The Bear's Den Beats the Odds With 25 Years in Business

Barbara Kieker

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Kristi Lyles and her mother opened The Bear's Den in early 1989 as a take-out restaurant featuring southern homecoming based on their family recipes. It grew into a full-service restaurant with dine-in, take-out and catering. According to Lyles, the idea for the business was entirely her mother's.

"Everyone told my mom she was crazy and I did too. But I was just home from college and I needed a job," Lyles said.

"Over the 25 years we've been in business, I've been in and out as I had my kids. Now I'm back full-time and my mom is still here although she doesn't want any day-to-day responsibilities."

Succeeding in a Tough Business
According to research done at the Ohio State University's Hospitality Management program, which was cited in a 2007 Bloomberg BusinessWeek story, three out of five restaurants fail in the first three years. How then did The Bear's Den beat the odds?

"We had some tough years. My mom has always had a strong work ethic, and is determined not to give up easily. I have learned so much from her. We both try to do our best, pay attention to detail, and do the right thing. You never know all that you will have to deal with in business and life so ultimately we pray and trust in the Lord above all," Lyles said.

"It's very hard work but it's been such a blessing for our family. We are very grateful for it."

Lyles is quick to point out that "you don't have a business without customers." The restaurant has a loyal customer base with some regulars who have been coming for close to 25 years.

"I like to say we've served the best food to the best customers for more than 25 years," Lyles said.

And some employees have been with the business for more than 20 years.

Part of the Backbone of the Community
"I love the fact that we employ almost 20 people and we're in it for the long term. I think it's significant for our community and a great reminder than small business is the backbone of our community," Lyles said.

The Bear's Den supports the community in others ways as well, providing meals to Ronald McDonald house, Habitat for Humanity and Fuller Center for Housing, among others. It also supports Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia, where Lyles' husband is the executive director of development.

The Bear's Den is open weekdays only. Dine-in hours are from 10:30 to 3 and take-out hours are from 10:30 to 6. The restaurant is located at 1191 Oglethorpe St.

More information on the restaurant's menu options is available online at or call 478-745-9909.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.