The duo bringing The Original Pancake House to Kennewick may be the Washington’s luckiest restaurateurs, or simply the two with the best timing.
As the U.S. economy was teetering toward collapse in 2008, Ryan Medford and Blake Williams were closing a bank loan to launch their first outlet, a pancake restaurant in Puyallup.
Medford and Williams grew up in Salem, Ore., and decided to make a go of the restaurant business after they graduated from college, Western Oregon University for Medford and the University of Washington for Williams.
By the time the economy faltered in late 2008, Medford and Williams had devoted two years to their plan. Williams lived in Salem, working as a cook at The Original Pancake House. Medford lived in Richland and worked at Lamb Weston’s Pasco plant.
They’d meet in Hood River to plan and strategize about their dream.
They’d secured private investment and loans from family and friends. Most important of all, they had applied for a small business loan from U.S. Bank to open the Puyallup location. With alarming headlines coming out of Wall Street and Washington, D.C., they were nervous.
“We were really worried the banks were going to seize up,” Medford recalled.
They got their loan in a nick of time.
The bank approved the Small Business Administration-backed loan on Sept. 29, 2008, the same day the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an emergency bill to recapitalize banks. Their loan officer called with the good news and urgent counsel: Come down and close this loan now!
They did and fulfilled their dream a short time later. They opened their first restaurant in 2009.
It was a tough business climate, but they eventually opened two more editions on the west side, one in Maple Valley and the other in Tacoma. Now, they’re turning their attention to the Tri-Cities, where they plan to open two more Original Pancake House locations.
The first is being built near Trios Health’s new hospital in Kennewick’s Southridge district. The building permit for the project at 3801 Plaza Way is valued at $1.2 million.
The restaurant is set to open in early 2017 with 4,500 square feet and about 40 employees. It will serve all manner of pancakes, all prepared from scratch, as well as waffles, dutch babies, egg dishes, biscuits and gravy and more.
The second location hasn’t been determined.
Medford and Williams have an unusual relationship with their Portland-based parent corporation. They pay royalties and use its logo and recipe book. But the franchisees call the shots on menu planning, restaurant decor and where they buy their food, all items usually under the control of the parent, not the franchisee.
“We really operate like a small local business,” Medford said.
Medford said the recession forced the company to adopt good business habits that helped it grow as the economy regained its footing.
“The good ones survived,” he said.
USA Today readers high on Tri-City wineries
Three Tri-City wineries have been tabbed by USA Today readers for having the nation’s best tasting rooms. The editors selected 20 nominees and asked readers to select their favorites in a month-long unscientific poll.
Fiction, the on-site restaurant at Richland’s J. Bookwalter Winery was voted one of the 10 best winery restaurants in the country, according to a reader poll conducted by 10Best. com. on behalf of travel editors of USA Today newspaper.
Fiction @ J. Bookwalter is a full-service restaurant offering lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch in Richland. Sunset magazine previously named it one of the best tasting rooms in the nation.
In a separate poll for best tasting rooms, Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Prosser and Hedges Family Estate in Benton City were the only two Washington wineries to make the final cut, ranking third and fourth, respectively.
Alexandria Nicole formed in 1998 at Destiny Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Its Destiny Ridge facilities include a tasting room, private suites and facilities for weddings, retreats and getaways.
Founded in 1987, Hedges was among the first wineries and vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA. Its expansive tasting roof offers a large tasting bar with easy access to the vineyard’s French country garden, private tasting areas and a 5,000-bottle cellar.