Leavenworth's Tumwater closes

Tumwater no more
Tumwater Restaurant
Lost its lease

The Tumwater Restaurant is gone. That is a tough one, especially for the locals who have grown up with the restaurant, working there, dining there, celebrating there. After decades in business, the Tumwater Restaurant was forced to close it doors last week, a shock to many in the community.
Sandy Owens Carmody has owned the restaurant since 1987. She bought it with her ex-husband. After they divorced in 1995, she took out a bank loan to buy out her husband's interest and become sole owner. It was a tough time, she remembers, because of the '94 fires.
"The restaurant has always had the iconic reputation in the valley. Folks would come go dancing. There was bowling downstairs. It's tremendously sad for me and my team, but it really has been one of those iconic businesses in the Wenatchee Valley," Owens-Carmody said.
When she first bought the restaurant, the building was going into foreclosure. Folker Maninger bought the building and gave it the Bavarian theme. Bob Duncan built the overhang roof, Herb Scraml did the paintings on the outside and the late Chet Endrizzi did all the signage.
Owens-Carmody was very appreciative of Maninger's work to maintain the building over the years.
"Folker did the major remodel in '92-'93. They were part of the community, donated time to festivals, just did all kinds of things. As time went on, Folker listed the building in 2001-2002, a Seattle man bought the building. The was our first absentee owner," she said.
As turned out, when that first out-of-town owner took over, the difficulties began.
"If they don't live in a community, they're not invested in it. They are in it for them and to make money. That is not to sound mean. There are many people in this town who have businesses in buildings that are going through difficulty. Even when we have a huge fire, the person who owns the building is still getting their rent. The person taking the impact is the business owner," Owens-Carmody said.
The people that own the building now are Eric and Kathy Beckes of Mercer Island.
"It appears their intention is to be absentee owners. It's unfortunate because if you want to have a building in this town, we're a four season town. We're busy. You have to do the maintenance and do the upkeep. You can't expect your businesses to be running the show," she said. "Particularly from 2005 to 2015, we were home alone, so to speak. That is just a really sad way to run a building. This is my opinion based on what I've lived. I'm not trying to slam anyone. Unless you are physically someplace, you can't understand what is going on."
Owens-Carmody said they listed the restaurant for sale in 2015 mainly because of the terrible amount of deterioration that was going on at the building. With no sale forthcoming, she said they fully planned on renewing their lease and started discussions with the Beckes on that 20-months ago.
It seemed everything was going well. Out of the blue, they were informed by mail the lease would not be renewed.
"I had it listed through that year, then these folks bought the building. They assured us they would fix it up. They wanted everyone to do well in the building. They just want to be good landlords. We believed them. Call it naive. Call it too trusting. That is how my husband and I feel. I feel so stupid," she said.
It really did not come down to money, she said.  
"We never thought for a minute they were not going to renew our lease. We had a 4-and-a-half hour meeting with them in January of 2016, 20 months ahead of the deadline. My only worry was how much they were going to increase the rent. I wondering how we were going to afford that," Owens-Carmody said. "Since being closed, this person told me they were contacted by them about renting this spot. It's really hurtful this was all going on behind our back. Why not just be honest? They want to see a fancier restaurant in there or whatever they're vision."
Tumwater is a family style restaurant, she said.
"We're not on the caliber of Visconti's or the Watershed Cafe. We've always been a locals' place, family restaurant. A lot of people in the valley have good memories there. They come during the holiday season or birthdays. That was the nitch we filled. You need something for everybody and that's what we tried to do," Owens-Carmody said.
Owens-Carmody said they received the letter on April 3. There was no call, no conversation.
"It's frustrating to have a meeting like that, then all the communication, like the parking lot being paved, seeing these people, calling, texting," she said. "They wanted to rename the mall Tumwater Mall. That sign is up on the building. In our mind, we figured we were their anchor business. There had been a lot of turnover because the downstairs locations are hard. It's like Front Street to a side street."
For a business that had been there for decades, Owens-Carmody thought a decent landlord would at least give them a year. When the doors finally closed, it was a shock to everyone. There were even flowers on the front porch, like there was a death or something.
The Carmody's hired an attorney in hopes of being allowed to operate until the end of the year. The restaurant is in its worst cash position on June 30, their best on Dec. 31.
"Let us operate through then. Let our staff operate through then, so they can make some money. We close Dec. 31. Remodel in the winter. I do three to four times the business in December that I am doing in March and April. Their attorney fired off a letter, saying they would seek every legal obligation in court, no matter what, if we were not out by Aug. 14," she said. "No conversation.
Through all the conversation we've had with Eric and Kathy. In a way, it is comical. Just so sad. I feel really stupid."
An emotional Owens-Carmody is evaluating what to do next. Owning another restaurant is out of the question unless they can also own the building.  
"I know other businesses in this town dealing with landlord situations that are similar. It is heartbreaking. Going through cancer, it gives you a whole new dimension on humility and empathy. It was a huge learning curve," she said. "I'm going to miss so much of our staff."
On a given day, the Tumwater might have 18-20 employees. Through December, they'll have as many as 24. Many of the staff has been there for years.
"Kelly, my lead server, has been with me since '95. Her sister, Jerry, is at Cascade Medical. She hostesses on the weekend or at night. Tiffany McEachern has been working with us part time for 15 years. She's a nurse in Wenatchee," she said. "We have these people that have worked there for years. Diana Zumini was my first employee. Full time seven years, part time another 10 years. If called her today, we are in a jam, I need a server, she would be there johnny-on-the-spot."
Most of the main staff is over 40-years-old.
"My lead breakfast cook is 49-years-old. He's been with me 18 years. These are good, hardworking people. These are the ones I worry about," she said.
As you might expect, there are two sides to every story, including the issues surrounding the closing of the Tumwater Restaurant. Building owner, Kathy Beckes, said they did not blindside anyone with the lease.
"We never told them we'd give them a new lease or extend a lease. We have never ever talked to them about an extension or renewal," Beckes said. "The reason we're not going to renew the lease or give them an extension is because we've had leak after leak after leak coming from their space. They are never accountable. They never say they will fix them."
Beckes said there is a hole in the building right now from the toilet overflowing at the Tumwater.
"It's very upsetting to come to the building and have puddles of water. It has come through ceiling. They are the only ones in the above space where we have continued water problems," she said.
The leaks are the responsibility of the tenant, Beckes said, not the building owner. There have been other tenants at the building with water issues, but those tenants repaired the leaks immediately.
"They call insurance, they call the contractor who fixes it. They are accountable people and are great tenants because the few leaks they've had, they've repaired them immediately," Beckes said of the other tenants. "We treat our tenants great. We want our tenants to treat us really well. With the Tumwater space, it's 30-years-old. They don't repair their leaks. They never know where the water is coming from."
As new tenants come into the building, Beckes said they cannot have the Tumwater damage the building further, particularly because the other tenants are doing expensive improvements.
"We did not want to extend their lease for one month because we don't want to repair any more of their leaks," Beckes said. "We don't want any more leaks through Oktoberfest. We don't want any more leaks through Christmas Lighting. We are done with their water leaks."
Beckes disputes the notion they are out-of-town owners who care about nothing, but the bottom line. She said it is obvious they care about their tenants.
"If you talk to our other tenants, they love us and we love them. They are great tenants. They take care of any issues immediately. We've done a lot of cosmetic work. The building is in outstanding shape. It's just very outdated," Beckes said. "We are cosmetically improving it for our tenants because we are proud of our building. We want to keep it nice. That is the type of people we are."
In terms of plans for the Tumwater space, Beckes said they are planning to do some major repairs on the pipes, bathrooms, drains, toilets. She said they will not make a decision on what to do with the space until they've gutted it.
Certainly, closing such a beloved restaurant is hard, but Beckes said they were left with no other choice.
"It's sad that they didn't take accountability for their water leaks and update their space. We can't continue to have it damage the building. It doesn't make common sense," Beckes said.

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