Thursday, July 6, 2017 / by Christine Robertson
When Melinda Powers came to Vashon Island more than 14 years ago with the vision of opening a restaurant, she could never have predicted that her business would become the heart of the community.
The Hardware Store Restaurant on beautiful Vashon Island is the core of Main Street and the heart of the island itself. I recently had the privilege of interviewing the owner: Melinda Powers.
She wanted to share her take on the restaurant, the island, and what is behind it. During our interview, Melinda began by telling me that she never anticipated she would be in the position she is today.
Back in 2003 when The Hardware Store went on the market before becoming what it is today, everyone was wondering what would happen to this big building. The island didn’t really have many restaurants at the time, so the idea to open one had always been in the back of Melinda’s mind.
After owning an interior design firm in Arizona for 25 years, Melinda had only recently moved to Vashon when one day she peeked in the windows to what would eventually become her restaurant. It was then that she had an ‘ah-ha’ moment and realized her long-time dream was meant to become reality.
She knew, then, that the island needed not only a restaurant but also a gathering place.There was nowhere for people to gather—something that is needed in every great community.
But the undertaking, Melinda says, was much more difficult than she had anticipated. The space of the restaurant is about 5,000 square feet, making it an extremely ambitious endeavor to pursue. Because of this, and the fact that restaurants tended not to do well on Vashon, people were skeptical that Melinda would find success.
However, Melinda fought the odds and managed to find one backer in the community to help. She couldn’t initially afford to buy the space and so she rented it out. Even after the sellers received a full-cash offer, they turned it down because they believed in Melinda’s vision. It took two years after the original agreement to start up the restaurant, but 14 years later, she owns it. In those two years, though, Melinda did make use of the space by using it as a retail store she called ‘Designer Salvage Furniture’ and also as a space for catering.
Ultimately, from the beginning of her ownership, the space was really about having a treasure chest for the community. Suffice to say, Melinda made the most of it as she pulled together all the funds and necessary permits.
Even with all her tenacity, Melinda says there were definitely times where she questioned whether the restaurant would make it. But now having gotten to the point of success, Melinda believes that the vision of the place is continually enriched by their customers and the community.
As an example, she recalled a day when there was a couple sitting at the bar talking about their trip to New York City.
When the bartender and a server told the couple that it had always been their dream to go there, the couple actually took both of them along. Not only that, but they also paid their full expenses.
Another story that reinforced the vision Melinda had for the place was the time when one of her older customers overheard a server talking about financial arrangements for college and gave her a check for $2,500 on the spot.
Melinda told me that she’s even had people tell her that they only considered buying a house in the area because of her restaurant. And this is exactly the sense of community Melinda dreamed of. The Hardware Store is open every day except for Christmas so the community knows that they can always find a place there.
But this doesn’t mean that the experience is without challenges. Having a restaurant on an island is not an easy feat. Between the small population, getting food delivered, and limited resources, there are certain difficulties that come with it.
It took a long time for The Hardware Store to become established but now that they are, things are going strong. There were many things to work out, but the menu was one thing that Melinda had a vision for from the beginning. With such a strong community there are a lot of items that have become favorites, but the restaurant does change their menu twice a year. Additionally, they keep things interesting by implementing weekly specials using seasonal items.
Overall, Melinda finds that it’s rewarding to have fulfilled her vision and to have a part in a space that has truly become the heart of the island. She’s proud not only of her restaurant but of the island itself.
If you’d like any more information or have any other questions, feel free to get in touch by giving me a call or email. I look forward to hearing from you.