Bette's place keeps on growing

April 11, 2012

High-demand cinnamon rolls and frequent waiting lists make it hard to believe that Bette's Place once used Bunnies and Beetles to drum up business.

"Follow this bug to Bette's" said a sign on Bette and Jerry Walters' red-white-and-blue Volkwagen bug when Bette opened the corner diner in April 1975 with three tables and a counter.

Back then, the restaurant also tried dressing the wait staff - owner Bette Walters included - in pink smocks and floppy rabbit ears, another promotion long-since retired.

But friendly service and consistently good food drew in the locals and visitors at the successful café at Oak and Sixth streets.

Last fall, Bette's expanded for the fourth time, adding "Bette's Corner," just down the hall in what had been a storefront that was empty for two years.

No more dining in the hallway - that's for the waiting list.

On Wednesdays owner Gay Jones, Bette's daughter, cannot make the cinnamon rolls fast enough and, every day, locals and visitors fill the window booths and numerous tables spread throughout the place.

Gay's husband, Gary, recently retired and he keeps track of the waiting list: "not an easy job," said Gay, who believes the restaurant's success is based on two principles Bette taught her from Gay's years as a teenager working in the cafe: "we never say 'no'. We give the customer what they want."

The other is "never serve anything to a customer you wouldn't want to eat yourself."

Customers are likely to be served by Sheri Castenada or Tana Stanphill, who this spring both mark 25 years working at Bette's. They were hired by Bette, who started the restaurant after running the snack bar at Safeway for years. When the grocery chain (then located in the former store site now home to the Hood River News) closed out its snack bars, Bette worked a few jobs before learning that the owners of the former bowling alley wanted a restaurant for the property.

"My hairdresser told me they wanted to put a restaurant in, and I went to talk to them, and that's how Bette's place got started," said Bette, who opened got her sister Frances Chambers involved cooking right away, along with Gay and her brother, Mitch. Bette sold the restaurant to Gay in 1994.

"I'm proud of my daughter, she's done an excellent job," said Bette.

"I have a great staff. I couldn't do it without them," Jones said. "And if my employees need a weekend off or some time off, do it. Because that's important. It's important to me that you have your children and your family. Family is first. That's the way we've always been and I don't plan to change that.

"They are my support system," she said of her workers, who have a history of longevity. The secret to that is, "be nice to them," Jones said. "Work as hard as they do, that's what my Mom always said. My Mom never sat around and told anyone what to do, she worked as hard as she expected them to work."

Bette said, "this is from what I can see, just a nice place to work, if these girls have stayed around for 25 years. It's not like a regular restaurant where they go from place to place. Gay's responsible for a lot of that."

Gay said, "We grew up together. I used to be their age, you know, and it felt like we were all the same. I was Mom's employee. I didn't have to be their boss and now that I'm older. One day a week I tell them they can each be the boss and see how they like it."

Jones keeps her summer work crew at 15-20 people, and 12 in the winter.

"With the addition (of Bette's Corner) it has helped, we have served quite a few groups," this fall and winter, she said.

Gay grew up on State Street, just a few blocks from the old bowling alley.

"We would walk downtown to the dime store and buy candy, and every afternoon walk to the pool with my brothers, and go swimming all afternoon and go home, we had such great neighbors to play with," Jones recalled. "I have great memories of living on State Street and growing up there. I love Hood River. I can see why people come here."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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