Photo by Sol Gutierrez

Mike Baerveldt and Chris Hoffer recently took over as owner/operators of Copper Glance.

By Ashley Lodato

When Methow Valley residents Chris Hoffer and Mike Baerveldt recently took ownership of Winthrop’s Copper Glance craft cocktail bar, it was “a bit of a dream come true,” according to Hoffer. The business itself, its niche in the community, and the very timing of the purchase were all great fits for Baerveldt and Hoffer, who had just a few years prior left research and IT jobs in Seattle in favor of Methow living.

The pair had spent many years visiting the Methow Valley with their four boys, when the opportunity arose to purchase a Winthrop home from Baerveldt’s parents, who were relocating to the Olympia area. “We were part-time visitors for a while,” says Baerveldt, “and we’d come over to take care of the place. But each time we drove back to Seattle it was harder for us.”

“We’d gone through the Methow ‘fence,’” Hoffer adds, “and once you experience that green grass on the other side, going back gets harder and harder.”

The family decided to give the Methow Valley a full-time try, making their move just before the Carlton Complex fires of 2014 ignited. “That really gave us a taste of what it was like to live here,” says Hoffer. “It spoke a lot about this place and the people in it. It was heartening to see this community pull together.”

“Making the move wasn’t like we were loading up the Conestoga wagon and leaving behind people and places we’d never see again,” says Baerveldt of taking the plunge into full-time Methow life. “It was an adventure, but not completely unknown.”

For the first few years in the Methow, Baerveldt says he “lived the life of a country gentleman,” skiing and biking a lot, and coaching the Liberty Bell High School boys’ soccer team (which he still does). Hoffer focused on their two young boys, spending countless hours volunteering at the elementary school (which she still does, as well as serving at Methow Valley Youth Soccer’s director). But after a while both needed “a challenge to stretch the brain,” says Baerveldt. “It was time for something new,” agrees Hoffer.

Good timing

Hoffer and Baerveldt had always worked for others but had idly wondered, “Wouldn’t it be nice to work for ourselves?” Baerveldt is a brewer and toyed with the idea of brewing commercially, but quickly realized, “Why would I brew when I can just drink the beer Kyle [Koger, head brewer at Old Schoolhouse Brewery] brews?”

In reference to their new role as downtown Winthrop business owners, Baerveldt and Hoffer mention the congenial spirit that characterizes even just the other purveyors of food and drink visible from Copper Glance’s patio. “We collaborate with Dave [Swenson, of the Wine Shed next door],” says Baerveldt. “We’re friends with Jacob over at Old Schoolhouse. We’re not in competition with each other. That doesn’t work here. Everyone wants everyone to succeed.”

The Copper Glance opportunity came up at just the right time in Hoffer and Baerveldt’s lives.  “We wouldn’t have been ready for it two years ago,” says Hoffer.

Hoffer and Baerveldt didn’t hesitate to purchase Copper Glance. “We were patrons,” says Hoffer. “It’s the kind of cocktail bar we enjoy spending time in. The aesthetic, the cocktails themselves; it was all very aligned with bars we like. We could easily imagine ourselves owning it.”

“In Seattle we had normal, measured lives, with clothes and schedules,” continues Hoffer. “Buying Copper Glance just went with the spirit of adventure we were embracing. We just went for it.”

“We stepped into this place with no end goal,” says Baerveldt. “It’s an evolution, we’re learning as we go.”

“We’re having so much fun,” says Hoffer. “We love working together. We love craft cocktails, especially the Sidecar, which was the drink that started our relationship with craft cocktails.”

Separate roles with the business came really naturally to them. That division of labor puts Baerveldt in charge of the bar and back-end administration, while Hoffer runs the kitchen, staffing, and booking of the bi-monthly live music groups.

Hoffer credits the Copper Glance staff for making the transition so smooth. “That was a critical piece for us stepping in,” she says. “All the staff stayed on.”

Residents and visitors

Baerveldt and Hoffer note that they have the benefit of experiencing Winthrop businesses both as residents and as visitors and are using those perspectives to inform their “personal imprint” on Copper Glance. “As visitors,” says Baerveldt, “we know that it’s nice to have some Main Street businesses open on Sunday afternoons,” so Copper Glance recently announced new hours that include Sundays.

“As residents,” says Hoffer, “we know that our regular customers are looking for some familiar items and something new.”

Baerveldt and Hoffer are committed to introducing new items to the food and bar menus, retaining favorites but also cycling new items into circulation. Hoffer notes that Chris Moore, a Copper Glance bartender, is also a trained chef. “He’s been really amazing in helping shape the menu,” she says, mentioning uncommon items such as the Farmer’s Pâté and the Wild Boar Charcuterie, as well as the English and French cheeses she imports.

Hoffer notes that “we’re not a restaurant, we’re a bar with a small kitchen.” But the menu offerings belie the kitchen’s tiny size (it’s more ship’s gallery than commercial kitchen), with items like Ancho Chili Pulled Pork, Vignole, and Gruyère Mac & Cheese featured during a recent week.

Baerveldt encourages the staff to really know and understand the composition of the cocktails, beer, and wine they are serving. “I want them to be always innovating, trying and tasting,” he says. Baerveldt’s Scotch collection is impressive (“largest in the valley,” says Hoffer).

“We just want to encourage people to come in and try new stuff,” says Baerveldt. This “new stuff” might be the Kale Shiitake Braise on the food menu or the Nick and Nora Martini, a classic version of the gin-based cocktail.

“We’re on an exploration into food and cocktails,” says Baerveldt. “We want people to join us on this journey.”