There is no shortage of taprooms and wine establishments in Yakima Valley.
But Jim Williams decided to combine the Valley’s two signature beverages at the Public House of Yakima.
In his first year of operation, Williams and his staff of eight provide 52 beers and wines from around the Pacific Northwest, along with a small menu of food that pairs well — including giant Bavarian pretzels.
Williams, a former junior high school principal, and his wife, Kristin, got the idea for the establishment after visiting taprooms, breweries and wineries in the area. Williams, 45, has a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Washington University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Heritage University.
The Tieton resident has two children, Jillian and Garret.
How did you start Public House of Yakima?
The Public House of Yakima was born out of my love for craft beer and good wine. My wife, Kristin, and I have spent years doing applicable “market research” visiting many wineries, breweries and taprooms across the Pacific Northwest and concluded that somebody needs to marry these industries. Though originally interested in opening either a winery or brewery, I felt like our best bet would be to take advantage of the superior products already being produced in our Valley and beyond. Couple that with the explosive growth in West Valley and you have yourself a wonderful business opportunity.
What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to get started?
There is no shortage of challenges in starting a new business. This is especially true when dabbling in a business where you have zero training or experience (other than the previously mentioned market research). I have been extremely fortunate to have developed a few relationships early in this process that allow me lean on a few new friends with industry experience to help get me through the day-to-day challenges.
On your website, you view the Public House as a place to, among other things, build community around great food and drink in a relaxing atmosphere. How do you do that, and have you achieved that goal?
I think we have absolutely done that. Our venue, a 1940s-era craftsman-style farmhouse, naturally leads to our customers feeling “at home” as soon as they walk through the door. Beyond that, our staff does a great job of greeting our customers as soon as they walk through the door, often with handshakes, hugs and a genuine appreciation of them choosing to come hang with us. One of the first memorable moments happened for me during our opening weekend when I noticed two couples, with a 40-plus-years age gap, seated at the same table due to limited seating. They were strangers, but after an hour and a half of conversation and laughs, they stood up, hugged and went on their separate ways after exchanging phone numbers. A goose-bump moment for me.
Who do you look to for inspiration as an entrepreneur?
I owe a lot of my entrepreneurial spirit to my father in-law, Bruce Allen. While courting his oldest daughter, Kristin, I had the tremendous opportunity to watch Bruce grow his small family-owned apple farm into one of the largest vertically integrated apple companies in the state.
Later in life, when I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my professional education career by working as an assistant principal at Selah Junior High, Bruce asked me if I would like to join the family business. With the hint that there may be a possibility to dabble in the wine business, I jumped at the opportunity for this new challenge. While we never did get into the wine business, over the next 10 years I was able to watch my father-in-law up close and glean as much information about running a business as I could. Bruce (as well as his wife, Julie, and their beautiful daughter, Kristin) continue to support me in my crazy endeavors to this day.
What’s your favorite beer/wine/food pairing on your menu?
This question is like asking a parent to identify their favorite child. We are so fortunate to live in our beautiful Valley where so much good beer and wine is being produced, it would be impossible to list just one favorite. Having said that, it is easy to say that I have a bad case of the “Haze Craze.” There’s nothing like the explosion of tropical, juicy goodness when a good Hazy IPA hits your lips. A few “insiders” know that I have a certain tap handle where I always put my favorite available (non-local) beer.
As far as my favorite menu item, I’ve been really enjoying our monthly flatbread specials. From corned beef, pork carnitas, and Thai chicken to a shrimp po’ boy, I have really enjoyed working with our head chef, Connor Sheesley, in creating the next great flatbread special. Our show stopper, though, is our giant Bavarian pretzel, which is served with house-made beer cheese and beer mustard.