The Woodinville Cafe has a particularly dedicated squad of regulars.
Not only do they come in to the Cafe for breakfast several days a week, owner Ryan Mitchell said, they arrive half an hour before the restaurant opens and sit in the parking lot.
The staff, equally dedicated, brings coffee out to them.
“We’ve really stuck to our guns in terms of service,” Mitchell said. “We want to make sure that we’re a real personal restaurant.”
The Woodinville Cafe opened in 1995, and several employees have worked at the restaurant for almost that long.
Over the years, the restaurant’s 1940’s diner theme has been upgraded to a dinner train theme, with a possible remodel planned for next year, said Mitchell, who bought the Woodinville Cafe at the beginning of this year from the founders, his wife Cari’s parents.
The menu, which includes soups made from scratch and fresh baked goods, has grown slightly, but Mitchell doesn’t plan to tweak it much in the future.
“We’ve got a pretty loyal following, so we don’t want to mess with that,” he said.
DOUG’S BOATS AND OUTDOOR
Doug Spady has spent more than half his life as the owner of Doug’s Boats and Outdoor, which he opened in 1987.
His business has shrunk rather than grown, he said. But he’s happy with that.
“As you mature, it’s not about being bigger and bigger all the time,” he said.
When the shop — originally called Doug’s Boats — opened, Spady began by selling ski boats and sails. Later, it “morphed into a local sporting goods store” by adding tackle, guns and ammunition. The store also offers boat service and parts, and Spady teaches waterskiing.
When the market for boats diminishes — which is typical, Spady explained — the sporting goods business offsets the decline.
“The boat business is really cyclical,” he said. “...We grow a little bit and then contract as the economy changes.”
FAIRWINDS - BRITTANY PARK
When Fairwinds - Brittany Park retirement community opened in 1997, all of its apartments were full, and there was a waiting list, general manager Rebecca Clark recalled.
“That many years ago, assisted living and independent living was a pretty new concept, so of course there was a pent-up demand,” she said.
The retirement community expanded sooner than planned, building more apartments for a total of more than 200 by 1998.
Now, Brittany Park’s growth is limited only by the lack of space to grow.
Clark remembers the first weekend was busy, with 44 families moving in. Although that meant lots of chances for something to go wrong, “it was just flawless, except one guy dropped his coffee pot,” she said.
She credits the retirement community’s success to several factors — its strong sense of community, well-trained employees with a low turnover rate, and an atmosphere she describes as “joyful noise.”
“Many of our residents have been isolated in today’s society, where many of our neighborhoods are empty during the day,” Clark said. “...There’s always a lot of action at Brittany Park.”
Bubbles Below dive shop thrives on a theory that might, at first, seem like bad business.
“We try real hard not to sell people things they’re not going to need,” owner Bud Gray said.
He explained that although he does accept returns, they’re especially hard for the scuba business, in which stores only keep one or two of an item in inventory. If a customer returns an item, he’s likely already bought another.
He’s also convinced customers to buy something cheaper when he knows the item they came in for is beyond their means.
“We’re honest. We have integrity,” Gray said.
He began scuba diving in 1970 after taking a “hardcore” class from an ex-Navy SEAL. He did commercial diving, including welding, laying cables and demolition, and worked for an engine manufacturing company at
the corporate level before opening Bubbles Below in 1999.
Selling and servicing scuba gear is the biggest part of his business, but he also teaches
diving and organizes diving trips, which increase the retail and service side of the business.
“The biggest treat in all these years is seeing the excitement in people’s eyes when they come out of the water,” Gray said. “The reason we’re here is to help people enjoy the good parts of life, and one of those is diving.”