As Diana Butler scooped up All Things Whidbey at the Greenbank Store Friday night, she felt bad.
“I feel like I’m profiting off a wake,” she said, juggling coffee, jam and cards all produced on Whidbey Island. “But I’m also helping reduce the inventory. And that’s what they want.”
“THEY” ARE Brian and Nancy Cedar, stewards of the Greenbank Store & Grille since 2011.
Nearly six years after re-opening the rustic store that’s been “Serving Man & Beast since 1904,” the Cedars plan to close it Dec. 24 or “when the shelves are clear, whichever comes first.”
Most items are reduced 25 percent.
The Cedars have leased the building from long-time property owners, Tom and Mary Coupe, who put it on the market this summer.
The deli, restaurant and bar stopped serving Sunday. A big window sign reads: “Lost Our Lease! Everything Must Go.”
“We’re closing for two reasons,” Brian Cedar, 65, said in an interview. “My wife’s health and it’s time to retire.”
THE REAL estate deal isn’t yet finalized, Mary Coupe said.
She declined to discuss the potential buyers. But they stepped forward Friday as rumors flew about the fate of iconic store.
“There will still be a restaurant, a deli and a shop, but it will be different,” said Alex Pulichino, who along with his wife, Emily Terao, hope to be the new owners.
They own a 15-acre farm near Freeland called Duck Duck Goose where they are also building a house. They plan to incorporate local farmers’ produce into restaurant meals.
TERAO WORKED in the Greenbank store deli for about one year. Friday, she assured many customers that the 113-year-old structure would remain in its spot off State Highway 525, just up from Greenbank Farm.
“We do love this place and we want it to stay around for another century,” she said.
Pulichino said the business will be closed for several months “for seismic retrofitting and other renovations.”
In a Facebook post, the Cedars wrote: “It was our stated intention to the community to make the transition to new ownership as seamless as possible. We were unable to accomplish that goal.”
Between 15 to 20 employees worked various positions.
AS THEY approach their 80s, the Coupes said they decided to put their property on the market. They started with the store, which they bought in 1964, said Mary Coupe, 77.
“We just want be free and clear and not be landlords anymore,” she said.
Mary Coupe said the Cedars were offered first-right-of-refusal to buy the property but declined. “We’ve had a lot of people interested.”
“It’s in the hands of a ReMax agent now.”
DURING THE Cedar’s ownership, groceries once again lined shelves and refrigerators stored the necessities — milk, cream, eggs, beer and Whidbey Pies.
Greenbank Store is the only place to buy groceries between Freeland and Coupeville.
But it stocked more than the basics, often at residents’ requests.
A selection of fine wine lined its deli. Inventive and delicious drinks — good- bye lovely Loganberry martini — flowed from its popular upstairs grill.
Part sports bar/date night destination/family and friends gathering spot, somehow the space accommodated all with Brian Cedar at the helm as head cook and host.
“I’ve been eating there 25 years, since the old days of The Loft, and at every reincarnation of the place,” said Barbara Mundell. “Then came the Grille and bar. Extremely good food, high end food, served in the funkiest, funnest casual venue.
“So fun to take people there, too. Fun to go up the rickety steps to a funky venue with world class food. Best steak ever.”
THE CEDARS deemed Dec. 3 the last day of business for its bar, restaurant and deli. All weekend, regulars and residents packed the place to eat one more favorite meal and thank the Cedars for their stewardship.
After spotting the vacant store on a Whidbey drive, the couple moved from Sammish in 2011. They decided to pursue their dream of owning a restaurant and intended to use both floors of the building for seating and serving food.
Locals, however, had others idea.
“We were quickly told by people who live there, ‘That’s not what you’re going to do at all,’ and that we were going to have a store here,” Brian Cedar said in a previous Whidbey News-Times article.
They held their grand re-opening of Greenbank Store & Grille on Leap Year Day, 2012, signaling their leap of faith in the venture.
The community took to the Cedars, and the Cedars took to the community.
SINCE ANNOUNCING their departure via Facebook, responses range from shock, sadness, gratitude and true trepidation about no more “epic” soup, “wonderful” Reuben sandwiches, “best” veggie burger, and “prime rib par excellence.”
“The outpouring of love and gratitude expressed makes us so happy to have preserved (for just a little while longer) this ‘step back in time,’” the Cedars wrote.
As the clock ticked past usual closing time at the Greenbank Grille Sunday evening, the upstairs pulsated with football fans celebrating the Seattle Seahawks win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But they also mourned the loss of a favorite eating spot, a center of a community and what felt like an old friend.
Last call came all too soon.