Cattin’s Family Restaurant, one of the few 24-hour restaurants in the area, closed July 30 after 48 years in Puyallup, Washington. The future of the property, which is owned by a company associated with the Washington State Fair, is yet to be determined.
Owner Hermann Harris announced the news on an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of white paper posted on the front door in early August.
“I’m sorry to inform everyone: after 48 years of serving you, we are closing the restaurant,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, it was a pleasure to get to know everyone, not only as a guest but also as friends. Thank you for everything.”
He signed it, simply, “Hermann”.
Many customers have called the restaurant at 105 9th Avenue SW, a short walk from The Fairgrounds, simply Hermann’s Diner.
Harris informed its staff and regular customers of the impending closure earlier this summer. Each of its seven employees, down from more than 30 before the pandemic, has found a new job, he said.
“It’s been a good long run. I have no regrets being there, being in the cafe industry,” he told the News Tribune and the Puyallup Herald in a phone call on Monday. “Towards the end, I wasn’t just a restaurant owner; I was a field employee. In a small restaurant like mine, the owner is active: he does the dishes, cooks, everything necessary.
Adding that he would soon be 69, he said: “It’s just time to retire.”
HALF A CENTURY OF RESTORATION IN PUYALLUP
Charlie’s Restaurant & Lounge, a Puyallup alumnus, described the restaurant on Facebook last week as “one of the greatest landmarks in downtown Puyallup”. The post has been shared more than 180 times, with dozens of people sharing memories of first dates, visits with grandparents and mid-night meals after maybe one drink too many.
“When you think of Puyallup Fair, you think of Cattin’s – they just go together,” the post read.
Holly Alkire, who has lived in Puyallup for 34 years, pointed out that Cattin’s was the third casual restaurant to close in recent years.
Jason’s Restaurant has elected not to renew its lease expiring in September 2020 after 22 years at 1402 South Meridian. The Hangar Inn, perched near the runway at Thun Field Pierce County Airport, closed in April 2019; it is now Top Gun Bar & Grill.
The Hangar Inn provided Alkire and his brother with their first jobs, and their mother worked there for 31 years, before moving to Cattin’s a few years ago.
“Cattin’s was a nice place to stop and eat some great food,” Alkire told the News Tribune in a post. “I hope that in the future other restaurateurs will open diner type restaurants like the ones we have lost. I really miss my American Ham and Cheese Omelets!
ANOTHER CLOSURE RELATED TO THE CATTIN PANDEMIC
Harris said business was down about 60% from pre-pandemic levels, especially at dinner. Higher prices also played a role: A case of bacon that cost $40 two years ago now costs $70, he said.
“The mom and dad type restaurant, we’re kind of a dying industry. I hate to say that,” he said. “Especially in the Puyallup region, everything revolves around the burger and the beer.”
More than 90,000 U.S. restaurants closed between the start of the pandemic and June 2021, according to Dataessential’s Firefly system, which tracks the restaurant industry. Sit-down casual dining, under which a restaurant like Cattin’s would fall, accounted for around 9%, surpassed only by fine dining at 11%. On the other hand, fast-casual and fast-service accounted for around 7% each, but rebounded faster than any other restaurant sub-sector, reaching pre-pandemic levels in the summer of 2020.
Cattin closed during the initial outbreak and did not attempt takeout until May 8, according to a Facebook post. Later that month, Harris lamented the effect of pandemic restrictions on small businesses. In June, when dining rooms reopened at limited capacity, he asked customers to be patient.
“We have no idea how this is going to go. We have about 45 new things to pick up and it will be a challenge and a huge learning curve,” he wrote.
The restaurant never resumed full-day service, opening around 8 a.m. and only serving until 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
“It’s been a tough year for many of us restaurants,” he said in a March 2021 Facebook post. “I want to thank our guests [for] all the support you have given me over the years, especially the last few months.
A post from Thanksgiving last year appears to be the latest.
THE FAIR WILL DETERMINE THE FUTURE OF CATTIN
Fair spokeswoman Stacy Van Horne told the Puyallup Herald and the News Tribune that Harris “retired after many decades in the business.”
Asked what will happen to the property, she replied: “We are still determining a plan. So currently unknown.
The establishment opened in the 1970s as part of the national Sambo chain, whose derogatory name, derived from a 19th-century children’s book, ultimately bankrupted the business. A Lakewood outpost became an IHOP and the Puyallup restaurant, built in 1973 according to county property records, became Cattin’s in the early 1980s. According to Harris, a Sambo franchise owner renamed his eight restaurants in Washington and in Montana.
Harris, who was born in Germany, has a long history with the Puyallup restaurant. He worked there when it was Sambo’s from 1974 to 1981 before moving to California, where he managed other family restaurants, including Woody’s Grill and Eppie’s Restaurants, both of which have since closed. Back in Puyallup, he returned to Cattin’s in 1995 and bought the company in 2011.
The 3,800 square foot Cattin’s was updated in 1990. Puyallup Restaurant Investors LLP purchased the property in 2005 for $1.2 million, selling it to 9th & Meridian LLC in 2014 for $1.5 million. The company is publicly traded under the Western Washington Fair Association and Renee McClain, who joined The Fair in 1996 and will become CEO in October.
Will a new restaurant open in its place?
Probably not, says Harris. The building is old and would need “a good facelift”.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” he said.
As for 24-hour dining: “It will never be the same again. »
Editor’s note, 08/08/2022, 2 p.m.: This story has been updated with commentary from Cattin’s restaurant owner Hermann Harris.
This story was originally published August 8, 2022 12:30 p.m.