Interview with the Beach Street Kitchen
The Yachats Gazette spoke with Daniel Cooper, Brian Hoberg, and Thomas Arndt, who have just opened up their new restaurant, the Beach Street Kitchen, located across from the Post Office at 84 Beach Street.
TYG: So, what brought you guys to Yachats?
Dan: Mainly this place, I would say.
Brian: Yes—we've been working in restaurants in Newport, most recently [and] other places before then. Finally, over the last year, we decided to really go 100% into doing our own restaurant. It's kind of an idea that we've thrown around over the years.
Tom: Yes, for the most part there's not a whole lot of business real estate or restaurant-specific, capable buildings on the coast.
TYG: There just aren't that many buildings... Especially around here. [general agreement]
Tom: If they're available, they're run-down or really old—or they're really expensive. So yeah, we were kind of in the market for a place, just generally looking. This place popped onto our radar, and it was kind of too good an opportunity to pass up.
TYG: Certainly a beautiful spot with a long history.
Tom: A beautiful location, awesome little town.
TYG-Editorial Assistant: This place has been well-loved.
Brian: We were overjoyed. Heidi is terrific.
TYG: There was a restaurant here before Heidi's, right?
TYG-EA: When we first moved here 12 years ago, it was a restaurant called Grand Occasions. It was Heidi and a partner who later left that partnership. At the time it was mostly a lunch place. And it evolved into essentially a dinner place.
TYG: Yes, after two separate fires!
Brian: There was definitely at least one.
TYG: Yes, I know there was a big one that was threatening to catch the neighboring businesses on fire. And destroyed this one, pretty much. Probably useful for you guys, because you got a relatively new frame.
Tom: Yes, all the drywall.
Dan: And the electronics—the electrical, the wiring...so it was updated.
Tom: It gives us a bit more leeway to try out new things.
TYG-EA: Do you guys jointly own the business?
Dan: Yes, we're partners in the business, but we rent the space.
Brian: John May is the landlord, and he's just another one of the several, really good signs that this is going to maybe work out kind of thing.
TYG: Yes, we had one of those stories. After talking to a whole bunch of other people, it feels like Yachats is one of those places where things tend to line up.
Brian: That's interesting!
Dan: We were looking at another space, and it was a restaurant, it could have worked for us but we would have had to buy the building. It wasn't in any sort of good condition, and we were getting closer and closer to really pour on it, and then we found out from the City Planner that due to parking, there was no way that that building could be a restaurant.
Tom: Yeah, they had changed the zoning after the restaurant was established.
Dan: So while the restaurant was running, they had a non-conforming use permit, but when we checked with the City Planner, he said they'd lost their non-conforming use permit, so you'd have to add X amount of parking per square foot.
Tom: And there was not enough room on the property. So then we'd have to buy the next property.
Dan: Which is owned by the state. So yes, there's no way you're getting any of that property. It was the new parking lot at Agate Beach, the Lucky Gap Trail head parking lot right by the lighthouse. So they had just built that huge parking lot that fits 100 cars, and then they were telling us that we'd have to add 7-10 parking spots in addition to that. And it just ended up being a deal-breaker. There was no way we could afford it.
Tom: And basically, the next day, a realtor that we had talked to was like, "Hey, this place came up, I know it's a little far away, but it seems kind of right up your alley. Small place, easy to get into, and... location."
TYG: It's certainly got the view!
Brian: Oh, yes, my gosh... Just watching the ocean, even if it's the worst day, it's still amazing.
Tom: Never dull.
Brian: This is really a good size for us, too.
TYG: For three people, it's about right: admin, then one or two kitchen people.
Brian: Yup. I'm definitely admin. [laughter]
Tom: Yes, it's a good first step into ownership. It's not too overwhelming of a size, but it's not too underwhelming either.
TYG-EA: So where do you guys hail from?
Tom & Dan: We're both from Colorado.
Brian: I'm from Modesto, California. But we've all lived in Oregon for a number of years now.
TYG: How did you guys all meet?
Brian: [to Dan & Tom] You guys met a long time ago, and then came out here at separate times to Newport, but you weren't too far off...
Dan: A year apart, or a little less.
Brian: And then I was playing music with Daniel's brother Sam, in Portland.
Dan: You would come out to the coast and gig, and then crash at the house.
Brian: And then my wife happened to get a job in Toledo—she's a teacher at Toledo Elementary School. And then we were like, "Well, do you want to move out to the coast? You've got a job right now, so that's a good thing!" [laughs]
Dan: Especially as a teacher.
Brian: Exactly, especially as a teacher! At that time, everything was just kind of shifting—now, it's a lot easier to find teaching job, I think. [...] She was waiting for a long time kind of for the baby boomer retiring phase to create a vacuum of teaching jobs. Now it's seems like that's happening. But at that time it was really tough. So I started working at Cafe Mundo, mainly because Dan and Tom were already there. So we started working together, and then also just hanging out and stuff. They do cool stuff, and I like being around people who do cool stuff. They're very industrious.
Tom: [laughs] Yes, like music, shooting bows and arrows at each other...
TYG: [laughs] Hopefully Nerf arrows!
Tom: Yeah, foam tips. They're 30-pound bows, so they're real, but they're on the low end.
Dan: And we wear masks, also, to protect our eyes.
TYG: That sounds fun.
Brian: But, we haven't done that in a while. I don't know why, we've been too busy... [laughter]
TYG-EA: So, how long was the process of pulling this together, once you identified the spot?
Tom: Oh, it was a month and a half of crunching the numbers, making the offer on it, and that was in January. So it was a four-month process of turning it from what it was into this.
Dan: We got the keys on the 7th of January.
Tom: I don't think we ended up doing much here until February, because the first three weeks were hand-planing these things [motions to the matching live-edge wooden table-tops].
TYG-EA: So did you guys do all the wood-work yourselves?
Tom: We did, yes.
TYG: I could learn a few things from you guys!
TYG-EA: Who's got all the tools?
Brian: Mostly Tom.
Dan: I have a little bit, but mostly Tom. I brought a sander, and a circular saw.
TYG-EA: [to Tom] So, are you a pretty serious wood-worker?
Tom: I wouldn't say "serious," but I enjoy it. I love working with wood, because it's soft. I like working with metal, too, but every time I work with metal I end up with cuts all over my hands, and burns... it's black and dirty and sooty. I mean, it's fun to play with molten metal and high amounts of electricity, but it's much more relaxing to work with wood.
TYG-EA: Is there an awesome story about harvesting all the wood, or did you just have to buy it?
Dan: The slabs is pretty cool...
Tom: Yeah—we were looking for slabs, and we found—on the internet—this guy Mark. He has Saelwood Coastal Milling. He was having a sale, just one Monday, and we went to see his warehouse. We really liked what we saw, and he said he had another warehouse with more items. So we went with him really quickly to the other warehouse, which just happened to be 500 feet from our wood shop. [general laughter]
Brian: It's all in Aquarium Village.
Tom: We carried them by hand! We picked through the stack and said, "These are definitely the ones we want!"
Dan: I think he ended up selling the rest not long after. So all four slabs are from one tree, a Sitka Spruce from Otter Crest.
Brian: Yes, just north of Newport. We were so happy. Mark really cares about the process—it was so nice.
Tom: These three tables all line up, as you can see, and those four over there.
TYG: So all the tables are from one tree?
Dan: All the tables, and then the two counters.
TYG: Was it finished at all when you got it?
Dan: No, it was chain-saw rough.
Brian: They just held onto it for years...
TYG: Oh, perfect! So it was all perfectly seasoned...
Tom: We also found from them a round of black walnut that is a couple of years in the drying—6 inches thick, and hasn't cracked yet. So that's going to be a table at some point.
Dan: That's the fun part about working with wood—it just gets more and more beautiful every day.
Tom: Every step of the way, it just gets more refined. These guys poured all the epoxy onto it, then we had a friend finish them up. He does surfboards, so he has lots of experience with epoxy.
Brian: Yeah, about a week from our target opening, we were like, "We're going to have to call a friend in!" [laughter] Yes, we really respect people who work with epoxy, because it's hard! You just get one shot...
Tom: You have to start from scratch, and getting back to scratch takes a long time!
Brian: You pour it, you mix it, and you have 35 minutes before you can't do anything else to it. Anyway, we learned a lot. [laughs]
Tom: We made some mistakes... [laughter]
TYG: Yes, don't do a whole slab at once!
Tom: Or three slabs at once! That was the first mistake we made... [laughter] Because you do a seal coat at first, to make sure the wood's not going to absorb too much. So we thought, "It's going to be just like painting!"
TYG: I feel like even with painting, if you have three huge slabs...
Tom: Well... like we said, it was a huge learning curve.
Brian: [miming] Running around like aaaaagh... [laughter]
Tom: We did have rollers, and we had squeegees.
Dan: We got close, but we did not get all of the surfaces on the first pass.
Brian: We learned some things.
Tom: Every problem...
Brian: [laughing] is just an opportunity for growth!
Dan: Right! So then we thought we'd just ask a friend to do the last touches. He was able to do a better job in less time.
Brian: We were very lucky. That's another kind of [serendipity]: that we had so many friends able to help us and be part of this business too. The mugs are done by a friend; she has a shop just across from our in the Aquarium Village.
Tom: She threw all of the mugs within 50 feet of our wood shop. Ellie Workman: she does the Saturday and Farmer's Markets [workmanpottery.com].
Brian: She's fantastic and really worked with us...
Dan: She totally customized exactly what we wanted.
Tom: She had this great idea of just stamping our logo into it; she quickly whipped up a stamp for us in three different sizes.
Dan: "Quickly whipped up" by designing on a computer and then 3D printing.
TYG: Oh, you have printing?
Dan: Tom's into 3D printing.
TYG: Is it as good as it all sounds?
Tom: It's pretty awesome. I mean, I just got a $200 3D printer, and it was exactly what I needed to begin with. Any more, and it would have been too much, too many capabilities. I would have been totally lost.
TYG-EA: So, you say, you 3D printed a stamp?
Tom: Yes, the logo where it's embossed. The clay is kind of like a leather hardness, and she goes in and just presses it into the clay.
TYG-EA: So it's like a chop?
Tom: Yes, exactly. Eventually I want to make a little sterling silver chop, to like seal gift cards with sealing wax. It's just the little touches.
Dan: [laughing] Every credit card slip needs... our seal of approval!
Brian: "One moment, folks..." [general laughter]
TYG-EA: Sounds like you guys are pretty happy with how things have been going.
Brian: Yes. [general agreement]
Dan: It's been pretty fortuitous. It's like the path of least resistance has been pretty much what we wanted.
Brian: Still a great undertaking.
Tom: An incredible amount of work!
TYG-EA: So how long have you guys been thinking about doing something like this?
Brian: Well, I think it's been years—anybody who works in restaurants has ideas about "Well, if I had my own place, this is how I'd do it!"
TYG-EA: Do you guys want to talk about how you developed the menu items and figured out what to serve?
Tom: It's gone through so many iterations and revisions. It's expanded and contracted... The original idea was breakfast and lunch, then it started moving toward lunch and dinner, then back to breakfast and lunch. As we were getting closer, we came up with this extensive menu, and then we realized that we really just needed to pare it back to something that we could do without falling on our face.
Dan: Just build our foundation.
Tom: Yes. I think a lot of the intent has been offering something for all different dietary preferences. A lot of the things we do are vegetarian as they are, but very easy to add things to.
Dan: Or even vegan.
TYG: Yes, you can just add a piece of bacon if someone wants meat.
Tom: Or go the other way, and just go vegan. It's very personal.
TYG: Modular things are very useful.
Brian: And on the coast, you see a lot of the same types of food around, so we knew we didn't want to do a fish and chips kind of thing. So we asked: What are we missing? So that's a lot of the stuff we're exploring. Every time I say "we" in the food sense, it's mostly Tom, because he's definitely the main, master chef, and master of so many other things in this business as well. He could do much better without us. [talking to Dan] What could we do? We could have like a broken bagel shop or something... [laughter] Maybe espresso.
TYG-EA: So what do you guys [Brian and Dan] bring to it?
Brian: [small silence] Nothing? [laughter] Social butterfly...
TYG-EA: Designated extrovert?
Brian: Well, we all like to talk to people and take turns. I just got to know some people in town from when I was a manager at Cafe Mundo—that helped. But yes, what do we bring? Daniel likes a lot of fun stuff. He likes to surf, work with wood... and espresso! [to Daniel]
Dan: Yes, coffee, tea...
Brian: Daniel's the reason we have a killer espresso machine.
Dan: Which was actually the reason that I wanted to own a restaurant. For the espresso machine. [laughter] It makes incredible coffee, and we have these beautiful mugs.
Brian: They're really good drinks.
Dan: And we also get our coffee from our friend in Newport who roasts it, Brendan from Surf Town. So it's like everything coming together. Fair trade, women's coop, shade-grown coffee. He supports really good farmers, then he does a great job roasting it. And he's just an extremely positive, cheery person, and a pleasure to work with.
Tom: Yeah, the roast we use is "Stay Positive." It just makes for a beautiful experience.
Dan: Even the espresso machine is US built, and local (out of Washington).
Tom: We're trying to keep as much as we can local and sustainable wherever possible.
Brian: That was another thing: we didn't know we could do all of those things together, and the fact that it was some of our friends was just amazing.
Tom: When we can, they're either Oregon, or Northwest, or West Coast. I think the furthest away is that we get a couple of things from southern California. But as far as the produce, it's through an organically-grown company that sources a lot from the Northwest: apples are from Washington, greens are from the Willamette Valley. We have Tillamook cheese. We're starting to have conversations with some of the local farmers just up river here to get a lot of the produce: carrots, broccoli, all sorts of interesting things.
Dan: We just got a source today for local mushrooms, too, for foraged mushrooms.
TYG: Oh yes! We're good at mushrooms here.
Brian: Yes, we need to take advantage of that here.
Tom: The goal is to shift as much as possible over to entirely local. The more conversations we have with locals and people around here, the more we find out that, "Oh, we can talk to them for mushrooms, for greens, for eggs." Like we can get our eggs and our chicken from Emerald Hills Farms up in Logsden.
Brian: It's just trying to find it as we are able to source it. So what we've been saying since the beginning of the food thing is: Okay, we're setting up some of these contingency plans, so we can get things from a little further than we'd like, but then, ideally, we know there are a lot of wonderful farms and we've met a lot of people already, and we're really excited; we definitely want to be as local as possible. There are products that might be organic, but if they're from so far away, well that doesn't really help anything.
Tom: There's a balance between local and organic, so that even if it's organic, but it's being shipped halfway across the country, it kind of defeats the purpose. So we can try going local but maybe not organic—so trying to find this balance of what is most sustainable.
Brian: So we want to do the best that we can do for the people and the planet, and always hunting for better ways, and not giving up.
Tom: Yes, I think that's the same with the menu, too—as we find new ingredients, new sources for things, we're able to modify the menu to reflect some of these new, exciting, or local things. What's in season, what's not in season—it's just constantly in flux.
TYG: So how's business been going so far?
Dan: Great! It's been exactly what we wanted.
Tom: It's been really perfect. On the first day, we just took down the closed sign, that was the only indicator we were open. We didn't do anything beyond that. We didn't advertise, no open sign, and we had total strangers coming in the door. It was just enough to realized that we had forgotten to program a big section of the computer... [laughter]
TYG: Oh! That's why it's good to do a beta test...
Dan: Yeah, so we're doing a very soft, prolonged opening...
Tom: It's building steam. We're able to move along with it, and just gain the practice that we need to keep up with the pace.
Dan: And provide a consistent, high-quality experience. We really want to have a consistent experience here so people know what they're getting themselves into.
TYG-EA: So, at the present, is there a separate breakfast menu and a lunch menu?
Tom: Our goal is that if it's on the menu, then it's available. There are a number of things that we get frustrated by when going to restaurants, and one of those things is cut-offs for the menu, because I'll arrive at a breakfast place at 11:30, wanting breakfast, [and find out they stopped serving five minutes ago]. So we wanted to avoid situations that are frustrating like that, so we're just trying to make it very simple and say if it's on the menu, it's available.
Brian: We've all spent a number of years being servers and stuff, so we've dealt with a lot of those questions or frustrations on both sides—as customers and as employees.
Dan: As a server, it's always like, I don't see why we can't do breakfast all day... but the kitchen is saying no. So we just wanted to avoid any of those frustrating or disappointed circumstances. [...]
TYG-EA: Anything else you wanted to say at the moment?
Tom: We're extremely excited to be here. This is just a dream come true: the location and the community. Everything about this is feeling great. We're happy to be here.
Brian: It's so nice that our views are appreciated and shared by a lot of people; again, in hunting for everything, we're trying to find things that have less packaging, or less plastic. I hold on to the idea that if we are looking for it, eventually there will be some option for it.
TYG: And in Yachats, that tends to be the case.
Brian: But everyone has been excited about things we're excited about, like reusable containers or things.
Dan: We're very appreciative of all the support and interest, and good will.
Brian: Everybody has been very supportive; the residents, but also the other restaurants.
Tom: We've felt very welcomed.
TYG: Thank you guys so much!