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After A Tragedy, This Restaurateur Did What All Entrepreneurs Must: She Learned How To Keep Going

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This story appears in the May 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It was love at first sight, as Jen Hidinger always tells it. Her husband, Ryan, would joke that it took him a bit longer. “Well, for me, it was love at first sight,” Jen says. They met at a grocery store in the Indianapolis suburbs. She was 17 and worked the cash register. He was 22 and a line cook at a catering company nearby. He kept coming into her store, giving her a shy wave and buying Bubblicious gum. He bought a lot of Bubblicious.

Photographs by Stefan Ruiz
Jen Hidinger at her restaurant, Staplehouse, housed in a 1906 building that still has its original pine beams.

Finally, one day, he asked if she was free that night. She wasn’t; she was babysitting some kids at church. But, she says, “I scribbled my beeper number on receipt paper. I thought he was smokin’ hot.” Soon they were on their first date. They went to the zoo and then to the arcade at the mall, where she milked a fake cow to earn tickets for cheap tchotchkes. (“We were young,” Jen says. “Couldn’t go drinking.”) A few days later, she asked her parents if she could go on a date with this older guy named Ryan -- as if that hadn’t already happened. When he arrived at her house to pick her up, her parents and brother sat him down for what has become known in their family lore as the Spanish Inquisition -- a nod to her mom, who is from Spain. “If you ever touch her,” Jen’s brother eventually said to Ryan, “it’s statutory rape.” 

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