by Kirby Lindsay, posted 9 January 2014
In East Fremont, a café and music venue has become a favorite among the few that have (re) discovered the location formerly known as In & Out Garden Center, Gypsy Trader, Gypsy Java Café, Gypsy Café, and Tiny Ninja Café. “We’ve taken what they started,” observed General Manager Kirsten Ohlendorf, “and taken it to the next level.” This is now the new Stone Way Café (SWC,) with a café and hall transformed with a well-planned remodel, and operated by a hard-working and committed kitchen staff.
“Cafés like this are dying breed,” Ohlendorf explained, but with a glance toward the customers coming and going from the counter on a January afternoon, she acknowledged, “We’re doing great. It’s really a special place in here. Come in and try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!”
Ready For Food & Music
Walking inside for the first time since pre-Tiny Ninja, the interior of the SWC took me by surprise. The new owners (no one from the previous establishments is involved in SWC) have re-floored, upgraded the kitchen to full-service, installed a new staircase, commissioned a mural behind the stage (which is larger and lighter,) painted, brought in new seating and gave the counter – in addition to coffee and tea – 16 brewery-grade taps.
This allows Ohlendorf to attract staff that can cook so that SWC now serves homemade breakfast and lunch entrees using organic ingredients – and performers/event producers that entertain, often getting the audience up dancing.
“We rely on the sales we get from the food and beverage,” Ohlendorf explained about how the café will be successful. They offer what she described as “an awesome selection of beers, wine and hard cider,” from local producers. “It’s pretty much strictly Washington Beers,” she said.
In February, Ohlendorf will have a full-time kitchen manager starting so customers can expect an expanded menu, and serving times. Right now, SWC serves breakfast and lunch, from 8a – 3p, although a few items (the muffaleta, frittata, baked goods and other event food) can be purchased during evening shows.
Located among several well-regarded, fine dining restaurants (The Whale Wins, Joule and the new Manolin) and across the street from the Pacific Inn Pub, SWC doesn’t plan to compete – but to provide our community with a family-friendly entertainment venue, with something delicious to nosh alongside. “We’re not going to do dinner like they do dinner,” Ohlendorf said.
Live Music Heard For Free
“I’m not a musician myself,” Ohlendorf admitted, “but I love music and being a part of getting new artists exposure.” Continuing the tradition of the Gypsy Café, and Tiny Ninja, the new Stone Way Café offers a full calendar of live music, dance and events – with a slight twist.
All SWC shows are free to attend.
“Sometimes we get artists that back off,” Ohlendorf admitted. They are encouraged to pass the hat or put out a tip jar, but Ohlendorf defends the free-entry policy. “That’s just not what we do,” she said, “We may look to a change in the future, but while this business is in its infancy, this is what we want.”
“I would love to get some bigger names in here,” Ohlendorf acknowledged, but she is delighted at being able to offer a venue for audiences to see new acts, or experienced artists that want a comfortable place where they can play for die-hard fans. “We like to think of ourselves as a community space. We want to get that exposure,” she said, and that means letting the community come in to hear music and eat without asking for a prohibitive cover charge.
‘People Are Coming Back’
“People have heard about the space,” Ohlendorf said about acts that sign-up to use the 75-person venue, “or I find them.” Ideal performers will have a family-friendly show, and be able to do their own marketing. “We like to have a variety,” Ohlendorf said, “We’ve had everything, from the harp to Hip Hop!”
“We do other things too,” Ohlendorf acknowledged, with baby drum lessons, private parties, and songwriter gatherings – and she wants to start an Open Mic Night. “It’s become the space for local artists to come together,” she observed, to share about current projects and talk about future collaborations.
“I would love to see some of the younger crowd, the young adults,” find the place, Ohlendorf said. She would like to see more people her own age taking advantage of this laid-back venue for quality music, affordable, delicious food and gathering with friends, particularly when they are ready for something different from the blasting noise at the night clubs. “It’s such a chill scene,” she observed, “with such potential – good food, good people and good vibes, for sure!”
“People are coming back,” Ohlendorf said about her current customers. Fans of Gypsy, and Tiny Ninja, are slowly returning to check out the new SWC, “we need the community support to survive.” The name, Stone Way Café, also may draw in some even more ancient Fremonsters, who will recall the first Stone Way Café, located one block north, in the 1980s & ‘90s. The current SWC didn’t know about their predecessor, but the name – and its reputation as a place of yummy food – make the new SWC even more a part of our community.
Check out the current calendar of events and shows on the Stone Way Café website, to find something to experience at the new venue – or stop by for a bite and just to say hello!
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