PANORAMA - Business boom



Charles Smith poses with vintage pinball machines that will be available for customers at the Anchor Bar.


Betty's Diner sign mimics the classic record style of the 1950's.


Bart Baxter clowns with a cardboard cutout of actress Marilyn Monroe next to a working jukebox at Betty's Diner.


Imbert Mathee


A new arched doorway will lead Coppei Coffee customers to seating in what owner Imbert Mathee calls 'Waitsburg's living room.” Outside seating will be accessible from the 'living room.”

The number of places to go in Waitsburg for a bite to eat and a beverage will nearly double next week when three new business open downtown. The grand openings will coincide with a vintage car show in Preston Park.

A fourth business having nothing to do with food - a consignment shop to resell goods and clothing - also will debut.

A 1950s-style diner, a bar and a coffee shop will formally open their doors Friday and Saturday for their grand openings.

Betty's Diner 50s Eats & Treats, 114 Preston Ave., has been attracting attention for weeks, according to contractor and restaurant manager Bart Baxter. The chrome and red caf with black and white checkered floor will appeal to the nostalgic and those hankering for good hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes.

Baxter has already heard from several car clubs wanting to make the diner a cruise destination.

Betty's Diner is at one end of the building most recently home to the Whetstone Public House.

The diner is named for Betty Standfill, owner Stephanie Laposi's mother. Although Betty has loaned her name to the diner, it will be Bart's mother, Bitsy Baxter, working in the adjacent store operating Baby Girl Consignments and More, 112 Preston Ave.

Both businesses are owned by Laposi, who has worked for Walla Walla County for the past 11 years, but has had experience as a waitress and cook. Laposi is Bart Baxter's girlfriend.

"Bart and I just wanted to do something for the local community and to have something for people to do when they came through," Laposi said.

The business will provide several jobs, Baxter said.

Around the corner at 137 Main St., two people huddled around the imported La Marzocco espresso machine, while construction workers sealed rough-sawn boards, hammered and sawed. Sheets of plastic covered the leather furniture in what will be "Waitsburg's living room," according newspaper publisher and shop owner Imbert Mathee.

Mathee was unperturbed by what seemed like chaos around him, as he showed a visitor some of the features of Coppei Coffee. A retail section will offer coffee beans to help orphans in Ethiopia and honey from Octopus Garden in Dayton.

For the sweet tooth, there will be pastries and ice cream to go with the traditional Italian style espresso, served from the bright orange machine behind the counter.

When he bought The Times newspaper from Loyal Baker in 2009 and realized it came with a second building, he immediately envisioned the coffee shop. "This town needs a coffee shop. It was just such a no-brainer," he said.

There is currently no place for visitors to hang out from morning to mid-afternoon, Mathee said.

Mathee regularly reported on the minutiae of preparations of Coppei Coffee for months in The Times. Details of delivery of La Marzocco commanded nearly half of one page, while an editorial July 7 asked readers to "please be patient." Not all the promised amenities will be ready Aug. 5. The big mural, the patio in the back and a full complement of furnishings won't all be in place.

Nor will the historical newspaper displays be ready.

He also asked for understanding about the price structure explaining, "We're trying to help elevate the coffee culture here by offering true Northern Italian espresso, homemade ice cream, and healthy, earthy, tasty lunch items.

"This requires expertise, equipment and ingredients we feel are a worthy investment and we hope you will share in that by supporting our prices and making our business financially sustainable," he wrote in the editorial.

Coppei Coffee will employ eight people, three of them full time, Mathee said. Mark Bru, Mathee's business partner in the venture, will manage the shop.

Across Main Street and down a couple of doors, at 128 Main St., music throbbed from inside the former American Legion Hall. The building is easily identifiable by a black and white American flag painted over the entire front of the building. On the northernmost corner, a modest sign designates the building as the Anchor Bar.

The bar is slated to join Coppei Coffee, Betty's Diner and Baby Girl Consignments and More in the grand opening weekend.

Anchor owner Charles Smith said he wants to transform the building "into a bar where people can come and hang out and have fun."

Several years ago, Smith bought the building where the Bull's Eye tavern was next door to the Legion Hall. The popular watering hole was closed, and the building gutted and renovated. The building remains vacant, but Smith said residents told him they town needs a bar like they used to have in the Bull's Eye.

Smith, an acclaimed winemaker, decided to renovate the Legion building, which was boarded up about 10 years ago.

Those who were familiar with the Legion building will find themselves feeling somewhat at home, as the tables, chairs, bar stools and bar are the same.

Lowered ceilings were removed exposing the original beaded board ceilings. Brick walls were exposed, as well as fir flooring.

"It's kind of like my dream bar," Smith said.

A jukebox offers up music. And in a room beyond the bar, vintage pinball machines invite would-be wizards to try their skills.

Smith added a stage, and expects to bring in regular entertainment. He envisions occasionally bringing in a big-name entertainer. "I tend to want to feature blues and rockabilly. We'll have Sunday matinees for country bands," Smith said.

The cavernous building offers space for private gatherings. "We kind of think of it as a community space that has a bar," Smith said.

The building was originally the post office in 1901. It has housed various shops, including a tobacco store, but became the American Club in 1946, according to Jim German, who has overseen the day-to-day work on the renovation.

The renovation revealed more than wood floors and beaded board ceilings. In one room, two pastoral murals were uncovered. And Smith is excited about the Steindell upright grand piano found in the building, and plans to get it tuned and in use.

Although the outcome of the renovation seems simple, "it was not an easy or quick or inexpensive" project, Smith said.

Rinda Chambers will manage the Anchor. The bar will have eight employees, according to Smith.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at or 522-5289.

Where to go:

Betty’s Diner 50s Eats & Treats, 114 Preston Ave., 6:30 a.m-4 p.m., six days. Closed one day, undetermined. Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Coppei Coffee, 137 Main St., open daily to 8 p.m. summer; otherwise until midafternoon.

Anchor Bar, 128 Main St., open noon to midnight Tuesday-Sunday.

Classic Auto Show 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Preston Park.


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