In 2004, with 65 “no, thank yous” under my belt from banks and individuals, I pressed forward and finally discovered a way to finance this dream of a restaurant called The Hardware Store.
At the end of a day in October of that year — a day that surely meant I would have to give up this dream — a Vashon couple came forward and offered to guarantee my loans of $400,000 to open the restaurant. I will never forget that day; I felt like I was skipping on air. This would mark the second miracle of my career and the second biggest thank you in my journey to open a restaurant on Vashon Island. Thank you, Dan and Pam Baty. This restaurant would not have opened without you.
The first miracle came while sitting down at Chuck and Mary Jo Barrentine’s kitchen table to lay out my vision for a community gathering place that served up great food and service. Chuck and Mary Jo were selling the building, which her father, George McCormick, had owned and operated as a hardware store for 60 some years. I told them straight away that I couldn’t afford to buy the building — they were asking $650,000 — but I could rent it for a $1,000 a month until I got my feet on the ground. To my surprise, after hearing the vision, they stuck out their hands and said, “you’ve got a deal.”
The very next day, they got a full price, cash offer from someone else — and they turned it down. Years later, I asked Mary Jo why they did that and she said it was never about the money — miracle No. 1. So, my first thank you is to you, Mary Jo and Chuck Barrentine.
But my overall biggest, heartfelt massive thank you is to you, the community of Vashon-Maury Island. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for cheering us on in the early years; supporting us as we found our legs; constructively critiquing us so we could continually improve; sharing the special moments and events of your lives with us; and trusting us to feed you well. It has been an honor and privilege to serve all of you in this community. You believed in the dream along with us and you kept us going even when it seemed prudent to stop. You, in all your glory, are the reason and the beneficiary of this venture where magic can happen when you bring people together around a table in a purposeful way.
We went on to create a family of 50-plus employees, who worked their fingers to the bone to make this stressful and challenging business work. But we made sure to have fun along the way and today we celebrate the bond we share that comes from working hard and punching a clock together to make a positive difference in people’s lives. A huge thank you to you all — past, present and future!
My favorite moments in the restaurant came from celebrating the highlights of life along with our customers, supporting all the charitable causes in our community, grieving and comforting on poignant days of loss and committing to being open 364 days a year. We are all proud to say that over $500,000 has been raised over 15 years for island nonprofits and good causes. This symbiotic relationship, between community and business, is a thing of beauty and a great model of success for any business. The more you give, the more you receive.
My decision to retire was not made lightly. A lot of things had to line up for me to be able to do this successfully — and line up, they did. My business partner of several years, Rob Andrews, who has been a great friend and mentor, readily agreed to help make this happen for me. He is now the managing partner of The Hardware Store. Another important factor was finding a great general manager to run the day to day business. When Adam Chumas reached out to me to teach a wine class at our cooking school, Relish, little did I know at the time he would impress me so much and eventually become the one to run The Hardware Store. He has a great pedigree of experience with some of the top restaurateurs in the country and has now been at the helm of The Hardware Store for five months.
I am so excited to support the restaurant as a customer now — cheering on our great staff and supporting their efforts to keep the spirit of The Hardware Store alive, while introducing some fun and exciting changes.
Melinda Powers is a long time Vashon resident and founder of The Hardware Store Restaurant.