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Derby owner invests heavily in eatery

Updated Feb. 19, 2015 Dustin Nicolarsen, owner of The Derby, is so excited and confident about the future of his restaurant that he exercised the option to purchase the property last year, put $100,000 into a remodel of the patio in time for last year’s Breeders’ Cup, put $50,000 into a masonry twin-sided fireplace, and just spent $40,000 on a sprinkler system.

“I didn’t dump all this money into The Derby just to sell it,” Nicolarsen told this morning. “This is the biggest real estate holding I have and I have no intention of downsizing.”

Chip Sturniolo and Nicolarsen are currently in discussions about the future ownership and/or leasing of the percentage of the rest of the collection still owned by the Sturniolo family, some of which has been advertised for sale recently, which has caused some speculation about the status of the restaurant itself. Craig Doolittle, a legal agent for the retired Chip Sturnicolo in the sale of some of the horse racing memorabilia that has been showcased at The Derby for many years, confirmed to Arcadia’s Best that they are seeking investors who have an interest in horse racing that would purchase the collection as a whole and allow it to be showcased at Santa Anita Park horse race track or another local location. He confirmed that The Derby is not for sale and they are hopeful that it will “be operating for many years to come with Dustin at the helm.”

“I’m very young and not even thinking about retirement,” Nicolarsen said, emphasizing that discussions relating to the memorabilia are not related to the operation of the restaurant itself. He also owns Opera restaurant in Monrovia.

— By Scott Hettrick

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