When The Kettle announced it was closing last August, lines stretched around the block as locals waited to get one last meal.
Since then, the building has sat empty, a reminder that times are a’changing, even in a city dedicated to retaining its small-town feel.
But if you walk down Garrett Street these next few weeks, you may see something to warm your heart as the months get colder: a bright blue-and-red neon sign reading, “Open”.
Yes, The Kettle will soon be back in business, and while it’ll be under new management, you can expect it to be pretty much the same restaurant it’s been for the last three decades.
“I wasn’t going to buy the place unless we can keep it similar to what it was,” said new owner Tom Sauvageau. “Which means I was going to be buying the business itself. The Kettle name, the recipes, his training the employees on what to do and how to cook the recipes… Same old muffins. Everybody asks about the muffins.”
Sauvageau is known around town as a city council member and successful businessman — he owns four other businesses around town (Bordeaux Wine Bar; Sauvageau CFO, LLC; ERTC LLC; and Runland Grocery, which he bought last May), and has a vested interest in several more.
Locals may not know, however, that he and ERTC LLC are known nationally for helping businesses apply for the Employee Retention Tax Credit (which provides businesses relief for keeping on their workers). The credit is part of the CARES Act, passed by Congress in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ERTC LLC has a shelf life, given the tax credit will only be available through 2025, but it’s Sauvageau’s goal to use his company’s current momentum to invest back into Enumclaw.
“I have a choice, because of how tax purposes work. If you make a good amount of money in a certain amount of time, you can pay taxes on it, or you can reinvest that money,” he said. “And since I know business, I know how to reinvest that money into business. That’s the idea of what I’m trying to do right now.”
Sauvageau has strict criteria for what sort of businesses he wants to invest in down here, but chief among them is brand and history — what they contribute to the community.
That’s why purchasing The Kettle and Runland were “no-brainer” decisions, he said. For Runland, there’s some personal history: when his family first moved to Enumclaw, right behind the store, “my kids… would come down there almost every day.”
And for The Kettle, it was not only an established business well-loved by the community, but also for the community service work former owner Dennis DeAugustine did behind the scenes, like provide free meals for first responders and utility workers when power went out, Sauvageau said, adding that he wants to continue those good works.
Will The Kettle or Runland make him money? Maybe a little — but that’s not the point; Sauvageau wants his local businesses to “provide jobs, pay for itself, [and] add something to the community.”
The Kettle is not quite yet owned by Sauvageau, but he’s already hired a general manager to oversee day-to-day business. However, they’re in the process of finding cooks.
“That is really the only thing right now standing between us getting open or not,” he said, adding that people interested in the job can email email@example.com for more information.
While most things are going to stay the same, Sauvageau did mention one idea his GM had — to have the Kettle operate as a “ghost kitchen” in the late afternoon and evenings for take-out and third party delivery only.
But “our main focus right now: get it all open,” he said.
To that effect, you’re not going to see a grand opening when everything is ready to go — Sauvageau just wants to open the doors quietly in the next month or two.
“I want to make sure the back of the house is able to not get overwhelmed the first couple days they start,” Sauvageau said. “Those last few days [of being open]… they sold out of everything. They couldn’t deliver enough food to keep things going… We’re going to try to avoid that whole type of scenario.”