Our advertising is out for the first event for the INSIDE THE ENTREPRENEUR: ENLIGHTENING LESSONS. We have changed the date to April 17 instead of April 20 due to venue availability and day of week. We thought a Friday night would have better turnout than a Monday night.
The founders of highly successful local restaurants will be featured in the first presentation scheduled for Friday, April 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Dogwood Forum theater on the college campus. River Klass is the owner of a pair of well-known food establishments in Murphys: Grounds and Firewood. Eric Davis owns the Diamondback Grill, a popular Sonora destination for dining.
River Klass earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Villanova University in 1986 and then traveled to Europe to study at the Sorbonne. While there, he also worked in Parisian restaurants where he acquired experience in culinary techniques, along with a taste for fine regional wines. Upon his return to the U.S., he discovered an interest in design and building, and started a company in Hollywood that built commercial and music video sets.
In 1992, Klass moved to Murphys where he opened Grounds, a combination coffee, pastry and sandwich shop. Within a year, the eatery quickly evolved into a local favorite serving complete breakfasts, lunches and dinners. When space next door became available, he also opened Firewood with its menu of fast, fresh meals for families. In 2005, Klass started RiverK restaurant in Roseville, which he later sold but still entertains the idea of reopening in other locations.
Eric Davis, a 1982 graduate of Cal Poly, Pomona with a degree in restaurant hospitality management, put his education immediately to good use through jobs at First Street Bar & Grill, Epicurious and the Rapport Restaurant, all located in Claremont.
In 1991, he purchased a tiny 25-seat diner in downtown Sonora, then called the Lasso Coffee Shop. The location had been a diner for over 90 years and Davis retained its Americana decor, complete with chrome and red vinyl stools, but renamed it the Diamondback Grill. His menu of half-pound burgers, marinated chicken salads and goat cheese-stuffed chilies kept lines forming outside the door.
Before long, the Diamondback received recognition from Restaurant Hospitality, The San Francisco Chronicle, VIA and Fodor’s Travel Guide for its “quality meals with bold, direct flavors.”
In 2007, Davis moved across the street into larger quarters with vaulted ceilings, exposed rock and plaster walls, and a separate wine bar. Today’s customers still line up outside his restaurant while waiting for seating.