Those looking to grab a bite to eat in Montesano better not stray too far west of Fleet Park.
Once the home of the iconic Gene’s Stop ‘n’ Go and the potential site for a re-invented Savory Faire, two longtime mainstays for local diners, those two sites are now vacant.
Gene’s is closed and on the market for $150,000. Savory Faire was going to re-open at 315 W. Pioneer, but that plan has been quashed and the building sits vacant, a significant way through a thorough remodel.
Gene’s Stop ‘n’ Go, a quintessential burger and soda stand from a bygone era, was built in 1953 by the late Gene Braun, who died in 2002. He and his wife, Florence, operated it until they retired in 1974.
After that, it was owned by Loren Reams for a couple of years. He sold it in 1976 and built the Crow’s Nest, which he sold a few years later.
Reams sold Gene’s to Dorothy Westmoreland in 1976, and that family owned and operated the burger joint until 1999.
Dorothy’s son, Darrell Westmoreland, a noted entertainment photographer in these parts, remembers the eatery fondly.
“That was a cool place. It was like an icon in Monte forever. It was a hangout in the day,” said Darrell Westmoreland, noting that his sisters, Dana and Denise, were instrumental in helping their mom run the operation for many years. I used to hang some of my stuff (photos) in there; there was a wall space, kind of like a mini museum. It was celebrity pics. It was mostly pictures of me with them. There was Nirvana and even one of O.J. Simpson taken at the Pro Bowl,” from when the game was held at the King Dome in 1977.
The picture of Westmoreland and Simpson continued to hang in Gene’s even as the football/movie star went from being famous to notorious.
“I never got so much flack in my life over a picture,” said Westmoreland with a laugh.
Westmoreland also recalled the old-fashioned soda machine that the burger stand featured up until the time his family sold the business in 1999.
“It was one of only two in the state at the time. It had its own compressor out back,” noted Westmoreland. In an effort to keep Gene’s true to its original owner, Dorothy Westmoreland even paid Gene $300 for his recipe for his famed “goop,” a secret sauce for his hamburgers.
“We still own it,” said Westmoreland of the “goop” secret.
“It was a great place,” recalled Westmoreland. “People who had been out of town forever, when they came back, it was the first place they stopped.”
Gene’s is now on the market through Price & Price Realty in Montesano, which is owned by longtime Montesano resident Chuck Caldwell. The listing agent is Debi Wood.
The listing on the realty firm’s website states:
“How many times have you wanted to own your own business? Now is your opportunity! This commercial building in downtown Montesano is the site of the historic Gene’s Stop & Go and is being offered for sale. Do you have any idea of the possibilities here? The price includes the 640-square-foot building, the land and the equipment inside. There is money to be made here! Bring your ideas and your energy.”
Current owner Candy Miller, who bought Gene’s from the Westmorelands in 1999, has decided to move on to other things, according to Caldwell and Wood.
“That’s kind of like a legend here and town and they’ve always been very, very busy,” said Caldwell, who said he can’t even count the times he’s grabbed a burger there, having lived in Monte for more than 60 years. “My wife even worked there. She worked for Gene when it first opened. It’s just one of those things that gets caught up in our (recent) economy.”
“We’ve had a couple of showings and we do have one nibble … but nothing serious,” said Wood. “It’s a money-maker if somebody would come in with some fresh blood and new energy. I hate to see it closed.”
SAVORY FAIRE NO MORE
Meanwhile, just down and across the street at 315 W. Pioneer, what was supposed to be a new incarnation of Savory Faire Cafe — which operated successfully for many years at 135 S. Main Street — sits vacant and partially remodeled.
Owner Candi Bachtell announced in late October — a week before the old location closed — that the business would re-open as a scaled-down operation at the West Pioneer location in Montesano sometime in December.
But after the building went through extensive remodeling and refurbishing by owner Paul Willis during the autumn and winter months, work abruptly stopped last month.
“Candi changed her mind,” Willis told The Vidette last week. “We’re working on getting somebody else in there, but we’ve had to put it on hold.”
A contractor was right in the middle of putting a drive through at the location. Part of it has the cement on it and part of it just has the wooden frames waiting for the cement. The permit is still hanging in the windows.
The “little yellow house” had been where Savory Faire got its start before moving to the Main Street location.
Bachtell and her family had posted updates on the work for two months, telling of electricity being added, a kitchen being finished and trusses over the dining room porch among other updates on the work for two months on the Facebook page for Savory Faire, Bachtell’s posting from Jan. 20 read:
“Sad news. We have decided that the time line for the new building has gone beyond our budget, so are retiring Savory Faire for REAL this time. Thank you all for your support and love these last 30 years!”
Bachtell was unavailable for an interview, but in an e-mail to The Vidette, she stated:
“We have decided to retire Savory Faire. The project went beyond our ability to not be back to business. We were supposed to reopen by Nov.15 and as you can see that deadline came and went. My staff was waiting to come back to work and I felt so responsible that they were out of work for so long, that I just decided we had to withdraw from the new project. It was with a very heavy heart that (we) came to this decision. We miss our customers and friends.”
Besides the deli, the restaurant was also going to keep its name and continue doing catering. Bachtell said in an email that catering will also be discontinued for now.