|4/15/2014 1:39:00 PM|
Cork Cellars pops the cork in Sisters
|Jennifer Knowles-Seher. photo by Sue Stafford|
|Ann Marland and Suzi Allely enjoy a glass of wine at Cork Cellars. photo by Sue Stafford|
By Sue StaffordA little girl's dream of owning a restaurant has become a woman's reality for Jennifer Knowles-Seher, the new owner of Cork Cellars wine bar and store. As a child she played pretend restaurant by baking banana bread in her grandmother's kitchen. On the door she posted a sign reading Dinky's Diner.
Jennifer's mother always told her if she had the money she would buy Jennifer a restaurant. When her mother passed away in December 2012, two weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her estate made it possible for Jennifer to realize her life-long dream. She purchased Cork Cellars from Rick and Nadean Murray after shadowing Rick for six weeks to learn the fundamentals of running a wine bar.
Not one to shirk hard work and long hours, Jennifer arrived in Sisters in November 1992, from Southern California, to experience her first huge snowstorm and to work as a Christmas bell-ringer in front of the grocery store. Sisters was a town of about 400 people back then, and within three weeks everyone knew the new girl in town. Jennifer's two children have both gone through the Sisters school system, and her daughter is currently a junior at the high school.
Jennifer remembers when the current Cork Cellars location, on the southwest corner of Cascade Avenue and Pine Street, housed J. C. Whitney Sporting Goods, which closed in the mid-1990s. The building then became an Internet café, later was home to several art galleries, and for a long time was Clearwater Gallery and Frame Shop.
The warm wood interior provides the perfect backdrop for the third iteration of Cork Cellars, which started in the yellow building on Elm Street and then shared the old post office space with Melvin's Fir Street Market. The new location provides more space, great corner visibility, an affordable rent, and an ideal location between two Sisters icons, the SnoCap Drive-in across Cascade and Sisters Coffee Company behind on Hood Avenue.
The inviting atmosphere begins with flowers in the outside garden areas and the bench on the front porch. The center of the wine bar is a cozy enclosed seating area with leather couch and chairs, area rug, walls of wine racks, and a colorful banner with wine bottles and glasses, declaring "Group Therapy Here." Other tables, chairs and wine racks cover the outside walls and cushions provide flexible seating on the built-in benches in the front windows. Grape-colored paint highlights the ceiling beam, center posts and divider walls.
New additions to the interior reflect Jennifer's desire to maintain the integrity of Sisters' 1880s Western theme. Through online sites she has procured unique pieces such as the wine rack made from an old hotel compartmented wall that held keys and mailboxes, and the bar table that has a base made from a bank of old post-office boxes into which wine bottles fit for storage. The table is the work of Prineville artist Lance Romine. The back bar is made from a 1940s partner's desk with a drawer that opens on both sides and a new butcher-block top. Fresh flowers provided by Three Sisters Floral adorn every table.
In the back is a compact and fully functional kitchen in which a full-time chef prepares many of the meals familiar to Cork Cellars patrons, plus some new treats. There are cheese and antipasti platters, paninis, salads, humus, artichoke dip, soups, and several small dessert items.
Cork Cellars features wines from the Northwest and beyond available by the bottle or the case, offers a local wine-of-the-month club, and also sells wine and bar accessories.
Wine distributors and vintners provide one to two tastings a week, and every Tuesday night there is live music. Currently the store is open six days a week from noon to 10 p.m., and is closed on Mondays. Starting Memorial Day weekend, they will be open seven days a week, with extended hours of noon to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Children are always welcome until 9 p.m. and will find a pita bread pizza on the menu especially for them.
In addition to Jennifer, who is working six days a week from opening to closing, her son Cody comes from Eugene to work two weeks a month and will be full-time this summer when he moves to Sisters. There are also several part-time employees, including Emily Pelletier and the chef.
"It's different being the one who writes the checks," says Jennifer, who is hoping to start paying herself this summer.
A planned outdoor seating area behind the building will provide room for 40 more patrons. As soon as the space is prepared, local artist Ken Scott of Imagination Gallery will construct an eight-sided gazebo with stained glass and nighttime lighting.
Jennifer mentioned several times how grateful she is for all the support the community has given to her endeavor, and she thanks everyone. She is seeking funding of the outdoor area through GoFundMe.com - Cork Cellars Outdoor Paradise. A pledge can be made toward the $20,000 it will take to complete the project.
During last Friday's art stroll for My Own Two Hands, there was a constant buzz of customers admiring the art and the new digs, as well as the wine being poured by Bergstrom Vineyards.
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