Long-ago gas station turns into new place for spirits

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A copy of an old black and white photograph depicting Marcy's service station on the corner of Alder Street and Colville Street hangs inside the same building, that is now Marcy's Bar and Lounge as a happy hour customer waives goodbye after enjoying an after work drink on Friday evening. Friday, October 22, 2010 MZ Photo

WALLA WALLA -- A long-ago gas station has become a new spot for spirits in a blend of old and new on downtown's Colville Street.

In the reframed walls of what was formerly Luscious by Nature, black-and-white photos pay tribute to the old Union 76 service station started at that corner by J. Milo Marcy.

Now, instead of air compressors, the sound coming from the building is more likely to be clinking ice cubes rumbling in a shaker.

The station pumps from the 1930s-era building were removed years ago, and the building over the years had been home to numerous other businesses, the tribute to the old "Marcy's" is an homage to the corner's roots.

And the theme couldn't be more appropriate considering the homecoming of sorts of Marcy's co-owner Chad Waldher.

An entrepreneur who opened the neighboring Pita Pit about a year ago, Waldher grew up in Walla Walla until he was 15.

His family moved away.

He spent the next 15 years on the west side of the state.

When the opportunity arose to open his own Pita Pit franchise, Waldher had two choices: open in the Seattle area or start a new one in Walla Walla.

Along with fiancee and business partner Jessi Pricco, he returned to Walla Walla, leased the building at Colville and Alder Streets, divided it into two spaces and had planned to sublet.

The space sat empty for months, Pricco said.

Instead of looking for a new tenant, she and Waldher began exploring the idea of a secondary business -- one that would complement their existing operation.

"We saw a similar business model -- a lounge and a Pita Pit -- up in Spokane," Waldher said. "The two seemed to really feed each other well."

The pieces were already in place, so to speak. One requirement of opening a bar is having a menu off which to feed guests.

And one of the most expensive costs associated with it is a kitchen. With access to the Pita Pit's menu, the food issue was already solved.

Waldher and Pricco set out to start their lounge, a laid-back, cozy environment that specializes in but is not by any means limited to martinis.

The couple didn't necessarily plan the business as a historic tribute to the old service station. But with the absence of an official name, they found themselves repeatedly referring to their then-hypothetical new venture as "Marcy's."

"We would just automatically call it that," Pricco said. "But then the more we talked to people about it, the more we realized people knew it as a service station."

They opened the business quietly in late August before a grand opening in September and numerous events since then.

Those with a touch of nostalgia can see the historic photos on the walls.

But the business operators also hope to appeal to crowds looking for a new place for a pre-fab get-together or looking for a full-service operation that's open late.

"I want to be able to appeal to a broad range of people here," said Pricco, who primarily runs the Marcy's side of the business while Waldher focuses on the Pita Pit.

In addition to the Pita Pit dishes, those who want to kick it up a notch with their drinks can order from an extended menu created specifically for the Marcy's side of the equation.

"We wanted to bring a full-service bar to downtown," Pricco said. "It's something a little different."


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