Like its food, CorkHouse built from scratch
By Valerie Putnam
Liberty Lake's newest option for fine dining was born out of spontaneity. One day, CorkHouse owner Keri Collins decided to call the owner of the building at 1400 N. Meadowwood Lane, the facility that most recently housed Barlows.
"I didn't put a lot of thought into it," Collins said of the call. "It was kind of on a whim."
CorkHouse opened to the public in late June, serving a limited breakfast plus a lunch and dinner menu Collins describes as "casual fine dining."
There was a time not too long ago that Collins spent an average of five hours a day running or playing tennis. Then, earlier this year, she was diagnosed with two stress fractures in her foot from overexertion. Her doctor restricted her physical activity for three months, leaving Collins with time on her hands.
"I could learn to swim, spend more time at the office," Collins laughed about her options for those restricted months. "And I'll open a restaurant."
Collins and her husband, Kevin, are no strangers to taking a risk with a commercial venture. In 1993, they moved from the west side to Spokane to start a finishing business in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. Neither had a formal education in the business.
"We started with nothing," Collins said.
In 2001, they transitioned into sheet metal fabrication and manufacturing. Today, they operate Premier Manufacturing out of a 55,000-square-foot facility.
"My husband and I are movers and shakers," Collins said. "We get on a project, and we just go."
It was with this attitude that one day, as Collins drove by the former Barlows location on her way to work, she decided to make the initial call to the owner. Her call resulted in three weeks of negotiation.
Collins took possession of the building at the beginning of April. Rapidly renovating the building, the Collins' spent an estimated $50,000 transforming the interior and exterior of the restaurant.
Kevin Collins, with help from friends, did most of the renovation.
"I've never owned a restaurant before," Collins said. "There are many details that you don't even realize that come into play."
The renovations included adding a 500-square-foot outdoor patio, new carpet, paint and stone work throughout the interior, distinct countertops and updated lighting fixtures. An old beam was refinished and installed in the new stoned entry nook as a bench.
"We've dressed it up quite a bit to make it more inviting," said Collins, who designed the interior using an online resource. "We want the restaurant to be casual with gourmet food."
The menu was developed by Collins, incorporating favorite dishes from other restaurants such as skillet corn bread made with sweet corn, bacon and jalapenos; and a nontraditional mac and cheese using chicken, bacon, jalapenos and cheese. Collins' menu was enhanced by the restaurant's veteran chef, Brian Hutchins, who has been in the restaurant business for 22 years.
"He made everything more gourmet, adding all the fill ingredients that makes it sound delicious," Collins said. "He's the chef. He knows what he is doing."
Produce is purchased from the Liberty Lake Farmers Market next door, and all the meat is from local vendors.
"The chef is all about farm to table," Collins said. "We have nothing shipped. Everything is within 500 miles."
Everything on the CorkHouse menu - including dressings, sauces and hamburger buns - are made from scratch. Lunch prices range from $6 to $16, with dinner offered from $15 to $28. Collins anticipates her seasonal menu to change every three months.
The restaurant also features a separate lounge with a full-service bar serving a selection of 20 wines by the glass and 12 beers on tap. In addition, Collins has a wine list of 20 or 30 bottles for purchase.
When designing the bar, the couple installed a Glyco draft dispensing system to maintain the temperature of the draft beer.
This fall, the couple hopes to renovate the upstairs into another smaller lounge area with tables and sofas.
"We want it to be casual and comfortable," Collins said of the upstairs lounge, which will accommodate 10 patrons.
For breakfast, the restaurant features a limited menu along with espresso and coffee drinks. A drive-thru window will open at 6 a.m., as well as the restaurant.
"We have three breakfast sandwich options," Collins said. "We will be open for business if someone wants to come inside and hang out."
Collins intends on having live music two nights a week. Performers will include her daughter, Jordan, who recently graduated from Whitworth. Jordan sings and plays acoustic guitar. She was also tasked with the hiring of other musical acts.
With 17 employees on staff, Collins anticipates working daily for the first year of business, managing the restaurant.
"It's my baby," Collins said. "It's a big investment and commitment. I want to make sure things are running smoothly."
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IF YOU GO ...
CorkHouse, 1400 N. Meadowwood Lane, is open for a limited breakfast plus "casual fine dining" lunch and dinner. Brunch will be served Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant features a drive-thru window serving espresso drinks.
Hours: 6 a.m. until close Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. until close Friday, 7 a.m. until close Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner starts at 4 p.m. CorkHouse also features live music Wednesday and Saturday evenings.