Like many of you, when I think about the International House of Pancakes, or IHOP, my mind goes to the restaurants with the high-pitched, A-frame roofs.
Last week, I learned that design was on its way out when the owner of the Union Gap IHOP announced he’s closing Sunday as part of the Glendale, Calif.-based restaurant chain’s continued efforts to phase out restaurants with the old design.
While it might be news to many local diners, the transition to larger, more roomier restaurants began in the 1980s. Still, it’s hard for some to let go. Just ask Brian Laverty, a Yakima reader. He sent his complaints directly to IHOP’s Facebook page:
“Why can’t corporate realize that the charm of the old high-pitched roof IHOP that many of us grew up with as kids, with our families, is exactly what brings people my age back in the door?” he wrote. “I’ve been to both and I don’t like the big-box floor plan and I know I’m not alone.”
The closure of the restaurant at 15 E. Valley Mall Blvd. also prompted many comments on the Shop Talk Facebook page, including this one from reader Melissa Kessinger: “No way, I love IHOP.”
I see the logic of phasing out the old buildings as leases expire, but why not secure a shorter or month-to month lease to keep the restaurant operating while searching for a site for a new, roomier building?
Old design or not, the restaurant clearly had a strong following — most weekends you could see a line out the door. IHOP clearly helped fill the area’s demand for family-friendly restaurants.
That said, I do think IHOP will open a new location in the Yakima area after this one closes.
An IHOP spokesman said there are no immediate plans for a new store, but it’s fun to consider the options.
Perhaps the franchisee of the IHOP restaurant in Ellensburg, which opened in September, could head to Yakima — hey, the one for Carl’s Jr. did.
As for possible locations, my colleague Savannah Tranchell made a suggestion for readers of her food blog last week — the former Grand Buffet property in downtown Yakima.
That suggestion was short-lived, as property owner Patti Schneider announced last week that she has secured a 20-year lease with McDonald’s.
So with that option off the table, a few more suggestions come to mind:
• Staying put in Union Gap. It wouldn’t be a stretch for IHOP to stay at its current location. The neighboring parcel, once a movie theater, is empty, so certainly there’s plenty of room for a bigger restaurant.
• Fred Meyer site. The parcel at 24th Avenue and West Nob Hill Boulevard has been empty since Fred Meyer decided not to build a second store there a few years back. With a Red Robin down the street, this could be a good choice as far as diner synergy.
• West Valley Wal-Mart area. The property around the West Valley Wal-Mart at 64th Avenue and Nob Hill Boulevard has been hopping with new development, including a Dutch Bros. Coffee stand (more on that later). There is still plenty of vacant land to be developed, and I can see IHOP mixing well with Panda Express and Dutch Bros. Coffee.
• Downtown Yakima. While the Grand Buffet property is out, there’s the former Yakima Mall food court. The space, which housed Russillo’s Pizza and Gelato a few years ago, is large enough for the bigger IHOP design.
One thing that will definitely be opening is a new Dutch Bros. Coffee stand. The stand at 6520 W. Nob Hill Blvd. opens Nov. 30, franchisee Shawn Hill said.
Hill, 32, moved to Yakima after working for the Grants Pass, Ore.-based coffee stand chain for 14 years in a variety of positions, including barista and regional manager.
Hill has been working to own his first Dutch Bros. location for the last four years. He remembers that when he first came to work for the company, it had seven locations. Later this month, he will open the company’s 187th location: “It’s a new and exciting adventure,” he said.
The stand will initially employ 10 workers, though Hill plans to hire more as business increases. The hours will be 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, but Hill hopes to open later on the weekends and eventually keep it open 24 hours.
• Mai Hoang’s Reporter’s Notebook is published Mondays in the Marketplace section. To reach her, call 509-759-7851 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.