By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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McDonald, 65, said last week that she would prefer to keep running the restaurant at 256861 U.S. Highway 101 as she has for the past 15 years, but health issues and a stagnant economy have compelled her to begrudgingly look for a new owner of her beloved eatery, which has been a landmark for some 80 years.
“It needs someone young to take over management of it,” McDonald said.
McDonald said she plans to keep the restaurant open until she finds a buyer, adding that she’s more than willing to keep running Dupuis until she physically cannot if no interest in the property turns up.
McDonald listed the property last September for $300,000 and initially had a former waitress interested in taking over the business.
She said she isn’t sure where that offer stands now since the waitress has gone to South Dakota to be with her family for a time.
Marguerite Glover, a real estate agent with Sequim-based Peter Black Real Estate and the listing agent for the Dupuis property, said Saturday she has received a few calls from people interested in the restaurant but has had no good offers on it yet.
“And we think it’s priced right,” Glover said.
If a buyer is found, McDonald said, all the kitchen appliances, inventory and everything necessary for running a restaurant will go along with the building.
“If someone wants to be a restaurateur, it’s an ideal startup,” McDonald said.
McDonald, who was born and raised in Port Angeles, said she first came to work at the restaurant as a manager about 20 years ago under then-owners Jack and Margaret Plaskett.
She immediately was enamored with the restaurant’s subtle, old-fashioned charm.
“I don’t know, there’s just something about this place,” McDonald said. “There’s a comfort, and there’s a warmth.”
Visitors to the restaurant are greeted with a solid front door creaking accommodatingly as it opens into a small foyer that in turn leads into the main dining room.
A few steps through another door reveals about 15 to 20 dark wood tables and chairs, and clues to the building’s estimated 80-year history tacked, pinned and nailed to chocolate-brown wooden walls.
McDonald estimates Dupuis Restaurant has been open continuously since about 1930 — and said it predates Highway 101 — though she couldn’t be sure exactly when the building itself was erected.
“I grew up here, and it’s always been here,” McDonald said.
“It has a lot of good history.”
The family of restaurant founder Joseph DuPuis has told McDonald that he came to Port Angeles around 1918 and worked for a time at the Port Angeles Pulp and Paper Mill, which is now the Nippon Paper USA mill on Ediz Hook.
McDonald was able to keep the restaurant running seven days a week for the vast majority of time she has been at the helm, though she said an economic downturn — which she perceived as starting after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — forced the restaurant down to five days a week during spring and summer, and just Fridays and Saturdays during the colder months.
“I’ve tried to keep it lively, and I’ve tried to keep it what it was and what it is,” McDonald said.
The restaurant, which employed between 15 and 20 people at its peak in the 1990s, now runs a bare-bones staff of four employees other than McDonald.
McDonald said she was fully prepared for the workload a restaurant open all week had to dish out, as she came from a family that raised and ran racehorses based out of a property on Beam Road in west Port Angeles.
“[They’re both] seven days a week for your whole life,” McDonald said.
“It’s a very harsh way of life, but it’s a rewarding way of life.”
The restaurant quickly became McDonald’s life, with the customers and employees of Dupuis becoming her friends and her favorite part of owning the business.
“I have made many, many wonderful friends,” McDonald said.
McDonald said she hopes whoever buys Dupuis will continue it as the restaurant she loves.
“It’s been a real gift,” McDonald said.
And one last thing: McDonald recognized that most local customers have come to call her restaurant “DOO-peas” — with the accent on the first syllable — though she said the correct pronunciation of the founder’s last name is “Dew-PWEE,” with the accent on the last syllable.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.