Dayton cafe's new owner expanding offerings

Mandi Wendt sprinkles flour on top of ciabattas, an Italian white bread, she is making at the Weinhard Cafe in Dayton. Wendt is the new owner of the cafe and plans to expand its baked offerings.

Mandi Wendt sprinkles flour on top of ciabattas, an Italian white bread, she is making at the Weinhard Cafe in Dayton. Wendt is the new owner of the cafe and plans to expand its baked offerings. Photo by Michael Lopez.

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DAYTON — For Mandi Wendt, the Weinhard Cafe was an early first introduction to the world of fine dining.

Now, the Dayton native is taking over as the Cafe’s new owner.

“I’m just really honored,” she said. “(The Weinhard Cafe) has always had a special place in my heart.”

Wendt has always wanted to own her own business, and she’s using her experience a baker and pastry chef to expand the Weinhard’s operations.

She joined the cafe’s staff about a year ago, with a degree from the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College and a few years of experience at Walla Walla’s Marcus Whitman Hotel & Convention Center under her belt.

In October, Weinhard’s then-owner Brad McMasters, the former executive director of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, made her responsible for kitchen operations and began talks about selling her the cafe.

“I thought it was a perfect fit for her,” he said.

Though she’s just beginning her new role as owner, Wendt has already developed an ambitious plan to expand the Weinhard’s offerings.

Starting April 1, the cafe will be open at 7 a.m. for a “baker’s shift,” with fresh bread, pastries, quick breakfast items and the cafe’s newly developed signature coffee blend.

Wendt said she hopes to catch people on their way to work, and appeal to older Dayton residents who like to get together with friends for coffee during the day.

She’s also bringing back weekend brunch service from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and expanding the Wednesday wine nights started by McMasters, with a discount on bottle purchases and a three-course paired dinner menu available all week.

But she’s most excited about the baker’s shift, which will get her bread and baked goods to a wider audience.

“That’s really my contribution to this business,” she said.

As Chamber director, McMasters said he saw many businesses with owners nearing retirement who didn’t have a succession plan in place, so he’s happy to be turning the reins over to a younger generation.

“The cafe has a history of having really smart, talented women (as owners) and it’s kind of nice for it to go back to that,” he added.

Wendt said she’s looking forward to helping her staff be successful.

“My goal now is to keep every one of my employees happy and successful and healthy,” she said. “I never would have pictured myself as the owner of the Weinhard Cafe and I’m just very thankful.”

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

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