As Bend’s restaurant scene turns

Some for sale; others close, and new ones prepare to open.

By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

Published Sep 5, 2014 at 12:01AM

Turnover in Bend’s restaurant industry has been picking up recently, with several for sale, others going out of business, and new ones opening.

Real estate listings this week showed eight Bend restaurants, or their locations, for sale, including one in the Old Mill District and three downtown — Chocolate Element and two unidentified, a sandwich shop and a southeast Asian restaurant. Scott Wicklund, principal broker for The Wicklund Group, is the listing agent for seven of them.

“There is a lot of movement and a lot of activity,” he said. “I get interest on my restaurants from the Bay Area, Seattle, even as far as Park City, Utah. I think it’s vibrant, and I know the market this year is really coming alive as far as building selling and land selling.”

In the last month, three Bend restaurants closed, including the Alpenglow Cafe, which operated in downtown Bend for 20 years. Notes of thanks to its customers were taped to the restaurant’s front door and posted on its Facebook page.

“Thank you for your continued support of 20 years!” read the Facebook post. “... We poured our hearts & soul into this restaurant and community and have made a decision to close based on many factors.”

Gordon Benzer decided to close his bakery, Baked, at 735 NW Columbia St., after he learned his rent would be going up.

“The overall operating cost is so high, relative to the volume of traffic most locations in the town receive,” Benzer said. “Bakeries have a pretty low margin. It didn’t look like it was going to happen without compromising the quality that we were giving to the community here.”

Kayo Oakley, the owner of Kayo’s Dinner House on NE Third Street, said the cyclical nature of restaurants is common to Bend.

“One closes and another one opens,” said Oakley, who has worked in Bend restaurants since 1977.

The formula for operating a successful restaurant, he said, is simple: Care about the customers, along with what and how they’re served. But it’s difficult to have success when the market is so saturated.

“In the summertime, it’s great. But it’s a 365-day business, so you can’t be busy 90 days and make it through 365 very profitably,” he said.

And proving Oakley’s point, a new pizza restaurant recently opened downtown. A sub shop is under construction on SW Century Drive, and Nickol Hayden-Cady plans to open Foxtail Bakeshop next month in the former Baked location.

Hayden-Cady said she worked at the former Volo restaurant on NW Bond Street in downtown Bend. She researched the market and realized one of the keys in Bend is starting small and making an appropriately sized initial investment.

“Bend is this epicenter for great food for such a small town,” she said. “I think it’s hard to make it in this town. People want to support you; they know you are there and are happy that you are there, but they don’t necessarily support you on a daily basis because there’s so many great places.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7818,

rrees@bendbulletin.com