Serving up a local product: Paylor takes Mill 109 helm

In more than a century, the Paylor family has stayed close to its roots in the tiny North Beach town of Aloha, and the hearty family heritage is what truly shines bright with a new business development at Seabrook.

Now in its fourth generation, Rob Paylor continues the tradition of Paylors in the area as the proud new owner of the Mill 109 restaurant at Seabrook, where he had previously been employed as the chef and bar manager.

“The Paylors have moved a mile in 113 years,” he said, laughing at his good fortune.

The affable Paylor says he jumped head first at the chance to become the first owner of the facility after Seabrook founder and President Casey Roloff began looking for someone to take over the often bustling restaurant that serves all three main meals and caters to the burgeoning vacation community south of Pacific Beach.

After learning the cooking and restaurant business largely at the old Parma restaurant in Aberdeen (as a dishwasher first for owner Pierre Gabelli) then at Galway Bay in Ocean Shores and The 8th Street Ale House in Hoquiam (for owner Bill Gibbons), Paylor said he was thrilled at the chance to set the menu and table at Seabrook.

The Aberdeen High School (1994) graduate studied at the Western Culinary Institute (now Le Cordon Bleu College) in Portland, and has now established roots again in Aloha, where his great grandfather, Horace Paylor, worked as a shingle weaver in 1915.

Paylor recalls it was Gabelli at Parma that first let him get his hands on the food.

“He had this big buffalo chopper, and one of the first things I ever did was he let me cut onions,” Paylor said. “It was 50 pounds of onions at a time, and I remember the tears just streaming down my face before I was done. It was just a horrible job.”

But he stuck with it, and Gabelli began teaching him sauces and giving Paylor a good foundation in what it took to be a chef. While in cooking school, Paylor would return to the restaurant and cook when home, and then planned to follow Gabelli to Hawaii to open a new restaurant. The restaurant, however, never materialized and Paylor already had committed to Hawaii so he was stuck — for about six months doing odd catering and cooking jobs. “It wasn’t the worst time in the world,” he jokes, “but it sure was expensive to live.”

Coming back to Grays Harbor then at 26, his next mentor in the business was with Gibbons at Galway Bay. One of his first jobs was to oversee the transition into a new location, which the restaurant, pub and gift shop now occupies.

“It was pretty neat, working with contractors, buying glassware and setting everything up from scratch was a great learning experience,” Paylor said. “I say that I went to the Bill Gibbons school of restaurant management. He really taught me a lot.”

Paylor notes that Gibbons is a self-taught restaurant owner who followed his own vision of how to make it on a shoestring.

Since August 2011, he’s been at Seabrook and has found he can have the best of all worlds there, raising his two children who attend school in Pacific Beach while still being at the restaurant when the need and duty call. When Roloff came to him and said he was thinking of selling the business, Paylor found the financing to make the deal happen.

“He had talked to me over the course of having five or so different operators of the place and kept asking me if I wanted to be the guy,” Paylor said of his conversations with Roloff. “I had always turned him down, but the stars really aligned at one time.”

Someone brought in to the restaurant from out of town, he said, decided they didn’t want to stay at Seabrook any longer, and the nod fell to Paylor again.

“They let me come in and run it until two months ago when they came in and said, ‘We think the time is right that we want to sell it, and we want it to be you,” Paylor said. After a month or so of negotiations, the deal was signed and sealed about three weeks ago. Roloff and Seabrook still owns the equipment under the arrangement, but Paylor now owns the business.

“It really was a good deal. They obviously really wanted it to be me and were amenable to changing it around to make it a deal that would work for me,” Paylor said.

Last Friday during lunch, all but one table was full on a rainy day when the outdoor seating was not an option. Crowds are expected to swell this summer when Seabrook is featured as Sunset magazine’s “Idea Town,” bringing in an anticipated 30,000 visitors.

One of Paylor’s favorite recent moments at Seabrook was cooking for Sunset editor in chief Kitty Morgan recently at the restaurant. For the meal, he found the freshest steelhead from Quinault Pride and then contacted local growers for the rest.

“It was very cool and an honor. That lady has had some amazing meals in her lifetime and I would hope that we were able to showcase what we have in Grays Harbor,” he said.

Paylor believes his main market is “fish and chips families.” But he notes that younger families at Seabrook appear to want a fairly healthy menu, too. No corn dogs or heavily fried foods on the menu. He also finds more requests for vegan dishes.

“My market is vacationers about my age with kids about my kids’ ages,” he said.

While there’s not much more room to grow at Mill 109, the restaurant is hosting live music on the weekends and Paylor will be the first caterer of choice once Seabrook starts hosting larger banquets, weddings and conventions. The first wedding will be this June.

For more information, call (360) 276-4884 or visit the website at