Zinful Panini Grill & Wine Bar has been a destination spot in downtown Kennewick since it opened in August 2009.
Cheri and Mike Manley bought the 96-year-old building in 1999 and spent six years renovating it, bringing out its historic charm while repairing the leaky roof and chipping away an overlay of cement to expose the brick walls.
Earlier this year, Cheri Manley quietly sold her restaurant -- but not the building -- to Robyn Barness and Kerri Lampson, both of Kennewick.
"It was seamless," Manley said. "I walked out one day and they took over the next. They leased everything, lock, stock and barrel, even the TP."
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But that doesn't mean Zinful customers don't see Manley once in a while, after all she owns and operates the She She's gift shop next door.
"Customers come in and tell me they're doing a really good job. That makes me feel good; I made a good choice in those two," Manley said.
Barness and Lampson kept the same menu and are using Manley's recipes for Zinful's signature panini sandwiches.
But recently they began to branch out, testing a few pasta dishes, some flat bread sandwiches, stuffed breads and bruschetta on a few customers.
"We want their feedback before adding them to the menu. We want them to be perfect," said Barness.
The pasta dishes already have passed the test and are offered as specials on Friday and Saturday evenings.
"Zinful has so many dear, sweet regulars we didn't want to make changes to the menu until we were sure," Barness said.
Manley never advertised her business being for sale. Instead she put the word out among friends. It was a friend of a friend who alerted Barness and Lampson to the opportunity.
"They began coming in and giving me these big, big smiles. I thought it was a bit odd but didn't really think anything about it," Manley said.
Neither Barness nor Lampson had worked in a restaurant. Though Lampson's parents, Clark and Cherie Henderson, owned the Richland Dairy Queen and ran the one in Pasco while she was in school.
"So I knew what the hours would be like because I hardly ever saw my father. He was always working," Lampson said.
Still they were game and approached Manley with an offer. If they volunteered at the restaurant, would she teach them?
The ambitious duo did that for five months before striking a bargain with Manley. They signed the lease in mid-March.
The first four or five months the two did it all -- cook, clean and serve. Now they have about six part-time employees who work mainly weekends and for special events.
"We're not just a restaurant; we have receptions, birthday parties, dinner theater, Bunco parties, just call, we'll make it work," Lampson said.
Even though the hours are long, the two women said they love it.
"It's a wonderful change from working in a cubical in an office with no windows," said Barness, a former accountant.
"After working in medical insurance for 26 years, I love this," said Lampson.
The family-friendly restaurant is at 114 W. Kennewick Ave.
It seats about 80 and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They will be closed Dec. 22-26 and on New Year's Day.
The phone number is 586-6100. Find them on the web at zinfulkennewick.com or on Facebook.
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