The American dream is a reality for Dave and Alicia Ballard.
They are the new owners of the Peppery Gar and Brill and they are beginning to put their own stamp on the popular American fare restaurant on Mono Way.
The husband and wife duo grew up in Sonora and had modest beginnings at the restaurant. Dave started as a dishwasher at the Peppery more than 15 years ago. While working there he met Alicia, who was a waitress.
Dave rose through the ranks to become head cook and eventually married Alicia. In fact, many of the major events in the lives of the Ballards have centered around the Peppery, so about six months ago they decided to take the former owner, Chris Perry, up on an offer to buy it.
"It's kind of always been our plan in the background," Alicia said. "Dave knows the business inside and out."
She said the restaurant already has a large and loyal clientele, so they don't plan to change the core attractions at the restaurant like steaks, satellite sports channels and lovely young waitresses in floral print skirts.
"We have a few changes, but nothing too dramatic," Alicia said.
However they do plan to make some additions to the menu, including healthy chicken dishes, cioppino pasta and a new and improved wing sauce. They also plan to add a fresh coat of paint, bigger TVs and an expanded wine list.
They have set up a Facebook page to help promote the business on the web and already have more than 250 "likes."
The Peppery opened in 1994 and has about 36 employees, some of whom have been working there for a decade, Alicia said. The restaurant serves more than 400 hungry customers a day.
The new owners now balance their time between running the restaurant, finding fresh produce vendors and raising their 2-year-old son.
"We want to build on the reputation that's already here," Dave said.