BOULDER – Don Monette, whose mountainside Flagstaff House commands sweeping views of Boulder below, died Tuesday four days before his 86th birthday.
Monette founded the restaurant on the side of Flagstaff Mountain on Nov. 1, 1971, and, with help from wife Carole and sons Mark and Scott, developed it into an icon that earned global acclaim and has won countless awards for food and wine.
Mark and Scott are “my business partners and my best friends,” Monette told The Denver Post, “and they’re the reason I can take days off.”
The Post article described Mark’s son, then-15-year-old Adam, as “a more independent sort. He prefers to plan his own future, but concedes working at his grandfather’s restaurant is a good start.” And yet Adam, who studied in the hospitality program at Colorado State University, now owns and operates The Flagstaff House along with his business partner, executive chef Chris Royster.
Don Monette was inducted into the “Food Service Hall of Fame” in 2010, but a family statement issued Wednesday noted that he “strictly put his praise onto his guests.”
The statement said Monette “wanted it to be a place where diners of any background could come enjoy all of life’s finest moments and celebrations. … This hospitality visionary established a guest-forward approach, even saying on his last day of life that ‘it is all about the people.’ From the thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of guests served at The Flagstaff House over the past 52 years, Don truly cared for everyone.”
“We treat graduating seniors who have saved up all year the same way we’d treat a Fortune 500 CEO,” Monette told The Post.
A cook for the Army, Monette first came to Colorado in the 1950s and was stationed with ski troops in Leadville. After returning home to marry his high school sweetheart, Carole, they moved to Boulder in 1963, and Monette got a job as manager of a Village Inn pancake house. He later founded the Viking Restaurant and Golden Buff coffee shop.
The building that houses The Flagstaff House was once a 1920s cabin, then a restaurant with two windows and red-flocked wallpaper that was only open during the summer because of the danger of snow and ice on twisty Flagstaff Mountain Road. When the building became available for purchase in 1971, Monette envisioned transforming it into a one-of-a-kind fine dining establishment. He and his family have completely remodeled and expanded the restaurant over the years.
Family lore includes the story of Monette once being so worried about woodland creatures scaring diners on the terrace that he decided to line the building’s perimeter with mothballs.
“Well, it also drove customers nuts,” he told The Post. “They would book an outside table, looking forward to a romantic candlelight dinner under the stars, but couldn’t taste their food for the damned mothballs.”
Besides his wife, Monette is survived by their five children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Most have worked at the restaurant.
Details of services are as yet unavailable.