Business Talk: Oak Tree Restaurant Reopens in Woodland This Week | Local company

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WOODLAND — The Oak Tree restaurant, like its namesake factory, has seen many growth spurts and barren stretches over the years.

Since opening under its current name in 1969, the Oak Tree has undergone multiple expansions and renovations at its location along Interstate 5 in Woodland. The restaurant closed in the spring of 2019, following the second attempt to monetize the building’s card room.

New owner Jose Guitron and managers Muriel Stanton and Jenny Johnson came to rehabilitate the restaurant and reopen the Oak Tree without a card room.

The restaurant held a soft opening over the weekend, leading to a ribbon cutting with the Woodland Chamber of Commerce on Sunday and will open publicly for limited dinner hours on Tuesday as the restaurant ramps up its full-time schedule d here on the weekend.

“I feel so proud and supported when everyone is working here,” Johnson said as the restaurant wrapped up preparations for opening Wednesday. “We don’t want to let any of them down or let our community down.”

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A glimpse of the bar in the lounge at the Oak Tree in Woodland on May 18.


Catherine Metzger



Layout and menu

The interior of the restaurant is divided into three sections. To one side of the entrance is a family dining room that seats over 130 people, with some of the restaurant’s original booths and lighting. On the other side is a nook for intimate fine dining, where Stanton said no children are allowed.

Further aft is the seating area. The lounge has a more limited menu, but includes a long bar, a pool table, and a nook named Cooper’s Landing after the mysterious and legendary 1971 hijacker known as DB Cooper. A local resident donated a 1960s military parachute as decoration for the corner of Cooper’s living room.

The new menu combines fancier dishes, such as deviled egg flights, pretzel bread sandwiches and duck fat fries, with a handful of what the menu calls “Memory Lane” dishes, including meatloaf and French toast, which were previous standards for the restaurant. Johnson said the food and decorations were meant to invoke the Oak Tree’s heyday in the 1970s as a draw for the town.


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“People were flying the little airstrip through town and just coming in to eat here,” Stanton said. “That’s the kind of restaurant it was.”

“Insurmountable task”

The building was purchased late last year by Guitron, a restaurant owner who also owns La Casa Tapatia a few blocks away and the recently opened Low Primos Taqueria Bar and Grill in Battle Ground.

Guitron soon contacted Stanton and Johnson to oversee the restaurant through its rebuilding. The couple bought Adeline Farms outside of Woodland in 2013, turning the family farm into a wedding venue and events center.







Oak

Oak Tree staff bend silverware Wednesday, in Woodland, in preparation for opening day. The newly renovated restaurant, lounge and event center employs over 80 people.


Catherine Metzger



Stanton said she had initial hesitation in joining the project due to the necessary renovations to the Oak Tree. A drain in the living room fed a hole in the floor, not pipes. The ceiling had about 100 leaks and the kitchen was clogged with grease and grime.

“When you saw the building as it was then, it was a very daunting and perhaps insurmountable task,” Stanton said.

Johnson has overseen the teams of contractors who have come to work on the building since October, while Stanton has focused on operations and personnel. She said more than 300 people had applied to work at the restaurant.

Many of the staff who helped prepare the building on Wednesday shared family ties to the restaurant, talking about their friends, mothers and grandmothers who worked there over the years.

“Jenny loves restoring parts and I’m the social connector,” Stanton said.

It turned out that Adeline Farms had ties to the past and future of oak. Stanton and Johnson took over the farm from Adeline Jones and Ben Thomas, who first met at the Alibi restaurant, which eventually became part of the Oak Tree. One of Thomas’s sons then started the Thomas Cattle Company, the restaurant’s sole supplier of beef.







Oak

A glimpse of the new kitchen at Le Chêne. All new appliances have been replaced in the kitchen.


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While the restaurant is ready for business, work is still needed to convert the game room back to its original use as a ballroom and community event center.


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Stanton said the first phase of work would be completed in time for June events around Planters’ Day, which is scheduled to run from Thursday June 16 to Sunday June 19. A full renovation and a “facelift”, Stanton said, are planned for later. This year.

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