The mere mention of Central Washington’s Bavarian theme town of Leavenworth conjures images of rugged mountain peaks and colorful dancers dressed in traditional Bavarian attire. It brings thoughts of spatzle, weiner schnitzel and big mugs of beer.
But how about stuffed jalapenos, carnitas and pisco sours?
For Price Gledhill and Cappy Bond, owners of South, 913 Front St., opening a Latin restaurant in a Bavarian-theme town was a leap of faith.
“South offers a fantastic product that is unique to our village,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce. “As a chamber director, Price and Cappy are just the kind of people you hope to do business with. They’re easy to promote and easy to work with. Plus, they’re involved in the community — serving on the chamber board and working at helping our community to ‘think local first.’ ”
In fact, serving the needs of locals was the primary driver behind the couple’s decision to open the successful and expanding business.
“We focused from day one on what the locals wanted,” Cappy said. “Our research told us tourist traffic fluctuates with the seasons, but the locals will keep us in business year-round.”
South’s Latin fare is made with quality ingredients from Washington and certified Angus beef. South also offers a number of options for its vegetarian and vegan customers, and five homemade salsas every day. Its bar features more than 50 tequilas and mezcals as well as a good selection of Latin American spirits such as pisco, cachaca, and quality rums.
Price met Cappy in Richmond, Calif. When the couple married, they moved to Wenatchee to be closer to Cappy’s grandparents.
The couple, who have two young children, came to Wenatchee as teachers; Price taught social studies at Cascade High School in Leavenworth, and Cappy taught ESL at Wenatchee High School. But with shrinking school budgets and lack of seniority, the couple believed they had little control over their careers. Job uncertainty and a constant threat of being laid off didn’t appeal to them.
“We wanted to be more in charge of our destiny,” Price said.
Entrepreneurship is in the couple’s blood, on both sides.
Price’s family hails from Pasadena, Calif., and has owned a Chevrolet dealership there for three generations. Cappy’s great grandparents founded McBride’s Women’s Apparel on Wenatchee Avenue in 1921. It had a 70-year run over two generations. Cappy’s brother owns Serrato, a restaurant in Portland, and her parents own Luna, a restaurant in Spokane.
After moving to Leavenworth in 2001, the couple yearned for the tasty Latin food they had come to love while living in California.
“Growing up in California, we had access to phenomenal Mexican and Latin food,” Price said. “When we came up to Central Washington, we craved that kind of food.”
With nothing like it in the area, the couple saw an opportunity and decided to open a restaurant.
“We did our homework,” Cappy said. “We did a detailed business plan and lots of research and analyses — worst case scenarios included. We consulted family members and received valuable business advice.”
The advice and encouragement the couple received from their families was a huge factor in their decision to move forward. The learning curve may have been a little steep for the first-time restauranteurs and their employees, but the young couple knew exactly what they wanted and persevered.
“We knew it was a risky proposition, and, to be honest, at times it was terrifying,” Cappy said. “It truly was a leap of faith.”
When the couple first looked at 913 Front St., the property was divided into several different business spaces. They saw the potential for the space and liked the location.
“This place had some character,” Price said. “We removed all interior partition walls and took the perimeter walls down to the original structural brick. You can’t get this old brick look anymore. We really like the warm feel of the place.”
And removing two layers of plywood from the floor exposed the original wood flooring, adding to the inviting ambiance.
South (southleavenworth.com) opened in June 2007, but it wasn’t smooth sailing right out of the dock.
“It was a little rough starting out,” Price said. “We had a tough time finding employees for a Latin food restaurant in a German-theme town. We know what good Latin food is, we know what good service is. Our expectations were high, but we had yet to develop a reputation.”
The couple’s background in education proved helpful.
“The same basic management principles apply to both the classroom and the business,” Price said.
The owners quickly discovered they had a different vision for South than its first chef; after only three weeks on the job, they let him go.
“We were scared,” Cappy said. “We were a brand new restaurant with no chef.”
But the couple worked through the growing pains, and today the business has a solid reputation and a stable employee base.
“Now we know who we are,” Cappy said.
Alfredo Garcia has been the chef at South for four years.
“Alfredo’s a leader and is very flexible,” Cappy said. “In our travels we often come across fantastic dishes and drinks and ask the chefs and staff how they make them. Once they find out we aren’t going to be in direct competition with them, they usually comply.”
Recipes for those stand-out dishes and drinks come from places such as Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Peru, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Baja and even Brooklyn, N.Y. The couple brings recipes back and asks its staff to duplicate them. If the results are successful, the items are added to South’s menu.
“Just like different regions of the United States feature different dishes and flavors, it’s the same in South America,” Price said. “It’s been a lot of fun for us to try to grab the different flavors from these different areas of South America and bring them to Central Washington.”
One of those flavors is the peruano bean from Peru.
“We use the peruano bean for our refried beans because it’s so much richer than the pinto bean,” Cappy said. “It tastes like fat has been added, but it hasn’t. It’s just a very rich bean.”
The energetic and successful owners are excited to be expanding to Wenatchee’s Pybus Market.
“This is good timing for us,” Price said. “Over the years we have had requests to open a new restaurant in Wenatchee, and Pybus is a really good match for us because it follows our re-use philosophy. We’re also impressed with the high caliber of the tenants who have signed on with Pybus. These are hardworking business owners with a proven track record.”
And South has its own impressive track record that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Peoples Bank is happy to be a part of South’s growing success and provide financing resources that enable Price and Cappy to take their business to the next level,” said Stephanie Musser, commercial lending officer for Peoples Bank. “This community-minded restaurant provides a vibrant atmosphere with a great menu for a fun dining experience. We wish them well in their Wenatchee expansion plans.”
South at Pybus will feature a 2,000 square-foot dining space with a full kitchen. It will also have the only mezzanine, or second floor, space at Pybus. South’s popular bar will occupy the 800 square-foot space that overlooks the entire market.
“The mixed drinks will be an essential component, and we will be devoting a lot of energy to the mezzanine bar,” Cappy said. “We really want to get the crème de la crème of employees for our expansion at Pybus. We want to fill a niche in Wenatchee and give people what they want. We are open to suggestions.”
The excitement for South’s expansion is hard to contain.
“Pybus is going to be a homerun,” Price said. “We plan to keep the Leavenworth South humming along, but we will be ready to respond to Wenatchee.”