Langley – The Braeburn Restaurant
I will never forget the look on my mother’s face. Standing in her art classroom in rural New Hampshire, I had just told her (at age 22) that I was moving to an Island. In Washington State. In 2 weeks. I will always remember the look on her face; a mix of confusion, shock and I think a little bit of intrigue. And so my journey began, that lead me to my heart, my home — Langley, WA.
I landed my first restaurant job at 16 in small town Vermont; a family style restaurant called “Your Place,” where the specialty was fried tripe and my boss Katrina was the same lady my mother had worked for in high school. She was tough; she was there every day from open to close, doing everything from the books and all her own accounting to working the line, pouring drinks, and a whole lot of schmoozing with locals over the latest town gossip in between. I spent the rest of high school and holiday breaks in college waiting tables at that restaurant. What I didn’t realize was that restaurant life had already rooted itself deep within me, and I was hooked.
When I left for Whidbey Island in 2003, car packed with belongings, a dog and a cat, I had never been west of Montana before. Coming down the hill in Mukilteo on a warm and sunny fall afternoon, Whidbey on perfect display in front of us with the Olympics behind it in all their glory, I was in complete disbelief that I was moving to this magical place.
I found a job in Langley just days later, at the sweetest little country style breakfast and lunch café, The Braeburn. I spent two years waiting tables there, getting to know the people in the community, making some great friends, and learning a ton by observing the owners. Partners Jim and Connie started the business in 2001. Jim ran the kitchen, Connie did all the baking and ran the front of house. While I decided in 2005 to return to Vermont to be closer to family, it was with sadness that I left The Braeburn and Whidbey Island. I knew I had discovered a special part of the country, and spent the next five years comparing everywhere I moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Fast forward to 2010 when I took a vacation to Seattle and came to Whidbey for a day trip to visit The Braeburn and say hello to Jim and Connie. Hello turned into dinner (and by dinner, I mean too many cocktails) and before I knew it they were telling me they were trying to sell the restaurant and I should consider buying it. I laughed and returned to Vermont a few days later but found I couldn’t shake the idea of actually pursuing this opportunity. I had spent the last five years furthering my restaurant and hospitality experience doing everything from prep work to waiting tables and bartending to managing a golfing resort dining room and then becoming an event coordinator and wedding planner. At this point I had spent almost 15 years in restaurants; I knew I wanted to remain in the industry and had dreamed of opening my own café one day… so I decided to make the move back to Whidbey in the fall and see if this was something I could make work.
I spent several weeks picking up some shifts at the restaurant waiting tables, which allowed me to shadow Jim and Connie and dig deeper into the inner workings of running the restaurant. We reached an agreement and signed papers October 31, 2010. I had just turned 29, and was the proud new owner of The Braeburn. I trained in the kitchen for the next month and a half, cooking with Jim and Connie who stayed on to help me learn all aspects of the business. I had never cooked professionally in a kitchen before, but loved food and recognized the importance of learning each position thoroughly. They left The Braeburn entirely in my hands in December, and thus the new Braeburn was born.
Almost eight years later, I am embarking on another journey. We closed the restaurant at the end of January for a complete rebuild and remodel, taking over the retail space next door to expand our seating capacity, and building a brand new kitchen that will meet the demands of the amazing growth in business we have seen every year. We plan to reopen in June in our beautiful new space, and I am lucky to have almost my entire staff returning to work, many who have been with me for several years. We will reopen for breakfast and lunch to start, and hope to have a brand new dinner program off the ground by mid-summer.
I feel lucky to have come full circle and ended up back in this amazing little town. I grew up in a rural Vermont dairy farming town, where community was everything and I learned the importance of building relationships with both the people around you, and the food and product of the area. Being on this Island in this community has allowed me to easily apply those same practices to how I run my business. We make an effort to utilize products from the local farms as much as possible and have developed many wonderful relationships with our local vendors. The support that we’ve received over the years both from our terrific patrons and the other business owners in town is overwhelming.
I’m tremendously excited to continue working with my fabulous staff when we reopen to share our passion for creating a relaxed and friendly “Island” experience to all our visitors, while serving fresh and delicious, hand-made with love food.
The Braeburn Restaurant
197 Second Street, Langley 360-221-3211