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Sept. 27, 2020

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Thirsty Sasquatch owners have big plans for neighboring Uptown Village spaces

Taproom’s owners lease Wild Fern Boutique’s former space, plus that of soon-to-close Sabor Mexicano restaurant

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
3 Photos
Manager Kevin Butler prepares for customers while working at The Thirsty Sasquatch in Uptown Village. Next door, Sabor Mexicano is open for its last week in business.
Manager Kevin Butler prepares for customers while working at The Thirsty Sasquatch in Uptown Village. Next door, Sabor Mexicano is open for its last week in business. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A lot is about to change on the Uptown Village block where The Thirsty Sasquatch Taproom sits at 2110 Main St., Vancouver.

The taproom’s new owners leased the two neighboring spaces — formerly Wild Fern Boutique and Sabor Mexicano restaurant, which will close Saturday, according to Brandon Rush, co-owner of The Thirsty Sasquatch.

Rush and his business partner, Anthony McNamer, plan on connecting all three locations with 8-foot-wide walkways indoors to create new identities for each space: a pizza restaurant, a music venue doubling as an arcade area and the now-standing taproom.

“I think it’s going to be a really good thing for the community,” Rush said. “I think this area just needs it.”

Hungry Sasquatch 21

Where Wild Fern Boutique used to be, Rush is opening up Hungry Sasquatch 21, which will serve 21-inch, New York-style pizzas.

The restaurant will feature a large concrete counter for customers to sit at and watch the pizzaiolos, also known as pizza-makers.

Pizza slices will be served until 2 a.m. on weekends. Rush said that should please customers at the neighboring Tip Top Tavern because its kitchen closes at 9 p.m.

Rush also plans to offer a brunch service with breakfast-style pizzas and calzones.

Next month, he’s flying in graffiti artists to paint a 45-foot mural inside the building.

Habitat

The middle space, where Sabor Mexicano is currently located, will be transformed into a music venue called Habitat, designed with lush vegetation and neon signs. Bands will play multiple nights a week, including every weekend, Rush said.

It will also feature a shuffleboard table and vintage arcade games, though Rush said he has not yet decided on which ones to buy.

The space will be open to all ages until 9 p.m. After that, it’s adults only.

“We want to create a safe place for families,” Rush said.

The Thirsty Sasquatch

The inside of The Thirsty Sasquatch won’t change much, but the space behind the counter will expand, with about 200 bottles of liquor perched on shelves up to the ceiling and an accompanying ladder system. The taproom will begin offering high-end cocktails.

Rush’s plan is to paint the front of the brick building black, including the front of Tip Top Tavern, which will give a uniform look to the building, he said. Workers will open up the windows on the building that are covered by wood signs and awnings, too. The outside patio area will double in size and incorporate a pergola.

He plans for everything to open by April.

“It’s super ambitious,” he said.

Rush said the renovations will cost roughly $300,000.

“It’s going to be a very thorough build-out,” he said. “We won’t be cutting any corners.”

From music to meals

Rush, from Portland, spent part of his youth living in Vancouver. He worked in a few pizza restaurants growing up, including Sizzle Pie and Detroit Pizza Co., and he imagined being a chef. But Rush’s music career took off, and he put his culinary ambitions on hold.

He spent years as the lead singer in a Portland-based band called Priory that had a contract with Warner Bros. The band’s hit single is “Weekend.” He was on a world tour and performed at venues including Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo, he said.

In 2014, Rush bought a recording studio in Vancouver called Loudwar, formerly called Ripcord. While in Vancouver, he would visit The Thirsty Sasquatch while it was under its past ownership of Sharon and Jeremy Cram, who opened the taproom in 2015.

In late 2017, the band’s tour finished to record a new album, but the contract with Warner Bros. ended, and Rush moved on.

“It was kind of a shift in life,” he said. “It was time to do other stuff.”

In 2018, Rush traveled to San Francisco to study pizza making from world-famous chef Tony Gimignano. (Gimignano’s pizza was ranked No. 1 by a Forbes writer in 2014.)

Rush and his business partner McNamer bought The Thirsty Sasquatch seven months ago, with bigger dreams for the taproom, Rush said. They also bought Sabor Mexicano and leased the old Wild Fern space. They now lease all three spaces from Bellingham-based owner James P. Schofield Testamentary Trust.

Rush said Vancouver appealed to him because of its status as an increasingly popular downtown culture that is pulling artistic-minded people from Portland.

“I wanted to be part of this cultural shift,” he said.

Rush also bought a former food truck called Pizzeria La Sorrentina, a brick-oven pizzeria in Hazel Dell. He will reopen it on Feb. 1 under the Hungry Sasquatch name. (Rush said the owner of La Sorrentina is going to open a brick-and-mortar location but did not say where.)

The new food cart will be open from noon to 9 p.m. at a food-cart pod near Brothers Cascadia at 9811 N.E. 15th Ave., Rush said.

Sabor Mexicano

Lilia Mendez, the former owner of Sabor Mexicano, cited a couple reasons for selling the business to Rush; both had the intent of closing it.

Mendez said increasing financial pressure from the rising state minimum wage strained her.

“It really hurt us,” she said. “It had hurt us every year.”

She also said the new Waterfront Vancouver restaurants pulled customers away from the Uptown Village restaurants.

“Every time a new restaurant opened (at the waterfront), when we were supposed to be busy, we took a hit,” she said. “It was a new thing that people wanted to come out and see. Even in the summertime, we would see a decrease in customers.”

Mendez, who opened Sabor Mexicano in 2012, also owns Tidy Cleaning Services and runs a tamale stand at the Vancouver Farmers Market, which she will continue. By closing the restaurant, she will be able to spend more time with her grandchildren, which was another reason to let it go, she said.

“I want to make sure my customers know that if it was not for their support, we would not have been there for the seven-plus years,” she said. “I appreciate them.”

She also said she is considering finding a new location for Sabor Mexicano in the future but isn’t making any decisions about it now.

“Don’t count us out,” she said.

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