KENNEWICK -- The aroma of simmering spaghetti sauce has greeted customers at The Spaghetti Establishment for 36 years.
But when the Kennewick restaurant's doors close at 9 p.m. Saturday, the bubbling kettles of sauce and pasta will be taken off the burners and scoured clean for the last time.
"It was a longtime dream of mine, to own a restaurant," said owner Randy Bibe. "Making the decision to close, it was a tough one. I really struggled with it."
He and his wife, Jolene, bought the business just over a year and a half ago from Dick and Karlene Nordess, who retired.
The Bibes made the final decision to close at the end of October.
Two major factors influenced their decision.
"Basically, it's the tough economic conditions and the influx of restaurants into the Tri-Cities," he said. "More restaurants are good for the Tri-Cities but hard on independents like us. Especially when you can't compete against their advertising."
The restaurant's location also contributed to the Bibes' decision. The Spaghetti Establishment is in a mostly residential area at Fourth Avenue and Vancouver Street.
"Placed where we are, we have to be a destination restaurant. We're not a drive-by where people spot you and say, 'Oh, let's stop.' People have to know we're here," he said.
"When the restaurant opened in 1974, it was one of three or four or five worth going to. Now they can choose from 300 or 400," Bibe said.
Bibe said they will miss their customers.
"We've had some wonderful people come through," he said. "Our life has been blessed because of that, the rest is just money."
They've had customers come in from as far away as Florida and people who would drive periodically from Hermiston and Kahlotus and north Franklin County. It's also been a favorite eating establishment for the sports crowd.
"There's a group from Boise, I think they play soccer, who always stop in, and the Pasco Invitationals always bring in the teams, too," Bibe said.
The Bibes have yet to decide what to do with the collectibles, antique furniture and other furnishings in the restaurant.
"If people are interested in buying any, we'd love to talk with them, otherwise there are companies who buy them. We just have not thought about that aspect," he said.
As for the future, the Bibes will continue with their day jobs.
"We knew it was a risk going in so we didn't put all our eggs into one basket. We knew we wanted something to fall back on," he said.
Bibe is a nurse consultant who helps hospitals solve a host of problems relating to nursing and the nursing staff. His wife is a nurse at the Tri-City Regional Surgery Center in Richland.
But until Saturday, Bibe's message on the restaurant answering machine remains: "Have a good day and see you for dinner."
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org