Winery moves into Slocum House

Lease will generate $110,000 over five years for Vancouver, the building's owner

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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About $110,000 will be added to the City of Vancouver's general fund over the next five years, thanks to its agreement to lease the historic Slocum House to a Ridgefield winery for tasting events and parties.

East Fork Cellars agreed to pay the city $1,500 per month for the first 12 months through July, according to the lease, signed in March but went into effect in August. The amount is $850 more than the $650 monthly rent charged to the Slocum House Theater, the venue's previous tenant, said Tim Haldeman, the city's general services director.

The winery, started in 2008 by Jeffrey Waddell and his wife, Stacey, recently opened a tasting room in the city-owned Esther Short Park venue at 605 Esther St. The theater group moved out of the three-story home in February 2012 because it was unable to make higher rent payments to the city.

The city's five-year lease agreement with East Fork includes an annual increase of 10 percent throughout the term of the lease, resulting in approximate revenue of $110,000 over the initial lease term.

East Fork Cellars has plans for an indoor movie theater at the Slocum House to show independent films and classics, according to Jeff Waddell. The winery also will host live music events and has added an art gallery to the tasting venue, open from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Downtown boosters welcome the added attractions the established winery brings to the central city, said Lee Rafferty, executive director of Vancouver's Downtown Association.

"The thing about East Fork Cellars is they know how to generate repeat business," Rafferty said.

Waddell expects to extend the winery's hours upon completion of ongoing renovation work to upgrade the venue's kitchen, which won't be commercial-grade because the business plans to use catered food for events.

"In the future, we plan to be open every day," Waddell said.

Historic integrity

Waddell said he's invested a "sizable amount" into transforming the city-owned Victorian home for the winery, while following strict guidelines to maintain its historic integrity.

The Slocum House was built in 1867 by Charles W. Slocum and his wife, Laura. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Clark County Heritage Register.

In addition to upgrading the kitchen, East Fork Cellars has taken on the home's exterior landscaping, window coverings, furniture and interior repairs.

"Between the city and us, we're trying to restore it to its original grandeur," Waddell said.

According to its contract with the city, East Fork Cellars can use the first floor and basement for "food and beverage preparation and sales; making, bottling, storing and selling of wine, beer and distilled spirits; entertainment and retail business."

The second floor will be used as office space for East Fork Cellars and one tenant, the Vancouver Farmers Market.

Waddell also expects to attract otherworldly patrons to his new venue at the Slocum House, said to be haunted and featured in 2012 on The Travel Channel TV show, "The Dead Files."

Working in the old house has made him into a believer, "based on one incident," Waddell said, adding that any ghosts found hanging around will be immediately put to work.

"I'm embracing the ghosts," he said. "If they're there, they are welcome to get in the bottling line."