Believe it or not, Kiki Donikian doesn’t cook, but she loves her job running a restaurant in downtown Highlands.
While Donikian dreamed of owning her own business since coming to the United States from Bulgaria 16 years ago, opening Midpoint Highlands located in the former Cyprus restaurant on Main Street wasn’t a part of her grand plan, it just happened.
“I would never do it – own a restaurant – it was one of those things that just happened,” Donikian said. “When Cyprus went out of business, I had an attachment to the building. This is one of the best spots. With the dining room, the open ceiling and the patio on the roof, this place resonated with me.”
Donikian is one of a growing number of Highlands women who own their own businesses.
“Highlands is well represented with strong, independent women,” she said.
Donikian’s mother is Bulgarian while her father is Armenian. She came to the United States at the age of 20 to go to school.
“I had to work to make some money in some way and my first job was in a country club,” she said. “I got into being around people and making them happy.”
Being in the people business was something Donikian could always envision herself doing and spent the past 16 years working for others. In 2019, the time came for her to run her own business.
She brought in partner Scott Crow to help her run the business and hired a chef to build the kitchen. After completely renovating the old Cyprus restaurant, Midpoint Highlands opened its doors in August 2019.
“It is such an open, peaceful space,” Donikian said of Midpoint Highlands. “The kitchen is an open kitchen and the dining room is spacious.”
The first couple months in business were not without its share of growing pains.
“In the beginning it was challenging,” she said. “Until we put the menu the way it should be. We found the perfect balance.”
Midpoint Highlands features a modern global cuisine, which features a little bit of everything.
“A little bit of world cuisine, a little bit of everything around the world and comfort American food,” she said. “The most challenging part is to figure out what people love. We’ve had some incredible talent who believed in our idea of what should be on a menu.”
The restaurant was open for six months when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered everything in March and Midpoint remained closed for a month and a half, opting to pass on curbside service so as not to compromise the integrity of their cuisine.
“Our food is meant to be eaten hot and fresh, on a plate and in a certain environment,” Donikian said. “Putting our food in Styrofoam and eating it cold, I didn’t want to do that.”
“COVID made things a little more challenging than it used to be,” she said. “The new challenging thing is cleaning and sanitizing things 20-35 times a day.”
Donikian’s patience paid off, Midpoint Highlands has been busy every night since it reopened.
“The inside is wide open with a lot of open space,” she said. “People feel very safe here.”
Every day brings a new set of challenges. She considers maintaining a sense of calm her greatest personal challenge.
“The biggest challenge to not get stressed out and let go of things easily,” Donikian said. “Don’t hold a grudge.”
Donikian has learned a lot since coming to the U.S. and loves pursuing her dreams.
“I learned there’s no limit to how you can far you can go as long as you can believe in your dream and your vision,” she said. “If I have a great day and the day is over, I’m looking forward to the next day.
She is always learning, always aware.
“I don’t feel established, there is always something new,” Donikian said. “There’s always something more. This is my first venture and I’ve learned a lot from it. Hopefully I can do more in the future.”