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Oct. 28, 2021

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The Sedgwick brings world of small-plate flavors to downtown Vancouver

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Melissa McCusker prepares for customers while working at The Sedgwick in downtown Vancouver. The new restaurant opened recently in the space previously occupied by Tommy O's.
Melissa McCusker prepares for customers while working at The Sedgwick in downtown Vancouver. The new restaurant opened recently in the space previously occupied by Tommy O's. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Tim and Melissa McCusker, owners of Feast 316 in downtown Camas, opened their new restaurant, The Sedgwick, in downtown Vancouver on Sept. 9. The restaurant is named after Dr. Alice Isabel Sedgwick, a doctor and businesswoman who lived in Vancouver in the early 1900s and built the space in 1907.

The McCuskers spent two years seeking the right space for their small-plate, craft cocktail, wine and beer business. They signed a lease in July 2020 for the downtown Vancouver spot formerly occupied by Tommy O’s, at 801 Washington St., but the pandemic slowed down their plans.

Tim McCusker, who is also the head chef, said he designed the menu to eat like a picnic filled with things that the couple enjoy.

“My wife and I don’t get to go out a lot,” he said. “All the things on the menu are things we’d like to get from restaurants.”

McCusker’s menu includes inspiration from places like Morocco, Spain, South America, France and Japan. He bought a yakitori grill to offer a rotating daily menu of grilled skewered proteins ranging from chicken thighs to octopus.

Melissa McCusker describes her husband as the creative half of the team. In addition to creating the food menu, he designed the interior of the restaurant as an ode to old Vancouver. He collected historic photographs of The Sedgwick and the three-block radius around it from Washington State University’s archives. They fill a wall in the restaurant and can be found in the bathrooms.

The walls and furniture in the restaurant and bar are covered in soothing tones of blue. “A speakeasy would be blue or red velvet,” Tim McCusker said, “but red promotes anger, so I chose a nice, calm blue.”

He spent six weeks searching for vintage wallpaper before finding the right one with muted blue tones and metallic swirls for the entryway of the restaurant and an accent wall in the bar.

The couple wanted an older building with character in downtown Vancouver. Many of the spaces they found required an excessive amount of work. The two-room building they ended up leasing was Tommy O’s for 20 years. During those two decades, it was grandfathered into all new regulations. When the McCuskers leased it as a new business, they had to get everything up to current code requirements. This was difficult during COVID-19, when inspectors were working remotely.

When they leased the space in the summer of 2020, the McCuskers negotiated a revenue-sharing lease with their landlord. This arrangement lapses into an ordinary lease as soon as The Sedgwick becomes a profitable business.

When Gov. Jay Inslee shut down indoor dining, The Sedgwick was put on hold to keep the McCuskers’ other restaurant, Feast 316, going. As indoor dining resumed, the couple poured their energy into opening their new downtown Vancouver spot.

The small-plate concept requires less labor than a traditional dining experience. The restaurant needs only two wait staff, food runners and bussers; the bar area also needs only two people. This helps to keep costs down and has allowed the McCuskers to open while other businesses are struggling to find staff.

Labor costs will be even lower when printed menus are replaced by a QR code and a pad. When that happens, customers will fill out kitchen orders, and runners will bring out plates. The kitchen does need more chefs; currently, there is only one other chef besides Tim McCusker.

The Sedgwick is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“If people keep coming at 9 or 9:30, we’ll just keep cooking,” said Tim McCusker. Reservations are not accepted at this time.