I always wanted to live in a place exactly like La Conner.
Imagine a downtown two roads long, no major franchise in sight - no - not even a Starbucks. Most of the business owners work in their business on the street, so you actually get to know their name, and smile and wave to each other every morning.
When you live here, there’s a good chance you can leave a tab at the bar if you forget your wallet. Or, if you leave your wallet on a bench outside said bar, there is a good chance that you’ll see it there in the morning. There’s one grocery store, one farmers market, one post office, one school....but also a huge art and foodie scene.
Artists and craftsmen, and businessmen and women who enjoy selling local arts and crafts, all assimilate in La Conner. Top chefs, aspiring cooks and everyone in between are found in small but fantastic restaurants tucked in between galleries and quaint shops, offering unique dishes to allow each restaurant to support each other and share customers. And the customers, they do come.
Starting in the spring, daffodil and tulip fields bloom stunning colors that can be seen everywhere as you drive throughout the valley. The small towns unite and transform into a bustling epicenter for tourists who come from all over the world to see the flowers, and spend time and money. The temperate warm weather and beautiful sunshine bring boaters through the channel and hikers and bikers through the valley for a summer retreat. Fall welcomes cool and crisp days perfect for gallery events and museum art tours. And then, when our romantic rainy winter approaches, you can hear them coming...hundreds of snow geese, trumpeter swans and blue geese migrating to farm fields surrounding La Conner to eat and naturally aerate the land for the soil to become rich for the flowers and a bountiful harvest of food the following year. Again, birders and professional artists and photographers line the fields to watch and then visit and stay in beautiful La Conner.
It’s hard not to love La Conner at first sight.
Oh yes, the sight...a town nestled between a gorgeous hill of historical houses and the Swinomish Channel, home to seagulls, bald eagles and blue heron, to name a few. The hill is cut with a beautiful stone staircase to make the town accessible to residents who live in the houses above.
Got the picture? Now let your eye wander to the rainbow bridge; an orange bridge and icon that unites La Conner with the Swinomish tribe. A native tribe of talented fisherman who supply their tribe and many of our markets with salmon, halibut, oysters, shrimp and all of the glorious seafood that the Puget Sound has to offer.
Look at the other end of the channel and see a picturesque view of a marina filled with yachts and small boats fishing on the water. And behind it all? Her majesty - Mt. Baker - an active volcano with snow caps peaking through the clouds all year long. Baker is one of those mountains that you see every day and it still takes your breath away.
When I thought about having a restaurant someday, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh; the area where I grew up. I always had an urge to go West. When the opportunity came to actually live my dream many years later, I left my corporate job at PNC Bank, went West and landed in Washington. When my man Matt and I visited his family in La Conner, I couldn’t get the town out of my mind... When a compassionate guy let us rent his house instead of selling it so we could live there with my elderly dog, I was feeling grateful... But when an old bank building in the middle of town comes up for lease to a landlord that has converted old banks to restaurants...well, I thought, that’s just kismet.
The bank space was completely gutted with exception of two walls and the core of the vault (which we still have remnants of today), so a lot of work had to be done to make the space a restaurant. Our landlord offered suggestions based on other restaurant construction he did, but otherwise left us to do with the space as we wanted to make it our own.
So to work we went designing and building; meeting new friends that helped us create new memories with each step in the process. Before we knew it, Anelia’s Kitchen & Stage was born!
To give the space a homey feel, we used warm colors and kept the floorplan open so that just about every area of the restaurant is accessible for employees to be attentive to customers and for customers to enjoy the magic in the making of their food and beverage. The vault became our bathrooms, btw, and the European style sinks and toilets are both stylish and easy to clean!
Given this ground up renovation, just about everything in the space is less than seven years old, including the floor, and all fixtures with a few exceptions in some kitchen equipment. Some highlights of construction include:
The occupancy is 56. The dining room seats 42 comfortably and there are 9 bar seats. The small outdoor dining area has 4 tables, which can accommodate 20 additional customers and includes a walk up window for take out orders from the bar. A private parking lot for 5 cars plus one handicap space next to the building make it one of the very few restaurants with private parking in town.
A Weber Genesis propane gas grill (with side burner) is stored outside and becomes a useful tool when set up in the parking lot to give passersby a quick bite or sample of food during tulip season, lazy summer days when it's too hot for a big meal or during one of the several holiday parades that trek down First Street throughout the year. A storage closet and an enclosure with swinging doors were built to hide unsightly items like the garbage dumpster, used kegs and propane tanks.
Anelia’s is currently a Polish inspired kitchen with a northwest flare and has gained very high ratings through social media outlets (Facebook, Google, Yelp and Trip Advisor), overwhelming local support, and continuous gold star health inspections. Skagit Valley is home to robust farmland that makes for a vast selection of fresh veggies and fruit to complement all the seafood and local meat available, so the menu tries to reflect that for much of the year. While we are not selling the name and recipes, the town has widely accepted the conversion of the "old bank building" to a well respected restaurant.
So, the elephant in the room: COVID-19. How did we address it? Is this why we’re getting out? The short answer is no. We had our minds set on moving on to some new opportunities in 2021. That said, when COVID-19 hit Washington, and we were shut down during our most profitable month, it was a slap in the face to what was promising to be a great year. However, I have a strong conviction to see through my commitment to the lease; the communities desire to have a viable, open business that they love in the heart of the town center; and my landlords desire to keep the business in tact, so the business is currently still running. The town of La Conner has been amazing through the pandemic, trying to both stay safe and keep businesses in business. When our capacity was limited but the sun was shining, we were able to swap our split parking lot with the town to make customers still feel like they were eating at Anelia’s. Our neighbor was able to lend us tables, chairs and umbrellas, and we certainly made much more in sales than take out alone. While the cool, fall air made us revert back indoors, the town and our landlord is willing to make the swap whenever we want and would extend the favor if new ownership wanted to create a larger space outside in 2021.
Magical things really do happen in La Conner and even though we feel it’s time to retire Anelia’s here to pursue new opportunities, the space glows when people are in it; you can feel it come alive. If you feel like it’s time to make your personal dream of owning a restaurant/cafe/retail shop a reality, let’s talk.
For serious inquiries only: contact Jennifer Ferry at firstname.lastname@example.org