Kipp’s Home Cookin’ wins 2008 Dane County Small Business Award
Staying Alive
time this week. But we have people who will listen to us. So we are sitting here talking to you today and the doors are open. Every day is a brand new day.”
“Behind the scenes, there is a lot of work that is involved in just turning on the lights and opening up the doors,” Miller added. “There’s a lot of back room stuff
going on that requires a lot of thought and a lot of work. You come into a place like ours and have a great meal, you just have no idea of what has all gone on
to just get the meal out to you so you can sit down and eat it.”
    The restaurant business in Dane County is very competitive and has a relatively low profit-margin — if the restaurant has a profit margin at all. Thomas and
Miller have true grit and determination to follow their dream of owning their own business. It’s something they do every day and are constantly reminded that
tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. On more than one occasion since they opened their doors in Fitchburg in 1997 before moving to their present location in
2004, they considered closing their doors. But their pride and their love of working for themselves has helped them hang in there through the upturns and
downturns of the local business cycle and UW-Madison semester schedule.
    Miller has worked for large pharmaceutical firms and Ford Motor Company. He’s been in situations that create a lot of stress. But none of that past experience
was as tough as running his own business. “It’s a day-to-day challenge,” Miller said. “Every day is different. Every day! I think that is one thing that has given me a
little peace. I used to come in and say ‘I hope today is just normal.’ I finally threw that aside. I’m not going to come in and hope that today is normal. Today is
going to be today. I just have to face whatever comes up.”
    “I’ve worked for some huge corporations,” Miller continued. “And all I had to do was drive up, go to my desk and start doing my work. I remember once
coming in the driveway and it wasn’t plowed. I went to the office manager and asked why the driveway wasn’t plowed. I don’t have to worry about that. My wife
and I had a discussion who works hard and I would never downplay what she has to do. But she once said ‘Our jobs are similar. We both deal with similar stuff.’
And I had to point out to her that the only difference is that if someone breaks a window at her office, they don’t call her. If someone breaks a window here, I’ll
get the call from the police. We then have to handle that. People don’t realize that so much stuff behind the scenes has to get done. So when you are out in
the public on your own, you learn such patience. You realize ‘You know what? Why this is going wrong more than likely isn’t because someone wasn’t planning
or working hard to do it.’ Things come up.”

Next issue: More struggles and joys.
Forrest “Kipp” Thomas (l-r), Kym
Miller and Mike Miller, along with
Kym and Mike’s dad Jerry, are the
mainstays of Kipp’s Down Home
Cookin’.
By Jonathan Gramling

Part 1 of 2

    Every morning, Forrest “Kipp” Thomas, co-owner of Kipp’s Down Home Cookin on Monroe Street, relishes another day.
“I see the city come alive every morning,” Thomas emphasized during an interview with The Capital City Hues. “And I’m
one of the first persons who are walking into their own business. When you open your door in the morning, you feel a lot
of pride. There is a bus driver who comes by here every morning and waves to me. People who are towing cars wave at
me. People always blow and wave. There is a warm feeling that comes over you because people recognize this
restaurant as a place to go and have a good meal. I just like waving to people in the morning that I see every day. It’s
funny, but sometimes I feel I ought to cook them breakfast because I see them so much.”
    Thomas and Mike Miller along with Miller’s father Jerry, are the active partners of Kipp’s, which recently won a 2008
Dane County Small Business Award. As we talk and take photos, customers steadily come in for some “down home” —
Southern style — cooking. One would think that Kipp’s has it made with some name recognition, an excellent line of
food products and wonderful employees.
    But as Thomas gazes out at the world coming alive in the morning and takes pride in their shop, other thoughts creep
in. He is probably thinking about how they are going to stay alive. “Personally, a lot of people don’t realize what we’ve
had to go through and what we still go through,” Thomas said. “And next month, there’s going to be some more stuff. But
you know what? We’re here now. We’re giggling and laughing about certain things because it has been a very emotional