Milepost Brewing in Cashmere celebrates 10th anniversary

Photo by Lindsay Timmermans

A decade is a long time no matter how one considers it. Yet in the challenging, volatile, and ever-changing restaurant world, ten years can seem closer to 15.

          On Oct. 22 Milepost Brewing, a Cashmere pub and brewery, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a celebration at the restaurant from 5-8 p.m. which included a merchandise raffle, Happy Hour prices and live music. Owner Melissa McClendon opened Milepost’s doors on October 22, 2012. In the past ten years, staffing changes, a global pandemic and other issues challenged McClendon, but through it all she has established Milepost Brewing as a Cashmere mainstay.

          “It was quite a process just to get it going,” McClendon said. “I had no idea how to run a restaurant. That’s never a good start. But after a couple of years, I started working with someone to show me what to look for. I wasn’t as involved in some aspects of the business as I am now.” 

After graduating from the University of Washington, McClendon worked on campus for several years which gave her access to nearly free courses. She began taking wine classes with the hopes of returning home to open a winery. She came back to Cashmere only to find a plethora of wineries and small boutiques already established. Not wanting to compete with them, she decided to open a brewery instead as that would entice a different clientele. As she started preparing for the business, her plans changed yet again.

“At that time in Cashmere, there wasn’t a lot of choice of restaurants, so that’s when we decided to do a restaurant and do a brewery at the same time as well,” she said. “It was wine that led me to beer.” 

The next step was to find a home for her dream to land. McClendon searched for a downtown location, but to no avail. Eventually she found a building for lease at 407 Aplets Way which faced Riverside Park. She secured the facility, but a big challenge remained— the building was not a restaurant. In fact, it had served as both a Chevy dealership and a home of Cascade Helicopter. McClendon now faced the task of starting a restaurant/brewery from scratch. Construction began in January of 2012. Concrete needed to be knocked out and water and sewer installed. She then began looking all over the Pacific Northwest for used kitchen equipment. Almost everything in the fledgling eatery was previously owned, save for the plates and silverware.

“Many business owners will tell you, ‘When I look back, what the heck was I thinking?’” she said. “I’m very happy that it finally got off the ground and got going, but it wasn’t easy not knowing what to do.” 

Like all restaurants, Milepost Brewing faced an unexpected and daunting challenge in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed and threatened the dine-out business. McClendon had to shrink her staff from 25 employees down to three. She admitted being fairly nervous, but Public Provident Fund loans from the federal government helped keep the restaurant afloat until Washington State reopened for dining in June of 2020 and loyal patrons returned.

“It was like they let the dogs out. Everybody was out. They were just so tired of three months of being cooped up,” McClendon recalled. “Being closed a couple times was tough, but by the time that we closed the second time, we knew that we were going to make it through.” 

Surviving the pandemic taught McClendon to rethink her business. She knew she couldn’t replace the staff lost during the COVID crisis, so she truncated the menu, removing appetizers and items that were harder for cooks to make. With most of the restaurant aspects in order, McClendon is turning her attention to the brewery and giving Milepost’s original beers more exposure. Currently she is working to install a new brewery system and have it running by year’s end.

As the 10th anniversary passes and she looks to the 11th year, McClendon feels blessed that Milepost is supported by Cashmere residents. She also felt gratitude that people from areas like Monitor, Sunnyslope and Dryden also supported her business. With the day-to-day details and stresses of owning a restaurant, McClendon doesn’t always have a chance to think about the past as her eye looks toward the future.

“I rarely sit back and enjoy what was created,” she said. “Every year, we’re trying to do something better than we did the year before.” 



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