From Denny's to diner
Regarding the shuttered Denny's and the new Black Bear Diner in Wilsonville, a request to remodel turned into a decision to realign.
For about two decades, Michael Rose owned the Denny's on Southwest Parkway Avenue in Wilsonville.
But when the contract between the two parties reached its end, Denny's asked him to remodel the building. Seeing little to gain in the investment, Rose decided against the idea.
"We didn't think it was a good investment to put 'x' amount of dollars into a remodel and then receive nothing back per se because it (Denny's) is what it is," said former Denny's general manager (and current current Black Bear Diner manager) Tom Bowen.
So the duo considered other options.
Rose regularly travels to Redding, California, the location of the Black Bear Diner headquarters, to run his firefighter catering business during the summer.
So he began communicating with the Black Bear Diner higher-ups about developing a new Black Bear Diner in Wilsonville. Eventually, they came to an agreement.
But even if Rose never decided to cut ties with Denny's, another Black Bear Diner may have sprouted up in Wilsonville eventually, considering the company's recent growth.
The Black Bear Diner features American, homestyle cooking and first opened at Mount Shasta, Calif. in 1995. It includes more than 90 franchises across the United States — nearly twice as many as five years ago — and 10 in Oregon.
"Black Bear is growing and it's growing relatively quickly," Bowen said.
The restaurant opened in Wilsonville May 22 and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert and is open every day of the week.
The meals are generally large but the restaurant also features items with smaller portions. And the diner is intended for customers who want to savor their meal rather than dine and quickly depart.
Bowen says the chicken friend steak, tri-tip and burgers are some of the restaurant's most popular meals.
The menu also includes three different kinds of egg benedicts, sandwiches, steak, cobblers and many other items.
Whereas the Denny's used mostly packaged foods, Bowen says, from the hash browns to the ham roast, Black Bear Diner makes everything from scratch.
And they now employ four to six cooks at a time while the Denny's had just one or two.
"The difference between Black Bear and Denny's is Denny's has a lot of items that come in a bag and you add hot water and stir it up. Everything here is fresh," Bowen said.
From the black bear family sculpture outside the restaurant, to the bears engraved into the interior arches, to the human in a bear costume that comes in on weekends, the restaurant's theme is ubiquitous.
Bowen says the bears and the the log cabin ambiance and inviting service produce a homey dining experience.
"It's just a warm, friendly feel. That's the intent, for people to come in and feel comfortable and enjoy the service and the atmosphere," he said.
Also, the management team finishing up a Black Bear sanctuary in the back of the restaurant, which will feature a water fountain, bears, a canoe and flowers — all of which will light up at night. Bowen says the sanctuary will provide appealing photo opportunities.
"The bear is really popular and I think when we get our sanctuary done that will be quite an attraction in itself," Bowen said.
But if they enjoy the novelties or not, Bowen hopes customers will have a satisfying experience.
"I want them to have a great experience. I want them to come in, have a good time and enjoy their food, enjoy the service, enjoy the surroundings, the atmosphere," he said.