Today, Emerson owns The Bridge Café and Grill near the ski lift at Town Bridge, one of Park City's highest-profile businesses. He got there via a route as circuitous as a slalom run. Earning a degree in computer science while working at restaurant jobs, Emerson met the Sweeney brothers in 2006 as a point-of-sale IT specialist. "We built a great relationship," he says of the Sweeneys. "I will be grateful for the rest of my life" for the opportunity to open The Bridge in 2008. 

Emerson and his spouse Juliana, also from Brazil, turned the vacant space into a Brazilian-inspired casual food spot that is a local and tourist favorite. "My generation grew up with home cooking in our blood," he remembers. Adding ownership of the Flying Sumo sushi restaurant on Park Avenue, he adds, "We needed more than a passion for food to make a successful business, though."

It's been 23 years since his gas station overnighters. "Here we are now with three children, two restaurants and living the Park City life!" Emerson smiles. "Along the way, I somehow learned to become a local," he says. "We love our cozy place, with slow summer nights, and then comes all the excitement as town wakes up every season to become a giant."

Real giants come in all sizes, and his inspiring success story makes Emerson Oliveira one of Park City's own.