With Hurricane Florence threatening the Carolinas this week, Eddie Selby battened down the homestead in Calabash, North Carolina, a town famous for seafood.
Meanwhile, more than 2,500 miles away, his son, Jason Selby, 41, and Jason’s wife, Jamie Minster, 44, buttoned up final preparations to open a new eatery in Whitefish, a city that welcomes precipitation that swirls and drifts. Eddie’s wife and Jason’s mother, Tena, had jetted in to help in what turned out to be fortuitous timing.
The Wich Haus, which opened Saturday, occupies the 900-square-foot ground floor of a house said to be among Whitefish’s oldest — built in 1910 or 1911 by railroad carpenter Milo Lent.
The restaurant’s staff totals two. For now, the menu offers just five sandwiches.
“Simplify,” advised Thoreau.
Selby, a native of Maryland, and Minster, born in Kalispell, once ran a restaurant of 7,000 square feet in Charleston, South Carolina. The Sea Spray Waterfront Cafe employed about 25 people. Customers frequently arrived in waves from nearby tourist attractions.
For The Wich Haus, the couple has embraced keeping it simple. Selby will cook. Minster will staff the counter and phone.
Each has spent years in the food-service business, but not always as restaurateurs. For example, Jason once worked as a sales representative for Stone Brewing and Jamie was a food photographer at one time.
The Wich Haus provides an opportunity to return to pursuing their passion, they said.
“I like knowing that when I put the food out I will see smiles on customers’ faces,” Jason said. “I like the instant gratification.”
The leased location on Wisconsin Avenue — just over the viaduct — could lure downhill skiers or, in balmier months, families bound for a picnic at Whitefish Lake.
At least that’s what the couple envision.
The Wich Haus also plans to serve the needs of the working staff who have just 30 minutes for lunch, Jason said. Customers can dine on-site or get food to go.
The five sandwiches include a “Rib ’Wich,” featuring a braised beef short rib with Swiss cheese, grilled red onion, lettuces and other ingredients on a brioche bun. In addition to sandwiches that offer pork, turkey or chicken, there’s a “Veggie ’Wich” with ingredients served in a wrap.
Each sandwich is accompanied by one side. Jason said the restaurant won’t use processed meats.
Prices will range from about $10 to $15.
The Wich Haus can seat 28, a tally that includes seating on a newly constructed patio. Parking is available both in front of and behind an adjacent store, The Sage House Boutique Gift Shop.
The couple began working in July to build out the kitchen and make other changes.
They moved this spring to Kalispell from Charleston, the city where they met as students at Johnson & Wales University, which is known for its culinary arts and hospitality curricula. The couple has two children, a 9-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl.
Jamie’s parents, Allen and Claudia Minster, moved back to Kalispell about two years ago.
Now, in addition to launching a new business, Jason and Jamie, whose family lived not far from Folly Beach in South Carolina, are adapting to new terrain and a drier, colder climate.
“We’ve been beach people,” Jamie said, smiling.
The Wich Haus, at 105 Wisconsin Ave. in Whitefish, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; call 406-730-2018
Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at 758-4407 or email@example.com.