There are not many female-owned and managed restaurants, and as we end Women’s History Month, we wish to highlight one of Carson’s newest female-owned eateries certain to be a popular gathering place all year long.
An entrepreneur since the age of 16, Lori Baxter has had quite the journey before venturing to open her latest business in Carson City. Not shying from the often-tough labor it takes to operate a successful eatery, Lori recently opened Bella Vita Bistro in the Carson Mall, her fifth restaurant venture.
The energetic and charismatic Baxter began her career in the Bay Area when she was only 16. She saw an opportunity to enhance the décor within major international businesses by incorporating and maintaining live plants and was the first such company to do so. Her clientele grew to a list that read like a who’s who of industries in the Bay Area, and business boomed.
Baxter sold her business 11 years later at age 27 when she and her growing family moved to El Dorado Hills, Calif., where she then opened three children’s clothing and maternity boutiques. Six years later, the family left the Sacramento area to find their fortune in Durango, Colo., where her restless and creative mind came up with an idea we take for granted today — the advertising boards affixed to the top of gasoline pumps. Her new company — named Pump Toppers — grew to the point where it caught the eye of a media giant.
After selling Pump Toppers, the family moved to Carson Valley where Baxter decided it was time to try her hand at the food service business. Although she was never formally trained as a chef, she has always had a passion for cooking combined with a passion for people.
The first restaurant, Daily Scoop, was a hit — ice cream parlor in the front, bistro in the main area and then a sushi bar in the rear. The unexpected success of the sushi bar led to the opening of Wasabi’s — the first sushi bar in the Valley — and later to the opening of Bella Vita Gourmet Sandwiches out of which she operated her successful catering business, still going strong today. Then came Indigo, a small plates tapas-style restaurant, opened before tapas became popular.
As it did for many business owners, the downturn in the economy took its toll and Baxter was forced to close all but the catering business. Fate intervened when she took a catering job for Heavenly Ski Resort that led her right back to opening another restaurant venture at the Minden Airport named Flight Restaurant. The location was not conducive to make this a successful venture, so Baxter turned to the Carrington Company — or Carrington turned to her — and now the rest is history. As she states, “I lost one lease and signed another.”
Everything you see in Bella Vita Bistro has Baxter’s touch. Though she does not cook within the restaurant, the menus are 90 percent hers and as owner and general manager, she oversees all aspects of the daily operations along with her catering — where she cooks — and delivery business. When in the farmer’s market season, she and her family can be seen at six markets, including Carson’s.
The menu is modern, homemade chips and dip are served complimentary as part of the afternoon and evening meal, there’s a full-service bar, entertainment on the weekend and a comfortable atmosphere. There’s even bar seating for those dining alone. Baxter is very conscious about customer service and prides herself on listening to her guests.
Three of Baxter’s five children participate in the business.
“I credit my staff — including the separate catering staff — in helping me to keep so many balls in the air, and I am excited about my future here in Carson City and will be expanding the restaurant to include the outdoors when the weather is warm,” she enthused as she cited plans to include an outdoor fire pit, a special BBQ menu, outside full-service bar and entertainment, making this the place to meet friends after work.
The restaurant is located at 1304 S. Stewart St. in the Carson Mall.