If it flies in Seattle will it fly in Payson?
No, that's not some sort of mystical, metaphysical riddle. It's a bona fide business question, and the answer is now in the process of being divined by David and Rachel Duell, who have just relocated from Washington state to open the Swiss Village Caf last known as the Strawberry Moon Cafnd once beloved as the Swiss Village Bakery.
The restaurant has been closed since November, when its previous owner locked the doors and left town without a word of warning. That was bad news for the employees but, as it has turned out, good news for the Duells, who reopened the eatery Wednesday and have every expectation of renewing its popularity of yore.
Although both have food-business experience Rachel's worked as a caterer and restaurant manager, David's worked various behind-the-counter jobs neither has owned or operated a restaurant before. But those blank spaces on their resumes are hardly dampening the Duells' dual optimism.
"We've been working with a couple of people who are really successful in the restaurant business, so we're coming into this feeling really prepared," said David, who spent the past 13 years of his professional life working for the Boeing Corp. "Also, we have a very good feel for what worked well in Seattle, and we can see no reason why those same things won't work here. In fact, Payson is a lot like Washington, only you see the sun every day."
One of the things that works well in Seattle and is virtually nonexistent in Payson, he said, is the sale of hot-and-cold Starbuck's-style coffee, tea and all-natural fruit drinks which the Swiss Village Cafffers for prices ranging from $2.49 to $3.75.
"In Seattle, you can turn well over $100,000 just (selling) coffee drinks and nothing else even with all the competition, and there's one on every block," David said.
As for the lunch and dinner menus, the inspiration for most of those items also comes from the Pacific Northwest, where the Duells simply paid attention to what people liked and didn't like, and to what they or their cooks like and don't like. The result is a cornucopia of all-American roadside-diner favorites from a variety of egg dishes, waffles and pancakes for breakfast, priced as low as $3.49, to all manner of salads, sandwiches, sides and desserts for lunch starting at $3.95.
It was Rachel who first decided that the couple's switch to the restaurant business would best be made in Payson, David said.
"About three years ago, she drove through Payson, and she's been raving about it ever since. Well, as soon as I got here in December, everything had fallen into place for this to happen."
Correction: Almost everything. The Duells' sense of synchronicity has indeed been interrupted by the Town of Payson.
"They've just been hammering me and hammering me and hammering me," David said. "They came in here and made me fix everything that's been wrong with this building for 20 years.
"They made me move a grease trap outside; it had a capacity of 20 gallons, which has always been sufficient in here, but they told me to increase it to a thousand gallons. They said they're making all the local restaurants do it, but there was a new owner in here just a year ago; why wasn't it fixed then?"
But now, all that work is done, and customers are waiting to be seated from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day but Sunday.
"We might eventually start serving dinner, but we don't want to be in here morning, noon and night," David said. "If we can get someone in here we can trust to run things well, we'll give it a shot."
Until then, he added, the Duells' top priority is to master the breakfast and lunch business they've already got.
"The first day we were open, we were actually a lot busier than I expected," David said. "But we weren't entirely prepared, we didn't know where a lot of stuff was, we were pretty unorganized. But our second day, we actually did more business, and it went much more smoothly.
"We're getting the hang of it."