From server to proprietor: New era at landmark Clallam eatery
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Toni Rieger is determined to keep Dupuis Restaurant exactly as Maureen McDonald wanted it. "I'm never going to change the inside of it," she said.
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
Print This | Email This
Most Popular this week
McDonald, owner of the landmark eatery halfway between Port Angeles and Sequim, died July 30 after a battle with cancer and emphysema. She was 66.
But before she died, McDonald sold her beloved establishment to a friend and longtime employee, Toni Rieger, who is determined to keep the restaurant going strong.
“She always said I loved it as much as she did,” said Rieger, who started working for McDonald as a server and manager in 1998.
“I'll continue to bake wild blackberry pies and cinnamon carrots. People know all about those.”
Rieger, 39, plans to expand the menu and hours of operation but maintain the ambiance of the ornate interior.
“I'm never going to change the inside of it,” she said.
Dupuis specializes in steaks and local seafood.
The restaurant at 256861 U.S. Highway 101, about halfway between Sequim and Port Angeles, dates back to about 1930, McDonald had told the Peninsula Daily News back in January.
The restaurant was named after founder Joseph DuPuis, who came to Port Angeles around 1918 and worked at the Port Angeles Pulp and Paper Mill, now the Nippon paper mill.
“There should be a book written about this place,” Rieger said.
McDonald's sister, Molly Cox of Bothell, said the restaurant was sold to Rieger shortly before she died. The transaction has not been finalized.
“Maureen wanted Toni to take it over,” Cox said.
“They worked out a reasonable arrangement.”
McDonald began working as a manager at the restaurant about 20 years ago for then-owners Jack and Margaret Plaskett.
She became the owner five years later.
Rieger, who described McDonald as more of a friend than a co-worker, said Dupuis developed a loyal customer base under McDonald's watch.
“It's hugs through the door and a martini on the table,” Rieger said of the regulars.
McDonald begrudgingly put the restaurant up for sale late last year because of health issues and a stagnant economy.
By that time, Rieger had moved to North Dakota to be with family. She returned to the Peninsula in early June to help McDonald run the restaurant.
Cox described her sister as an ambitious woman of many interests who was quick to lend a helping hand to people who were down on their luck by paying them for yard work or finding them a place to stay.
“She did that a lot,” Cox said.
“That was one of the qualities about her that very few people knew about.”
McDonald was an avid gardener and an amateur geologist who loved to collect rocks.
She also collected antiques and oddities through the years, many of which adorn the restaurant.
Cox said her sister was loved “by all sorts of people from all walks of life,” and had a steady stream of visitors at her house.
“People just stopped by,” Cox said. “Her house was always full. It was never quiet there.”
McDonald's father was a log truck driver who trained thoroughbred horses and raced them at Longacres Racetrack south of Seattle, which was replaced in the 1990s by Emerald Downs.
“All the kids worked at the race track,” Cox recalled.
McDonald was an entrepreneur as a kid, Cox said. She sold worms to fishermen from a store on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles.
“She picked wild blackberries and sold them to restaurants to be used in pies,” Cox added.
Of all the people who worked with McDonald through the years, Rieger “was the one who understood Maureen's vision,” Cox said.
Rieger knew exactly how McDonald wanted things done, Cox said, including the proper way to mix a “really good, stiff drink.”
“Toni understood Maureen's ideas and was able to implement them,” she said, adding, “Everybody in town knows her.”
McDonald is survived by a daughter, Angeline Mangano-Little of Port Angeles; sister Molly Cox of Bothell; brothers Frank McDonald of Marysville and Owen McDonald of Port Angeles; and two nieces and two nephews.
A celebration is life is planned for Sept. 8, a Sunday, at Dupuis Restaurant at noon.
Dupuis Restaurant is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The phone number is 360-457-8033.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: August 12. 2013 9:24AM