Longtime Kennewick restaurant sheds old look, name for urban feel

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Country Gentleman remodels interior, changes name to CG Public House

CG Public House and Catering in Kennewick has seen an upswing in hungry customers despite experiencing the worst winter weather in recent memory, resulting in a 25 percent increase in profits over the same period last year.

The owners credit the upswing to the restaurant’s rebranding after a two-week hiatus in early January.

The temporary closure was anything but quiet, as work buzzed non-stop on an interior remodel of the building at 9221 W. Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick.

“We hired local companies to do all of the work. It was kind of like one of the reality TV shows where someone had two days to get a big job done and then another company had three days,” laughed Shirley Simmons, co-owner with husband, Steve Simmons. “Everything fell together very smoothly and quickly,” so much so that it re-opened two days ahead of schedule.

The restaurant was originally opened as Wyatt’s Pancake Corral by Simmons’ parents in 1978. Her sister and brother-in-law, Marge and Gerald VanZuyen, eventually bought it and renamed it Country Gentleman. Then, in 1996, the Simmonses purchased it, launching the catering arm of the business in 1997.

With the help of son Kyle Simmons, who earned a degree in hospitality from Washington State University and who will eventually buy the restaurant, Shirley Simmons decided a rebranding was in order.

“Kyle really wanted the restaurant to have a more urban look and to move away from what he considered ‘old-fashioned and grandmotherly,’ ” she said. So the new eatery moved to darker colors, wood-planked walls, a black ceiling and industrial elements.

“The (American Viticultural Area) wall (highlighting the areas wine-producing regions) was done by a local gentleman and is the biggest he’s ever done. The directional signs to points of interest in the community have been big conversation pieces,” Shirley Simmons said. “We’ve already come up with more signs – Jump Off Joe, the Benton County Fairgrounds and Water Follies pits – to add later.”

The restaurant attracts a multitude of visitors driving through the area on Interstate 82, so highlighting points of interest hopefully will entice them to stay in town to explore, Shirley Simmons said.

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Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno has been in the “news” business for more than 20 years. She is passionate about writing, and is also an educator with the goal of igniting young minds so they might discover their potentials. She lives in the Yakima Valley with her children, two mini schnauzers, two lizards and multitudes of fish. She enjoys camping, kayaking and breathing in the ocean air. She hopes to one day be a published novelist and see her work being read by the masses … or even by just one who is moved by her story.

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