A building at 201 W. Kennewick Ave. has shed its corner shoe store identity of nearly seven decades and is transforming into its newest incarnation: Blackthorne Neighbourhood Pub.
Once complete, the old David’s Shoes store will transport those who walk through its doors to the atmospheric ambience of an old English pub, complete with a European- and U.K.-centric beer and wine lineup customers won’t find anywhere else in Tri-Cities, as well as a curated menu of craft cocktails accompanied by light fare.
Shane Dozhier and her partner, Neil Darwen, are the minds behind the new establishment, which they hope will provide people of all ages a place to gather, slow down, enjoy music and good company with great drinks and a European football match in the background.
Dozhier is currently the taproom manager at White Bluffs Brewing in Richland.
“It’s super cliché, but every bartender wants to have their own bar. It’s always been in the back of my mind – not a goal-goal, but if it happens, it happens,” she said.
She and Darwen had casually tossed the idea around that they should open a taproom, but the right property hadn’t presented itself.
Dozhier had the opportunity to tour the Kennewick Avenue building’s 3,500 square feet with the White Bluffs team.
When she told Darwen that White Bluffs had passed on it, he surprised her by saying, “Let’s do it.”
They are planning to invest $400,000 in improvements to convert the space.
JNM Construction is the general contractor, but Darwen is building some elements in their backyard, including the bar.
The decision to channel the English pub scene comes from Darwen’s roots.
He was born in northwestern England in a small village outside of Preston called Whittle-le-Woods. He came to Tri-Cities in 1999 on a work contract, which ran longer than originally intended. He ended up staying.
He and Dozhier met in 2016 through a mutual friend.
Many Tri-Citians might not realize that a sizeable British community exists within the community. Dozhier explained that many of them were sent over to work at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and for other Hanford site contractors.
Many arrived in the late 1990s and early 2000s, living in the same apartment complexes. One popular spot was the apartments along Gage Boulevard in Richland, not far from Uncle Sam’s Saloon, which became a popular place to gather and catch European football matches.
To this day, she said many continue to coordinate meetups around football.
She and Darwen have traveled back to England together. Since signing the lease on the downtown Kennewick property, they have toured dozens of pubs for inspiration.
“They’re so old. We didn’t go to a single one that was new. All of them were at the very least 50 years old,” Dozhier said.
The downtown building’s 100-plus-year-old brick facade lends a great starting canvas to its new life.
Built in 1920, the building was once home to Neuman’s cash and carry grocery and department store, a business he took over from early Kennewick pioneers W.G. King and his son, Clarence King.
Neuman’s was in business until 1953, when David Rietman took over the building and opened David’s Shoes in the space. Brenda and Kent Hoover, David’s Shoes employees, bought the building and business in 1993 when Rietman sought retirement.
Brenda Hoover in turn sold the building in 2021 to Jamie and Loren Wikstrand, who operated it for a short time as David’s Shoes and also sold merchandise from their formerly online-only clothing shop, White Bluffs Boutique.
Barely a year later, the building was in new hands.
Though Dozhier and Darwen are still figuring out all the details, she said visitors can expect a “rustic country pub vibe.”
“Rustic, but a good pour,” she added. “We want it to be upscale – not fancy – but slightly nicer than your average bar … We’ll do dark wainscoting on the walls and we bought this wallpaper that’s textured with design, and then you paint it whatever color you want.”
The floor plan concept shows a bar, 10 tables and a sitting area facing Kennewick Avenue. Dozhier said there will be a classic chesterfield sofa.
They put a lot of thought into the name and one day it revealed itself to them.
“In England, British pub names don’t make any sense,” Dozhier said. “Like the Lamb and Packet, for example, or The Broadfield Arms. But they make perfect sense to Brits. I told Neil that I want it to sound like a British pub, but I want it to be crystal clear what it is.”
One day, they were driving down a street in Seattle and Dozhier’s eye was caught by the word “blackthorn” in a business name.
“What about Blackthorn?” she asked Darwen.
As it turns out, the berries from the blackthorn bush are an ingredient in sloe gin.
“When we realized that, it made perfect sense,” she said.
And so Blackthorne Neighbourhood Pub was born, after the addition of some British English spelling conventions.
“Our focus will be on imports rather than local, but there will be local options,” Dozhier said. “Tri-Cities is very local-centric, but … there are so many other wine regions and beer regions that are awesome and we want to showcase some of that.”
She forewarned that they won’t stock a full bar selection.
“There won’t be Jack Daniel’s – the goal is not to do the same stuff as you can get (elsewhere),” she said.
To add to the family-friendly atmosphere reminiscent of English pubs, they will also have a full menu of “zero-proof” nonalcoholic cocktails, beers and more.
“We want to create a different attitude around it and lend to the culture of not drinking and let people still participate with fun glassware and garnishes,” she said.
Light, “healthy” food items will be available, such as salads and sandwiches, with more to be developed. Dozhier hopes to cultivate an environment people will come and take their time experiencing, as is the custom at establishments throughout the U.K. and Europe.
Dozhier is grateful to have had the support of the White Bluffs Brewing team behind her who have helped them throughout the process.
The head brewer even made the suggestion, “Why don’t we make a beer for your pub?”
Blackthorne Bitter has made a successful first run in White Bluffs’ taproom and will exclusively be available at Blackthorne Neighbourhood Pub and White Bluffs.
White Bluffs’ famous Nectar of the Gods also will be on draft at Blackthorne.
Dozhier said some might question the addition of another bar to downtown Kennewick, but she said they have a greater intention for the business.
“It’s a unicorn location – the corner spot in the middle of downtown,” she said. “We really want to cultivate some culture or activity in downtown on Sundays that doesn’t already exist.”
She said Tri-Cities needs a space friendly to all ages for open mics and jam sessions.
“We really want to make the space musical. To both of us, that’s really important. (Darwen)’s a musician as a hobby, and I grew up in a very musical household, so there’s always music in our house. We want to bring that same vibe to the pub and leave a guitar there for people who want to pick up and play.”
They hope to be open Blackthorne’s doors and loosen the taps by the end of summer. A weekend-long grand opening will be announced on social media featuring live music and kids’ activities.
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!