-in-law, Olivia Andrew Patterson, his two sisters, Robin Dickey and Stephanie Scheffe, and his niece Marah Macura. The neighbors and others dear to the family do a great job of returning year after year to help things run smoothly.
What started with open-mindedness, gritty entrepreneurship, and hard work has become an incubator of a four-generation, seven-decade-long hub for mouth-watering, family-centered dining. We are honored it’s homed in our city.
Cheers to you, JVR.
Make sure to book a reservation before showing up to JVR. They’re located on the east side of Hwy 115, about 15 minutes south of downtown.
Facebook + Instagram: @junipervalleyranch