Amy Clark always wanted to own her own business, so when the 37-year-old Chehalis resident saw an empty building on North National Avenue, she decided to take a chance and open an Italian restaurant.
“My boyfriend used to have a restaurant business in Salem, and when this opportunity came up we decided to go for it,” Clark told The Chronicle. “We noticed that this building was empty and contacted the owner.”
They named it The Pasta Bowl.
Opening a restaurant hadn’t been Clark’s original goal. At the time, she and her boyfriend were considering different options. But the empty former restaurant building provided an opportunity they couldn’t refuse.
“We had discussed (opening a business) for maybe a year but hadn’t been considering a restaurant specifically. But when we saw the building, the opportunity presented itself and we decided to take it,” Clark said.
Clark and her boyfriend, Tony Bennett, 37, debated the type of restaurant they should open, but ultimately decided on an Italian theme.
“We had thrown out a whole bunch of different ideas. We have a whole bunch of great businesses around here but this was a niche that we saw could be filled,” Clark said.
“And we love Italian food,” Bennett added.
“Who doesn’t?” Clark asked.
Clark, who was raised in Chehalis and graduated from W.F. West High School, was working as a secretary at Chehalis Middle School previously. While she had worked at restaurants before, she had no prior experience owning one.
For Clark, opening The Pasta Bowl was a fulfillment of her longtime dream of being a business owner.
“I had always wanted to own my own business and have the freedom that goes along with owning your own business, and the responsibilities as well,” Clark told The Chronicle.
While the restaurant may have been the fulfillment of a longtime dream, not everything has been easy. The challenges came from many different areas, ranging from the building to staffing.
“The building itself was a challenge. We had to do a lot of work getting into a usable condition,” Clark said. “We’ve been blessed with some great people. The reason we’re closed on Monday and Tuesday is because we want people here when we can’t be. But that is a goal, to be open seven days a week.”
While Clark has lived in the area most of her life, Bennett is originally from Oregon, where he owned an Italian restaurant and some food carts. He said in his experience, there are also a lot of challenges to opening a restaurant that an average person might not think about.
“Permitting, paperwork. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that people don’t know about,” Bennett said. “There’s always something (when remodeling a restaurant building), you just sit back and you go, ‘Where do we rebuild from here?’”
But Clark and Bennett were prepared for facing the challenges that come with opening a restaurant.
“I didn’t expect it to be easy. So I guess I haven’t been surprised we ran into some hurdles,” said Clark. “Going into it expecting it to not be a walk in the park has made it less surprising.”
While there have been a lot of challenges, the owners of The Pasta Bowl also say there have been some exciting experiences as well.
Asked what her favorite part of running her restaurant has been so far, Clark told The Chronicle,
“Meeting new people and getting to interact with the community and seeing how excited and how supportive everyone has been (the best part).”
The Pasta Bowl serves a variety of dishes, though its menu had to be reduced early on because of insufficient staffing.
“My favorite things are the spaghetti with meatballs and the stuffed mushrooms,” Clark said.
Bennett said his favorite dishes were the stuffed mushrooms and the three cheese tortellini (the restaurant's number one seller).
“We do a pretty mean ribeye,” Bennett added.
Bennett also said as new staff members are hired, he plans to expand the menu.
“I like to add specials and be creative,” Bennett said.
“He likes to change things up on a regular basis,” Clark said, adding they’re already making changes to the menu.
“The family deal that we’ve had has been new this past week. It feeds more than four people so it’s really nice they can come in and have a family meal,” said Clark, to which Bennett added they had to-go boxes.
While there have been many pleasant experiences for the couple so far, opening day was not one of them.
“Not opening day,” said Clark, pointing instead to “a week or two (after opening), when we really started working together as a team and smoothed out when we were over the initial jolt.”
For his part, Bennett said he’s enjoyed the community support.
For their long-term goals, Clark said she wants to grow the restaurant, adding features such as catering and outdoor events, while still keeping the business small to maintain quality.
“(My goal is) just to be self-sustaining,” said Clark, who added she’d like to continue the restaurant into retirement. “We don't want to get too big where we lose sight of the quality but get big enough where we can be self-sustaining … We would like to become part of the community, so fundraisers, some cruise-ins. So those are some of our long-term goals once we get established and get our core going.”
“I guess at the end of the day we just want to be a staple of the community,” added Bennett.
The Pasta Bowl
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Location: 1780 N. National Ave., Chehalis
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