This dad did not bat an eyelid to do everything needed to support his child, even if it meant renaming his restaurant with a significant brand value.
Ollie, a 16-year-old non-binary person, came out to their parents two years ago. While the majority of these conversations don't go well, it was different for Ollie as he has an extremely supportive father, per TODAY. Dave Heide, the father, had the best reaction and did not think it was something life-altering for him. He recalled, "I was like, 'OK, cool, what's up? Is there something else going on or...?' He was like no, I'm coming out!' and I was like, 'Oh, OK, cool.' "
Heide and his wife are unwavering in their commitment to support their child, who uses both he/him and they/them pronouns. The family had named their restaurant after Ollie's deadname before they came out. They left the decision of changing the restaurant's name to Ollie. They said, "We had talked about it before and I had a lot of connection to it since I’d grown up with it. But it just got getting harder and harder to see my old name, huge on the side of the road. And my dad just kept listening and tried to come up with a bunch of different solutions, and then decided to change it."
The first restaurant, which opened more than 15 years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, placed Heide on the culinary map, but it meant that all of Ollie's new high school teachers knew about his father and as a consequence, Ollie's deadname. Ollie says that many of his teachers were unaware of "how big of an issue it is to say someone's deadname in the classroom." They said, "And there is just that dread of like, as soon as someone brings up my dad, I knew ... the whole class was going to know my deadname now."
Heide said, "He was like, 'Only if that's OK.' And I was like, 'Of course, I don’t give a s--- about my brand or whatever ... I care about my kiddo and, you know, him being able to have a safe and happy life." Heide goes on to say that trans individuals have a reduced life expectancy due to "the amount of cases of suicide and whatnot."
Instead of simply renaming the restaurant, Heide chose to completely remodel it. The new eatery, Ollie's, is fast-casual and serves family-favorite foods. He added, "So, it's like smash burgers and Detroit-style pizza and Mediterranean food, like euros and falafel and that kind of stuff, but we do it all with a chef-forward approach." Ollie and his two other siblings, Charlie and John, were also given the opportunity to contribute to some of the design decisions made throughout the remodeling. The renovated Ollie's opened five weeks ago and has been "packed" ever since.
Ollie stated that he is delighted to tell his story in order to serve as an example as someone who is free to take up space. They said, "It's so hard for so many trans people feeling like they're a burden when they ask people to make those changes. And when my dad made the move to change the entire restaurant, the restaurant's name and like, just change everything about it — even though it had a super big business following everything — it showed trans people that like it's OK to ask for those changes."