Frances and White took over the Hidden House in August 2016 after the previous tenant, a Greek restaurant called A Touch of Athens at the Hidden House, moved out. The duo had been looking for a home base for their catering business, which primarily focused on specialized orders for flights on executive jets.
They had been looking at properties in the area when the Hidden House became available for lease. White had worked in the house as a chef during one of its previous restaurant incarnations, so they decided to return to the space.
They also decided to try to reopen the house as a sit-down restaurant so that the community could retain access to the historic building. It would also give Frances and White a chance to better connect with their clients.
“We never got to meet the people we fed (in the catering business),” Frances said — all of the food would be delivered to pilots or flight attendants. “We’re in here cooking all by ourselves.”
Frances and White live in the nearby Hough neighborhood, and they said that their own experience and conversations with nearby residents and businesses convinced them to also try to tackle the demand for more downtown grocery options.
The Hidden House has a long history as a restaurant, but the interior hadn’t been renovated in decades, so Frances and White spent the first year just getting the kitchen up and running for their catering business.
Then they turned their attention to the rest of the interior, which required ripping out the carpeting, repainting the walls and restoring the finishes on all the antique surfaces, then building out the deli counter and grocery shelves.
“It was pretty much a blank slate when we came in,” White said.
That process took another two years, and Frances and White temporarily shut down the catering side of the business during the final three months so they could focus on the renovations.
The market finally made its official debut Dec. 3, and the catering business has been slowly returning too – although White said they’re sticking to local clients for the time being, freeing them up to put more time into the market.
“It’s a big relief to get it up and running,” White said.
Frances said she and White have been slow-launching the business with a social-media campaign and trying to build word-of-mouth about the new happy hour destination. There’s already been a strong response, she said, including customers who only stop by for the grocery store portion, often to pick up just one or two items to cook for dinner.
The house’s basement and second story are currently still being renovated and are just used for storage, but Frances and White said they have plans for both. The upstairs will be converted into a separate use such as an events space, and the basement will eventually supplement the kitchen with a second oven, allowing it to function as a miniature bakery.
Frances and White also have plans to expand the outdoor seating once the winter weather lets up, adding more tables and chairs to the front porch and a row of picnic tables on the house’s grassy front lawn.
The Lowell M. Hidden House is one of two historic houses in downtown Vancouver that trace their origins to the Hidden family, one of Vancouver’s most prominent families during the city’s early decades. It’s sibling, the W. Foster Hidden House, is located a short distance west on the same block.
Among many other contributions, the Hiddens are known for the Hidden Brick Company, which was founded by Lowell Hidden in 1871 and went on to supply building materials for dozens of downtown Vancouver’s buildings, including the Providence Academy.
The two houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and put on Clark County’s own Heritage Register in 1985. In recent decades the Hidden family has leased the houses to a variety of commercial tenants.
This story has been updated to correct a misspelling of the name of the Hough neighborhood.