Owning a building in a small town, in these uncertain economic times, isn't always easy or fun, but it can be. Harry's Place in Toledo, formerly The Tap House, is one of those iconically achy, breaky propositions. Now under the management of the wife and husband team of Janet and Jack, Harry's place across the street from the loggers museum, next to the administrative offices of the Toledo School District, may be a headache for the owner duo, but it's a dream and a pleasure, too.
The bar scene isn't what it used to be. A combination of economic circumstances and a societal change that's made smoking in public, especially inside buildings, a taboo has pushed many a bar to the edge, and often over.
The restaurant business hasn't fared a great deal better. People still eat as much as they ever have, but they tend to do it more cheaply, and they don't pay to have someone else cook their meal nor wash the dishes afterward. So it's always an iffy proposition to make a go of it in a smaller town, a little off the busy freeways of life.
Locals may recognize something about the name "Harry's Place." There's a ghostly legend in the mist that rings the bells of our memories, when a few unfortunate, or obstinate in the case of Harry Truman, folks found themselves too, far too close to an active volcano.
That's a connection Jack Leduc hopes people will make. Our forests hide more than weather-beaten big-footed myths, werewolves, and vampires. Through the trees drift our ancestors and our stories, the stories we grew up with, that make us who we are. And the stories of Mt. St. Helens and Harry Truman and the dozens of others lost that day in May are such tales.
But this is just a restaurant/bar. It's a place where patrons can fill up on good food and have someone else do the dishes. It's a place to sit and visit with family. It's a place to show the kids how to act in public, how to learn manners, and slow down a little when they eat. And yes, it is a restaurant where children can come with grandparents and eat a sit-down dinner. It's legal, and it's acceptable.
In addition, Harry's Place offers entertainment. It's the place for her to let her hair down and for him to awkwardly pick up a dance step, or two-step. Some may recognize the name of Jack Leduc and if you followed the country music scene with any piqued interest, odds are you could have danced to the music Jack and his friends made as The Amaretto Band. He's good. Flatly, the guy can sing a country tune, play a little guitar, and with his friends actually make some music a flat-footed logger can almost dance to.
And Jack and Janet hope to give something. They've started to call in chits. They've decided to take advantage of their connections in the industry and bring in talent the likes of which Toledo, Winlock, Ryderwood, and even the Twin Cities aren't accustomed to.
This weekend, for instance, it's Branch & Dean. After playing a show in Spokane on Thursday, with a little finagling, taking advantage of a network that includes the man who manages George Strait, Harry's Place will feature Branch & Dean this weekend. There are only "so many" tickets available, but if you can secure a couple, it'll be a night well worth the low cost, without that drive to Portland or White River for a concert.
Oh, and the income from these shows goes back to the community. As the Toledo Events column has mentioned in the past, Janet and Jack are making a habit of donating to local causes. They hope to keep the place open by you and me wanting to spend an off night just stopping in to enjoy Tuesday Tacos, the Wednesday burger specials, Thursday prime rib dip, or the latest, greatest prime rib on Friday and Saturday nights.
Jack tries to supply the entertainment, with a little help from his friends, of course, while Janet builds a menu that's more than just specials.
We'll be there, and we hope you will, too. Last Saturday there weren't many of us, but we had a good time, enjoyed an 8 oz prime for $15.99, and still made it up in the next morning's darkness for the opening of elk season.