THE LAST FEW months have been interesting. Maybe “interesting” is a polite way of acknowledging that the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on people and communities.
Through this we have seen the greatest impact to service-sector jobs that dependent on customer interactions and group gatherings. So, we have watched sadly as small businesses have closed their doors forever. The rock band Cinderella told us in their lyrics, We “don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
It is delightful to see those businesses and organizations who have survived the pandemic begin to open their doors again. It is even more encouraging to see businesses reach significant milestones in spite of the pandemic.
One such business is Dupuis Restaurant, which has reached its centennial. Even in the best of times, 100 years of operation is difficult to reach. Dupuis is a very common Francophone name meaning “from the well.” It appears the Dupuis name entered the United States through the Louisiana Purchase.
Joseph Aleric Dupuis (Doo-pwee) was born on May 26, 1876, in Easton, N.Y. His life-long profession was paper making. He had worked in the paper-making industry since he was 15 years old. Early in life, Joseph moved to where the work was. In the late 1890s, he married Mary Jane Wood. They had a son, Edward Joseph Dupuis, who was born in Hoboken, N.J., in 1898.
Around 1919, Joseph moved into Clallam County between Sequim and Port Angeles. His brother Leon also moved to Port Angeles. Joe worked at the Washington Pulp and Paper Mill (future Crown Zellerbach Mill) as a mechanic. When he wasn’t working at the mill, Joseph was building a house with a tavern attached. I’m sure it was an eye to a future beyond mill work. Joe opened his tavern in 1920.
For 14 years, Joe and Mary operated the tavern while Joe continued to work at the paper mill.
The original building, plus a couple of additions, still exists. At first, it was a gas station and tavern. The covered gas pump section became the current entrance. The tavern was a popular place, having a dance floor and a piano.
Since Dupuis’ Tavern was halfway between Sequim and Port Angeles, he had regular patrons from both towns.
Joe pumped gas, cleaned the tavern and served beer and wine. He also waxed the dance floor on Sunday. Dancing was an activity the customers enjoyed. Later, Joe got a jukebox.
It was apparent that Joe ran his establishment responsibly. If he thought a customer had drunk too much, he would offer a sandwich and coffee before he would serve more beer. It wouldn’t take too long before food began to be served regularly.
Tragedy came Jan. 17, 1932, when Mary died. Mary is interred at Ocean View Cemetery. Joe continued to operate the tavern through his retirement from the paper mill in 1937.
A positive change came to Joe’s life in 1938. One evening, two nurses from the Port Angeles General Hospital came to relax at Dupuis’ Tavern. Along the way, one of the nurses, Marie Eunice Boisselle, fell and scraped her knee. She was a nurse, but Joe took it upon himself to treat her knee. As a result, a friendship took hold even though Joe was 28 years older. Besides, Boisselle and Dupuis are both good French names. On Feb. 18, 1939, the two were married.
Eunice was well-educated, having received teaching credentials from Central Washington College and becoming a registered nurse while attending the University of Washington. Eunice had moved to Port Angeles to teach nursing at Port Angeles General Hospital.
Sadly, their marriage only lasted 4½ years. In 1943, Joe became ill. After several months of illness, Joe died Aug. 30, 1943, at the age of 67. Joe is interred at Ocean View Cemetery next to his first wife, Mary.
Eunice showed great resilience by continuing to operate the tavern on her own for several years. She kept a guard dog for her protection. After World War II started, Eunice turned the tavern into a restaurant. She also closed the gas pumps and had the tanks removed.
The menu was not elaborate. You could get cracked Dungeness crab, garlic bread, green salad, crackers and coffee for $1.50. You could also get beer or wine.
Within a few years, Eunice met a strapping Deputy Sheriff named Karl Kirk. Their friendship grew, and they were married March 26, 1948. Eunice and Karl sold the restaurant in 1970 to Rolf and Carol Staulbaum from California.
Over the subsequent years, there have been three other owners. In 1974, Jack and Margarethe Plaskett bought the restaurant. Jack was an adventurist and loved to entertain people. Margarethe, on the other hand, was a quiet school teacher.
Maureen McDonald became the owner in 1998 after Jack Plaskett died. Margarethe loved the restaurant and continued to work there up until the time of her death in 2010. Maureen, too, loved operating Dupuis Restaurant and worked until the days of her death in 2013.
The current owner is Toni Rieger, who began working at Dupuis in 1998. She said Dupuis is her playhouse. She loves to come to work. Cooking and making deserts is fun, but being around people is the best part.
Dupuis has maintained much of its original character and atmosphere. The booths and bar in the old section are original furnishings. Over the years, the various owners loved to collect things, and these collections are displayed throughout the restaurant. When you walk into the restaurant, you find something between nostalgic and quirky.
Some of the more famous patrons have been Tommy Lee Jones, Huey Lewis, Barbara Streisand, James Brolin and Princess Margaretha of Belgium.
Dupuis is one of our most historic settings for food. It is certainly one of the oldest, if not the oldest, restaurant in Clallam County. Reaching its centennial is an accomplishment worth noting.
John McNutt is a descendant of Clallam County pioneers and treasurer of the North Olympic History Center Board of Directors. He can be reached at [email protected].
His Clallam history column appears the first Sunday of every month.