PORT ANGELES — At least 100 faithful customers gathered at the Cornerhouse Restaurant to eat their favorite foods one last time, listen to live music and write farewells on the wall.
“When you have a restaurant, it’s family,” said owner Joanne Albertson, who took time out from Friday’s “Blast from the Past” closing party to talk to a reporter.
“They are just the greatest people,” she said, describing customers who brought cakes and cards and delivered them in tears during the last days of the 33-year-old diner-like business at the corner of Laurel and Front streets. Many vendors also did something special, she said.
Some of the 15 employees of the restaurant, which was known for its basic country food, have found other jobs. Some are still looking for work.
The building is expected to be demolished.
Most of the furniture and equipment has been sold. The remainder will go on sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, said the camera-shy owner.
Albertson, 63, closed her business after she was evicted by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which plans a $24 million, four-story, 100-room hotel fronting on East Railroad Avenue and East Front streets. Necessities & Temptations gift shop, on Laurel and Railroad, was closed in March. Both were owned by 7C’s LLC, formed by descendents of Joseph Hoare and Frances Filion Hoare.
The tribe had earlier purchased an adjacent 0.65-acre parcel for the hotel from the city of Port Angeles for $950,000, including $300,000 cash and $650,000 credit to conduct an environmental cleanup of soil contaminated with petroleum and removal of three petroleum-product tanks.
The parcel included the Budget Rent a Car building, a storage garage, Harbor Art Gallery, Olympic Bus Lines and Cock-A-Doodle Donuts.
The gallery and bus lines have relocated elsewhere in town. The doughnut shop shut down permanently. The Downtown Hotel, which is next door to the Cornerhouse, is still operating.
The restaurant at the corner of Laurel and Front streets was a fixture for decades.
It was one of the original buildings in Port Angeles, Albertson said.
“It was here when they raised the streets” in 1914, she said, adding that in the 1920s, it was a department store.
Since then, so far as Albertson knows, it was a restaurant. Albertson bought it in 1986 from Dee and Gloria Coburn, who had purchased the place three years earlier.
Albertson worked as a cook for the Coburns before she bought the restaurant.
“Owning a small restaurant, you don’t get rich,” she said Friday.
Coburn agreed. “You bought yourself a job,” she said.
Albertson said a restaurant does aid the economy, figuring that it had provided one vendor with $5.5 million since opening and referring to a family of people who among them had 113 years of working at the Cornerhouse.
Albertson, a Port Angeles native, grew up in the restaurant business. Her grandmother and then her mother ran a cafe called The Hut on Lincoln Street at Fourth Street.
“I was raised in it. I always figured I’d work in a restaurant,” Albertson said.
Now she plans to serve as a caretaker for her mother and see what happens next.
“Although we were not ready to end our jobs, yet this small business is a victim of progress and we need to get out of the way for new and improved Port Angeles,” she said in a written statement.
She thanked regulars, tourists, suppliers, co-workers “and everyone we have done business with since 1986. Hopefully we see many of you around.”
As she spoke and handed over her prepared remarks, customers and former employees came by to hug her and wish her well while they helped themselves to food and listened to bands in the back room. There they looked over poster boards crammed with photographs of the restaurant’s past and wrote final messages on the wall.
All of the visitors to the party came in through the back door. The front door was locked.
“Closed Forever & Ever Amen,” said the sign on the front of the business, which also displayed the dates the business operated. Like a tombstone it read: July 3, 1986 to Aug. 16, 2019.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].