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News / Life / Food

Laurelwood brewpub changes hands

New owners rename B.G. restaurant Northwood Public House & Brewery

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor
Published: February 27, 2014, 4:00pm
3 Photos
Paula and Eric Starr are the new owners of the Laurelwood restaurant in Battle Ground.
Paula and Eric Starr are the new owners of the Laurelwood restaurant in Battle Ground. They will rename the restaurant Northwood Public House & Brewery. Photo Gallery

When the owners of Portland-based Laurelwood Public House & Brewery decided to sell their popular Battle Ground location, Eric and Paula Starr saw an opportunity to fulfill a dream of owning their own business.

Monday, the Starrs will take ownership of the Laurelwood building, in Battle Ground Village at 1401 S.E. Rasmussen Blvd. After a Monday-Tuesday closure to prepare for their business launch, Eric and Paula Starr will open Northwood Public House & Brewery, with the same employees as its predecessor. The Starrs will initially keep Laurelwood’s food menu with few changes, and they’ll continue to offer Laurelwood brews.

Laurelwood has been “a thriving and vital part of the Battle Ground community and we want to maintain their goodwill and momentum,” Eric Starr said.

Laurelwood co-owner Mike De Kalb, who grew up in Hockinson and attended Battle Ground High School, said he decided to sell the Battle Ground site to focus on Laurelwood’s growing brewing business and its five brewpub locations in Portland.

“We’re trying to focus on our beer business and promoting our beer brand in Oregon and Washington and eventually Idaho and Northern California,” he said. “We get calls weekly and monthly from people wanting to buy a Laurelwood or wanting us to open one. We finally decided to look at one of those offers.” De Kalb, who owns Laurelwood with his wife, Cathy Woo-De Kalb, added that he is sad to be leaving the town where he spent his youth.

Laurelwood arrived in Battle Ground in 2009 as one of the first tenants of the $200 million Battle Ground Village development, which includes a European-style retail district. The mixed-use project was hard hit by the recession, and developers quickly faced foreclosure of three retail-office buildings constructed in 2008 and 2009. Laurelwood was not affected by those foreclosures.

Laurelwood, with indoor seating for about 150 patrons, remained strong through the recession, Starr said. He would not disclose his purchase price for the business.

Starr, 53, has worked for decades in the hospitality business, including a stint as a general manager for Vancouver-based Burgerville. He worked as food and beverage director, and later as marking director, for Portland Brewing Company between 1994 and 2005.

Paula Starr, 56, was born in Holland and spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia before her family settled on Oregon’s McKenzie River in the late 1970s. She’s won recognition for restoration of old homes and is a skilled cook who draws upon the Middle East influences of her childhood. The couple married in 2010.

Launching Northwood will be the couple’s first stint as business owners. The Starrs live in Portland but have plans to move to the Battle Ground area once they catch their breath from launching the brewery, Eric Starr said.

“We are beside ourselves, but it’s a little nerve-racking,” he said.

The Starrs chose the Northwood name, he said, because of their affinity for the Pacific Northwest and its outdoor lifestyle. “The similarity with Laurelwood was a happy coincidence,” Eric Starr said.

He plans to make gradual changes, including the launch by midsummer of Little Dipper Brewing Company, described as a nano-brewery that can produce a few kegs at a time that will be available on draft only at Northwood.

Their new restaurant will open at 11 a.m. Wednesday following Monday and Tuesday closures.

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Columbian Business Editor