Wassons will continue cider-making operation
A longtime employee of the Methow Valley Ciderhouse, JP Esquivel and his wife, Mireya Perez, have purchased the restaurant from the Ciderhouse founders, Lynne and Richard Wasson.
Esquivel and Perez moved to the Methow Valley in 2014 and began working at the Duck Brand (now Jupiter), which was owned by Perez’s family. It was there that Esquivel learned the many aspects of running a restaurant.
“I was cooking, serving, learning how to manage the business, the front of the house, the back of the house,” he said.
Esquivel grew up in El Paso, Texas, and said he dabbled in cooking, but it was “nothing fancy.” But as a cook at both the Duck Brand and the Ciderhouse he brought some Texas flavor to the menus, with his Texas-style pulled pork and ribs.
After joining the Ciderhouse team in 2018, Esquivel soon found himself working in many capacities: head cook, restaurant manager and barbecue manager.
“I’d cook in the morning and serve at night,” he said. “I know this business from head to toe. I made it my goal to learn every aspect of the business. I care about all components. I wanted to be that ‘universal employee’ who knows how to work in every position in the restaurant.”
The hours at the Ciderhouse are long, but Esquivel said he doesn’t mind. “Lynne and Richard treat us so well,” he said. “We felt like we were working for very special people.”
Indeed, when the Wassons thought about selling the restaurant, they thought of Esquivel and Perez first. But Esquivel couldn’t afford the asking price, he said. “So they were willing to sell me the business and lease me the building.”
Now, with the Wassons as his landlords, Esquivel expresses his appreciation. “We’re very grateful to Richard and Lynne for the opportunity and the trust to sell us the business and lease the building and grounds. We will try to do our best.”
The Wassons said that they feel “love and gratitude” for the confidence they have in Esquivel and Perez. “We’re at an age where we wanted to step back from the hustle of restaurant work,” Richard Wasson said. “The Ciderhouse is in good hands with JP and Mireya. JP is a good leader with a lot of energy and Mireya will back him up.”
The Wassons will continue to grow apples and make cider at their East Chewuch Road orchard, and will remain the cider distributor for the Ciderhouse. They’re also planning some cider-related music events for the summer, such as the Cider and Bluegrass Festival, which will be held June 18 at the John Doran Ranch.
Working at the Ciderhouse throughout the past two years has left Esquivel well-prepared to deal with the vagaries of restaurant offerings and systems during a global pandemic, but he acknowledges the uncertainty of buying a business during COVID. “It definitely worries all of us,” he said. “You don’t always know what to expect now.”
But Esquivel understands the modifications and pivots restaurants must make, depending on frequently-changing indoor dining restrictions.
“You do takeout, you minimize everything,” he said. “But it’s hard. Your employees lose wages. You try to scale back, but you still need propane, the rent doesn’t stop. You need to adapt, to find a way to sell your product.”
Initially, Esquivel intends to change very little about the Ciderhouse.
“We’re keeping the live music, almost every Saturday. In the summer we’ll do the outdoor music every Friday and Saturday,” he said. “We have that big beautiful area out in the back. People can dance, kids can run all over the back while their parents enjoy their meal — families love that; it’s pretty unique in the valley. And we have plenty of parking.”
Esquivel is making minor modifications to the menu, but said he doesn’t want to change too much.
“People know our dishes. If you like a certain sandwich and we don’t carry it anymore, you’re going to get upset. Adding menu items is easier than taking them out,” he said.
So the pizzas, burgers, brats, and smoked meats that customers love will remain on the menu. But Esquivel and Perez are making one major addition: breakfast.
“If all the paperwork is complete, we’ll be serving breakfast within the next couple of weeks,” Esquivel said. “Bacon, sausages, eggs, a Mexican breakfast—we’re really looking forward to opening for people who want a good meal in the morning.”
Esquivel said that the stability and future growth of the Ciderhouse are made possible by his strong team.
“I feel very lucky to have the right team. They’re very responsible people—in the kitchen, serving—they all know what to do,” he said. “The key to restaurant success is keeping employees. I’m very fortunate to have this team with me.”
Down the road, Esquivel and Perez hope to purchase the Ciderhouse building and land from the Wassons, but for now they’re content to own and operate just the business itself. With a 7-year-old and a 7-month-old at home, they’re busy parents, as well as busy restauranteurs. Esquivel will keep managing the restaurant’s staff, kitchen, and other operations, while Mireya will continue to run the office and social media.
“We love the valley,” Esquivel and Perez said. “It’s such a beautiful place. It brought us here for a reason. This is what we’re here to do.”