Those looking for cozy, clean rooms with a celestial view and eclectic fresh fare will find it at Winthrop’s new Observatory Inn and on-site restaurant, Jupiter.
Located in the space that was for decades the iconic Duck Brand Hotel & Cantina (The Duck), the Observatory Inn and Jupiter are the product of a vision shared by the three Methow Valley co-owners — Sol Gutierrez, Leia Hansen and Abby Pattison — who purchased The Duck earlier this summer.
“We weren’t necessarily seeking to run a restaurant and hotel,” Pattison said, “but Sol and I wanted to collaborate on a business opportunity, and when we settled on The Duck, it just made sense to keep doing what The Duck was set up for — food and lodging.”
Hansen, who had partnered with Gutierrez from 2015-2018 to open another restaurant/bar on Winthrop’s main street, Copper Glance, joined Gutierrez and Pattison later in the purchasing process. “I didn’t want to miss the fun,” Hansen said. “Besides, I knew if I didn’t work with them, I’d never see them.”
The trio took possession of the property on June 21, and spent that night cleaning hotel rooms; guests were booked for the following night. But the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires resulted in many cancelations, which enabled the new owners to dedicate time to upgrading the hotel rooms and the restaurant’s kitchen, as well as to complete some maintenance projects that had been deferred.
“It was a silver lining to some degree,” Pattison said. “The fires and smoke took the pressure off us to fully reopen right away; they set our timeline back a bit and gave us the chance to make some changes.”
Take-out for now
While the six-room, self-check-in Observatory Inn is now open with fresh paint, new bedding and upgraded amenities, Jupiter is open only for take-out, albeit take-out that customers can eat while seated on the restaurant’s expansive deck overlooking Riverside Avenue.
The lunch-dinner menu, which is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, includes a range of options. “We felt like pizza, burgers and Mexican were pretty well covered in this town,” Hansen said, “so we’re focusing on a variety of dishes to suit different eating habits.”
Sophie Whittaker, who was raised in the Methow Valley, serves up from Jupiter’s kitchen grain bowls like the Beta Bowl, with grains, beans, kale, roast veggies and kimchi; comfort food like biscuits and gravy and mushroom tortas; and salads like the eponymous Jupiter, with farro, shaved fennel and beets, filberts (hazelnuts) and mint.
“We’re focused on fresh, high-quality food,” said Pattison, a dietician at Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak. “Local and organic when possible, with meat, vegan and gluten-free options. We want there to be something for everyone.”
Those who attended the quiet “soft opening” in late August agreed that there was indeed something that met their needs. Jen Schumacher, who helped with demolition and painting, reported that her Titan Salad with spring greens, kale, sea vegetables and carrots was “delicious,” while Pattison’s young daughter Marley pronounced the pulled pork sandwiches and salted chocolate chip shortbread “really good.” Those who were regular customers at The Duck will find familiar favorites as well.
Gutierrez, Hansen and Pattison have been able to bring the Observatory Inn and Jupiter to life through a huge community effort, Pattison said. “We’ve had tremendous support, from investors to remodeling help.” Friends helped replace flooring and gave the kitchen “a facelift.” Investors made the purchase and upgrades possible.
The trio pitched their idea to the Methow Investment Network when they were working on purchasing The Duck, and the pitch resonated with several local investors. One of them, naturopath Beth DiDomenico, said she was motivated to invest in the hotel and restaurant for several reasons. The building’s prominent location perched on a bluff above Riverside Avenue was incentive to keep a hotel-restaurant business thriving; it’s a Winthrop landmark.
“And there were these young local women wanting to keep the restaurant alive, but also do something new,” DiDomenico said. “They’re taking over a successful business and serving a community need. They’re offering dependable year-round jobs that pay a living wage. All that impressed me.”
The team is also dedicated to nurturing a Methow Valley clientele, which appealed to investors. “We see Jupiter as a community gathering spot,” Pattison said. “We want to cultivate a local following, as well as remaining welcoming to visitors.”
“We have this beautiful deck overlooking town,” Hansen said. “We love the view of the sky and the mountains from here. We want people who love this place for the same reasons we do to enjoy this spot.”
In terms of daily operations, Gutierrez, who is also a freelance photographer, is focused solely on Jupiter, while Pattison runs the Inn. Hansen, who works alternating weeks as a nurse at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, plugs in to both ventures during the weeks when she’s in the valley.
The regular duties take time and energy, but the business partners are keeping their eye on the long-term vision, which includes opening for eat-in dining, adding morning hours and a breakfast bar with espresso, juices and smoothies and baked goods, as well as continuing to upgrade the hotel rooms.
The two venues are “opening slowly in a limited fashion,” said Pattison, as the team works to establish the hotel and restaurant’s brands and spread the word about the changes. “The Duck carried the expectation of Old West and Mexican. We’re changing that up, and it’s evolving, as The Duck has always gone through different iterations.”
Indeed. David and Peggy Coats built the restaurant in 1978, operating as “Omelets R Us” before becoming the “Duck Brand Delicatessen and Restaurant” in 1981. Joe and Diane Costales — often referred to as “Joe and Diane Duck” — bought The Duck in 1982 and ran it until 2013, when brothers Albertano and Teo Dominguez, along with their brother-in-law Filipe Arellano, purchased the business.
It’s the end of an era for The Duck, and a time of transition. Now is the time to visit, Pattison joked. “Get it while it’s weird!”
Learn more about the Observatory Inn and Jupiter at www.observatoryinn.com and www.jupiterwinthrop.com.