Construction underway to transform winery into nightclub

Acouple of years ago, Michele Abrams dragged one of her sons to Roslyn, to check out the Rolsyn Café, a landmark icon featured in the opening credits on Northern Exposure. The business was up for sale, and Abrams hoped to turn it into a nightclub.

“I really wanted a place to run a business. I had the bug for a couple of years; it was really gnawing at me,” said Abrams, who decided not to pursue the Roslyn location.

Then, last year, while Abrams was enjoying the wine and entertainment at Thomas O’Neil Cellars in Richland, she found out the business was for sale, and the dream was resurrected.

“Six months went by and it was still for sale. I made an offer and he accepted,” said Abrams, who signed the final paperwork in March 2015.

For the next several months, the business—which has been renamed At Michele’s, will be in the hands of Cliff Thorn Construction, LLC, undergoing a major facelift.

But Abrams already knows what it will look like when finished. Guests will pass through a foyer with a grand piano. Further inside there will be a dance floor and elevated platform for bands and performers. Virginia Pitts with Design Resource, LLC, is designing the space with Hollywood glam in mind.

“There isn’t anything that really markets itself as a nightclub here, and that’s what I wanted. It seems to be a big need in the community. Even my builder said that,” said Abrams. “There’s a lot of people here now who are making some money. They want to go out, a place to go to. Downtown Kennewick is fun, but this is different than that.”

For one, the former winery, at 2323 Henderson Loop is in North Richland, off Highway 240. Abrams has clocked the distance from her business to her South Richland home and it’s an easy 10 minutes.

“My first reaction was ‘It’s so far out.’ But it’s not far. It’s just the mentality, which is changing,” she said.

Abrams plans have also evolved, as she’s branching out from entertainment to include special events, from reunions to company parties to weddings. The back of the building will feature a bridal room for rehearsal dinners and private parties.

“I’ve had lots of girls ask me about bridal events, and this is a one-stop shop,” said Abrams. “It satisfies all those things brides worry about.”

Abrams hasn’t started booking weddings yet, but will probably start accepting requests this winter.

With $1.5 million in renovations, the construction will take about five months, making the venue unavailable until about May of 2016.

“I had hoped to open in March,” said Abrams.

When all is said and done, the 4,000 sq. foot building will accommodate 100 people inside. However, the back of the building opens up to a gazebo—allowing for outdoor nuptials and additional mingle space.

Recently, Abrams also added some technological improvements to her plans. TVs inside will broadcast what is happening outdoors, she said, so guests will never miss the action.

“It’s been this evolving place that keeps getting better and better,” said Abrams. “And the people I’m working with have been amazing.”

At Michele’s will serve upscale bar food but will allow bridal groups to hire third-party caterers.

Abrams is already interviewing chefs for the position at her establishment, and her son’s girlfriend—a successful graphic artist—is working on the logo and menus.

Family has been a great resource of strength for her as she ventures into the business world. Abrams has never owned her own company, but as the mother of 15 children, she has plenty of organizational experience.

“I didn’t really expect anything. I don’t know enough to be afraid. If anything, the panic was sometimes, ‘What do you think you’re doing, Michele? You’re just a housewife,’” she said. “But the kids are proud of me.”

The older children will likely have jobs within the family business next summer, and Abrams said her soon-to-be 16-year-old twins—Laci and Lani—are already eyeing the place for their Sweet Sixteen.

“I told them, ‘I think I can hook you up,’” she said. “I know the lady who runs the place.”

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