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MYST owner remembered as ‘class act’

The owner of a popular hibachi and sushi gastro pub in downtown Jim Thorpe died Sunday at his home in Drums.

Mike Heiser, 44, opened MYST in 2019 at the site of the former Blue Mountain Sports & Wear bike shop on Susquehanna Street.

Employees who worked with and for Heiser described him as a force to be reckoned with in the business world, while staying genuine, compassionate and caring to those closest to him.

“When I worked at MYST, many times I would walk to work and one time I asked for a ride back to my car,” Kiley Bos­well, a manager and server at the restaurant, said of Heiser. “It was my first time in a sports car and when he took me to my destination he couldn’t believe I walked the distance I did to get to work. Needless to say every shift after I was in the passenger seat as he wouldn’t let me walk that far ever again.”

When Heiser would later open Witch City Hibachi in Salem, Massachusetts, he made Boswell managing partner.

“He was one of the people outside my family who truly wanted me to succeed in anything I put my mind to,” she said. “Because Mike wanted everyone around him to be up. Mike believed in me and gave opportunities that I couldn’t dream of. Mike took me under his wing and throughout all of our time together, I looked up to him not only as mentor but like a second dad.”

Heiser had already been a successful hibachi restaurateur by the time he opened MYST, having established businesses in Wilkes-Barre; Bloomsburg; St. Clair; Indiana, Pennsylvania; and other locations. In a social media post from 2018, he said he was sparked to open MYST after having conversations while he and his fiancee patronized the Broadway Tavern over the prior year.

“We were getting to know a lot of the locals and bartenders, and upon asking what I did for a living, I explained that I had hibachi restaurants,” Heiser said. “Much to my surprise and delight was the request to bring a hibachi and sushi place to Jim Thorpe. I stumbled upon the old bike shop on Susquehanna Street. The rest was history. We fell in love with the place.”

Heiser’s opening of MYST kicked off what Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency President Michael Rivkin called a “restaurant renaissance” in Jim Thorpe.

“You know before that, we had a great crop of restaurants that had been reliable standards, and I mean that in a really positive way, for a number of years,” Rivkin said. “When Mike came to town, I don’t think anyone had even thought of doing a sort of non-pub restaurant, so it was a long shot. It was a gamble that worked so well, they are planning their second location here in Jim Thorpe.”

Though MYST enjoyed a lot of success, Heiser was also interested in promoting Jim Thorpe businesses beyond his own. He was one of the creators of the Experience Jim Thorpe Facebook page.

“That page’s goal was to market some of the destinations and attractions and eateries here in Jim Thorpe and it wasn’t just for MYST, it was for everyone who wanted to be a part of it,” Rivkin said.

Alice Wanamaker, Carbon Chamber and Economic Development executive director, said Heiser left his mark on Carbon County and will be missed.

“He was a truly passionate and creative entrepreneur and brought an energy to the region that we hope will continue to be felt as we all remember him,” Wanamaker said. “Mike not only strived for excellence within his businesses, but he was always at the table to collaborate with and champion other businesses and organizations in the area.”

Tributes to Heiser have been flooding in to social media since word of his passing spread.

“The millions of compliments I have for him come easily to me,” posted Alicia Thompson, “but to sum it up he truly was a class act. I had the pleasure of working with and for him. His off-the-cuff humor was something to see. His empathy and care for everyone (friend or stranger) was nothing short of inspirational. He was genuine, driven and the way he loved his family was something we can all strive for.”

Heiser’s relationship with his customers was as equally important to him as the one he shared with his employees.

“He kind of took you back to the old days when you could go in any business and the owner was there, at the front of the house,” Rivkin said. “Locals would go in and have a drink with him and catch up. He was the face of MYST.”

A sign outside of MYST restaurant in Jim Thorpe. JAMES LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS