A labor of love to begin with, it was only fitting that Jody Collins chose Valentine’s Day to close the Oriole Cafe.
Today was the last day for the Oriole and staff at the downtown Hoquiam diner Collins has been running with the help of her family and friends the past four years. Business just hasn’t been steady the past couple of years, and lately it took a turn for the worst, Collins said.
“We decided to stay open through Valentine’s Day, so that way everybody can bring us chocolate when they come the say goodbye,” Collins said with bittersweet humor in the face of the sorrow about closing the business.
Collins a lifelong restaurant worker, was employed for many years as a waitress and bartender at Duffy’s in Aberdeen. She even was an assistant manager at a McDonald’s in Texas. She considers Duffy’s owner Ralph Larson to be the mentor who inspired her to take over the Oriole, which she took over on Feb. 9, 2009.
The cafe was a downtown institution for years. It had a reputation for being the City Hall’s backroom in plain sight where decisions and deals got done.
Her sons Mitch, Kurt and James all helped with the restaurant, which specialized in diner-style breakfast, lunches and early dinners.
“It’s been really rough on all of us,” she said of the decision to close. “We are all really connected here.”
Collins noted that ever since she started in the location at 708 J St. the Oriole has battled rumors of its demise. Now, unfortunately, they are true.
“It’s just the way things are right now,” she said.
Part of the problem, she suspects, is that the location was off the main street through Hoquiam and the city limits the use of signs to attract customers.
“It’s not a good time to own a restaurant, and we are off the beaten track, and the city of Hoquiam won’t let us put up a sign, so we have to rely on the community 100 percent,” Collins said.
The community, however, also stands to lose in the closing of the Oriole, which put on the Thanksgiving dinner the past few years for the entire Emerson Manor. Collins now isn’t sure what the future holds.
“Business just fell off the last couple of months and I just can’t fight this any more,” she added. “I’m done.”