The owner of Richland’s new cider house pivoted from a pandemic layoff toward his dream.
Instead of trying to find another job, Nate Steele decided to chase after what he’s long wanted to do: offer a welcoming place to sip a variety of the best ciders around.
“It almost feels surrealistic,” he said.
Cider enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of options. Currently, there’s six on tap and about 30 varieties in cans. A recent tap list included Locust Vanilla Bean, Elemental LemonCello, Goose Ridge Cherry, Bad Granny Ginger Lime, 2 Towns Serious Scrump and Elemental Pomegranate.
He hopes soon to have more than 20 ciders on tap.
Steele also is excited to offer the option to build your own mix-and-match six-pack of cider.
Guests can choose to sip their cider at the cider house, or take it home with them. They’ll fill growlers too.
Situated on busy George Washington Way, next to the Homewood Suites by Hilton, TC Cider House opened Oct. 26. It features artwork created by local artists and has limited inside seating. Steele says the heaters will be on to keep guests cozy in the outdoor seating area as the winter weather creeps in.
If cider isn’t your favorite, don’t worry there’s beer, wine and soft drinks to choose from.
Alongside cider, there are small plates for pairing. The menu will evolve, but for now small snack options include chips and salsa and cheese plates. Steele plans to add more selections later.
Steele envisions customers being able to sit down at TC Cider House with their favorite cider in one hand and a gooey grilled-cheese sandwich in the other.
Customers also are welcome to bring their own food or takeout from another local eatery. Porter’s Real Barbecue moved its Richland restaurant into the same strip mall earlier this year.
Cider house philosophy
The idea of opening his cider house in the Tri-Cities was a no brainer for Steele, who has spent practically his whole life living and working in the community.
“There’s a need for a cider house in the Tri-Cities. We have d’s (Wicked) Cider, great cider. We have Goose Ridge that makes their own cider, once again — amazing cider. Totally opposite ends of the spectrum. And there’s so much in between,” he said.
While researching for his business, Steele said he realized that with more than 150 cider-producing companies in just the Pacific Northwest alone, there’s so much out there to share with people. He wants his cider house to be a way to educate the community about cider and the hundreds of varieties available.
Opening a business is no simple task at any time but starting one during a pandemic came with its own challenges.
But Steele wasn’t fazed by the obstacles. If you get a chance to meet him and hear the philosophy by which he lives his life, you’ll understand why.
At TC Cider House, the core of the business is about more than cider. It’s about his philosophy that hinges on the idea of planting seeds of goodness in the world. He has a handy acronym for it: GIVE CIDER, which stands for: Gratitude, Integrity, Values, Empathy, and Caring, Intelligence, Diversity, Education, Respect.
“We focus so much on the negative, and we need to focus on making positivity louder… I’m trying to GIVE CIDER to flip that up and I really hope we succeed. I know we will succeed,” he said.
This year’s challenges turned into the launching pad Steele needed to take the leap and achieve his dream.
It wasn’t until he was laid off, as so many have been during the Covid-19 pandemic, that he looked at his dream as something slightly more tangible.
Steele, with the encouragement and support of his father, saw an opportunity to dive into the unknown and see if he might be able to make his dream a reality.
“Everything kind of fell into place as it needed to, even from getting laid off… it was just like, well, we’ll figure it out… I think it would have happened regardless, but that was definitely the catalyst of, ‘Well, you can get a new job somewhere else… and know that it’s not what you want to do, or take the risk that most people don’t want to take and live your dream,” he said.
Steele has devoted his career to the restaurant industry, having served in nearly every aspect of the culinary world from server to manager — everything except the owner of his own place.
When you ask Steele why he was drawn to the idea of owning his own business, he’ll take you to the beginning of his story, when he and his sister played restaurant as kids, serving meals to their devoted clientele: mom and dad.
“Our parents would cook dinner and everything, but we’d write up a menu and set the table then take them outside, and they’d knock on the door and we’d walk into the living room… trying act as much like a restaurant as we could… and something about that… I thought it would be so sweet to own my own restaurant café,” Steele said.
He’s become a believer that dreams do come true.
TC Cider House is open Monday-Thursday from 2-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 2-9:30 p.m.
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