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Willamette Garage bring Portland's unique food scene to historic Willamette area

COURTESY PHOTO: MARY BRENNOCK - (From left) John Stromquist, Kristen Tuor and Mary Brennock are opening Willamette Garage, a food cart pod on Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn. As the city of West Linn completed streetscape improvements on Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn's Historic Willamette District, a trio of neighbors liked what they saw. But they felt the "dilapidated" old Russ Autocare Garage near the end of Main Street didn't quite fit.

When they saw that the shuttered auto shop property was up for sale last spring, they grew excited and began to think about the potential for the unique location. Soon after, Mary Brennock, Kris Tuor and John Stromquist bought the run-down property with plans to turn it into a food cart pod and bar.

They plan to open the Willamette Garage pub and food carts later this summer.

Though they said working with the city as it establishes regulations for food carts and adhering to other code policies hasn't been easy, Brenock, Tuor and Stromquist said they've enjoyed the process. Particularly, Brennock said, working with community members, city officials and the Historic Willamette organization has been enjoyable and rewarding.

"We're learning a lot along the way, but we're having a really good time and the feedback has been great," Tuor said.

Tuor, who has lived in West Linn for over 30 years and whose husband used to work at Russ Autocare, said she's excited to for Willamette Garage to be a community gathering place where friends can get together, sports teams can celebrate or commiserate after games and families can enjoy a night out.

"We put a lot of focus into (the question of) 'What do families want?'" Brennock said. "There's lots of kids and lots of families in West Linn. We want to be welcoming."

Brennock added that they aim for the food carts to compliment the restaurants already on the street. They don't want to recreate what's already available or take business from the other establishments.

Brennock also said they've asked each truck to offer kids-menu options.

The food carts signed on for Willamette Garage include Street Heat, a Tex-Mex option, Angelina's Greek Gyros, Sushi San (focused on poke bowls and sushi burritos), Platter Division Indian Grill, Pinto Thai, which offers Thai street food, Omega Mike's fish 'n chips and a German food truck with homemade hamburgers and bratwurst.

"We've got such great foodies in Portland. We want to bring some of that to the suburbs," Brennock said. "We also looked at (such factors as) 'What did their cart look like, how friendly were they, how engaging?' We tried to pick ones that had a good following and had a good product."

Stromquist, Brennock and Tuor have spent ample time at other food truck locales, learning from what they like and dislike and finding the right carts to bring to West Linn.

"We're learning a lot along the way, but we're having a really good time and the feedback has been great," Tuor said.

While she's enjoyed other food carts, Tuor said she hates being cold and wanted to make sure that patrons of Willamette Garage can stay warm, even in the cold weather. In addition to the indoor pub area, Willamette Garage will have a large fireplace and heaters outdoors under the awning.

Stromquist, Brennock and Tuor aim for the food carts to open in June. The pub, which will offer local beer, wine, cider and a few garage-themed craft cocktails, will open shortly after. Stromquist said that though the pub won't be open right away, a drink cart will be open in the meantime.

The three owners are excited to welcome the community to the project they've put so much effort into.

"We think this will add a lot of value to the community," Stromquist said.


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