Social worker turned restaurant owner, Athan Miller found a way to combine two of her dreams — ones that may seem somewhat opposite. Jacks and Steamers Bar & Grill in Five Parks, Arvada is a family atmosphere that is centered around employing and supporting adults with developmental disabilities. Throughout the years, this business has transitioned from a coffee shop to a full-service restaurant and is now completed with its own deli.
Prior to 2006, owners Athan and Jack Miller lived very different lives than the ones they do now. The two were ready to take a chance and create something special, so Athan went to her boss with a new idea. “My husband found a little coffee shop for sale in the village of Five Parks and came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you quit your job and buy this coffee shop and employ individuals with disabilities and see how that goes?’ So, I went to Scott Parker of Parker Personal Care Homes and said, “Would you like to go into business with me and see if we can make this work?’” Athan remembered.
The couple went on to buy the coffee shop — a tiny block at the corner of the village. They hired three individuals with developmental disabilities at first and were excited to grow in the future. “Elsa, who still works here, was the very first employee that I ever hired. When I interviewed her, she laughed, and her laugh was the best laugh ever. I was like, ‘You are so hired,’” Athan said. The learning curve began, and the first issue the two ran into was the lack of space for more employees. The 1,200 square foot lot next to them became available and what was once Steamers expanded.
Soon after this, the building underwent construction and was designed as a key space for a restaurant. Jack and Athan Miller struggled to find a restaurant to fill the space, so they decided to create their own. “We opened and it was crazy. We didn’t really have a menu and we had no idea what we were doing. It was a very fast process to learn,” Athan remembered. After the expansion, the couple was able to hire many more employees both with and without disabilities to go through this learning experience with them.
After growing a couple more times and taking over the lots upstairs and across the street, opening a deli became their new enterprise. “We decided to open the deli in the space where our idea of a prep kitchen is. The idea has always been that it doesn’t matter your ability or your disability. We are all working side by side. It’s an integrated place for anybody today,” Athan stated. Now, the lot across the street doubles as both AJ’s Deli and the prep kitchen for Jacks and Steamers.
Although the whole experience from start to finish was a learning curve, the owners and employees have learned how to adapt to any circumstance. “The thing that we do with all staff, regardless of if they have disabilities or not, is you can kind see where people gravitate to naturally,” Athan explained. “So, either people gravitate to the back of house where they don’t want to be in the public eye or people gravitate to the front in the same way. Once they start working you can see where their natural skills and abilities shine, then put them in a position where they are comfortable.” Jack’s and AJ’s Deli have both become havens for all individuals and its family-friendly feel supports its employees and customers — while also entertaining with some good grub.
Jack’s Bar and Grill holds an abundance of comfort food and popular eats. Its lineup of salads, sandwiches and sliders are favorites for all. Some of our favorites include the Poached Pear & Beet Salad ($15) complete with blackened chicken, port poached pears, pickled beets, blue cheese crumbles and candied walnuts and its Italian Grinder Sliders ($14.37), topped with Italian sausage, sautéed peppers, onions, melty provolone cheese and hot marinara sauce. This grill also offers breakfast on the weekends, finished with bottomless mimosas for $15 on Saturdays and Sundays. With a full bar, amazing lineup of beers and wines and craft cocktails, there is no reason not to stop in. Its sister, AJ’s Deli, is the perfect quick stop for grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, breakfast and even coffee. Visit to munch on fresh flavors and see the smiling faces of its employees.
Jacks and Steamers is located at 8565 Five Parks Dr, Arvada and AJ’s Deli is located at 8560 Five Parks Dr, Arvada. Jacks is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Aj’s Deli is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day.