The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has leapt into the national gourmet food limelight in the last 18 months, under the culinary guidance of Olympia born, 25-year old acclaimed chef Blaine Wetzel. A 2011 article in the New York Times, titled, “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride”, placed the Willows Inn amongst the great gastronomic experiences to be found in New York, London, Barcelona, Singapore, and Sydney. Read more about it’s philosophy and remodel project with reclaimed and local materials below the video.
West Shore Hospitality, a group of Whatcom County and Lummi Island-based investors, took notice of The Willows Inn’s publicity, buying out former owner, Riley Starks, in the fall of 2011. This local investment group opted for a full remodel of the entire facility, restaurant and the on-site accommodations. Nettles Farm lies behind the Inn, still owned by Starks, and is leased by the new owners as a part of the haven for gourmet locavores, growing greens, vegetables and flowers within a stone’s throw of the kitchen. With the restaurant’s focus on locally-sourced food and farm-to-table approach, they applied those same principles to the contractors and artists involved in the project. Many of the tradesman and contributors to the project were sourced from the Lummi Island community, known for its artisans and craftsfolk.
The RE Store’s own Eberhard Eichner lives on Lummi Island and contributed furniture and decor to the project along with others woodworkers Alan Rosen, Tom Lutz. Other locals involved in the project included: Pier Bosma doing fireplace stone work, Houston Foust’s stone and concrete work, ceramics by Ria Nickerson, Mark Bergsma’s photography and digital artwork, and resident artist Ria Harboe. Almost all of The Willows’ staff are Lummi Island residents as well.
As a part of the remodel, they hired Carol Beecher with Boston’s Saltwater Consulting, to be the “designer helping the Willow’s transform itself” for the remodel. Carol is a long-time fan of reclaimed materials, natural materials and old stuff. She wanted the interior of the a 102-year-old Inn to mirror its natural settings. She lobbied successfully for the restoration of the original fir flooring and brought out the original character hidden beneath the many layers of paint.
Carol saw Eberhard’s furniture in The RE Store and was compelled to get him involved. “The RE Store is my favorite place. That is where I always look for cool, funky things. I saw some furniture that Eberhard had done and I said, ‘I’ve got to reach out to this guy. He’s got what is in my mind and he can make it happen.”
The RE Store installed a set of sliding double doors between the main dining room and Blaine’s kitchen, a single sliding door unit made from cabinet doors that can partition off the private dining room, and a side table made from salvaged lumber and glass.
And so The Willows was renewed: the remodel was completed, the geoducks were dug, the local fish were caught, the farm out back produced prolifically, wildcrafted ingredients were harvested from the native forests, and the table was set.
For a truly local, gastronomically incredible experience, contact The Willows and leave behind your previously conceived notions of eating local.