SILVERDALE — There’s no denying that marrying a music store with a restaurant is an unusual combination, but just the same, there’s also no denying the unmistakable charm of Silverdale’s Guitar Café.
Ray and Paola Rutledge are the owners of The Guitar Café (3381 NW Bucklin Hill Road), where for a little more than a year the pair have worked to provide a haven for patrons seeking to fill their bellies with food and their souls with music.
Once Ray Rutledge starts talking about guitars, there’s little that can be done to slow him down. An accomplished woodworker himself, Rutledge takes down one guitar after another from the walls as he showcases the workmanship in each one.
“[These] tend to be more luthier-built, handmade guitars, so you can feel the difference when you pick it up,” Rutledge said, demonstrating the difference in weight between one of his Breedlove guitars and a more moderately-priced Chinese-made guitar. The room containing the instruments is off to the side of the café, which includes a counter shaped like — you guessed it — a guitar.
As Ray talks craftsmanship in the guitar shop, around the corner in the kitchen of the café one can hear Paola, unseen but hard at work crafting culinary treats and hot beverages for hungry customers. Paola is known for her signature treble clef that she leaves in the foam of the espresso drinks she makes.
As for the guitars, Paola explained that Ray’s passion for playing and repairing guitars quickly began to take up space at their home.
“He had way too many guitars. All of a sudden one day I open up this closet and I’m going, ‘What’s this?’” Paola said.
The couple’s choice to open such a specific business, Paola said, was less an outright decision and more of a process of addition.
“We started thinking about something to just change our lifestyle and it just kind of organically grew,” she explained. “It just kind of morphed. Being Italian, I need my coffee in the afternoon, so we ended up scoring a great coffee machine. Next thing I know, Ray loves ice cream and he scored this 1951 ice cream cabinet. Now
we got coffee and ice cream and I was like, ‘Well, we need some real food.’ So then we decided to offer that.
“If you can have a coffee shop within a book store, why not have a coffee shop and guitar store together?” she added.
While Ray initially thought The Guitar Café would start out mostly selling moderately priced guitars, he quickly discovered that there was a viable market for the higher-end instruments as well.
“We thought we would peak out at some of those mid-range guitars, somewhere in the $750 to $1,000 price range,” Ray said. “What we’re finding is we sell a lot of guitars up to about the $600 price range and then there’s a jump and we sell almost an equal number of guitars in the $1,500 to $3,000 range.”
In addition to selling guitars, food and drink, The Guitar Café also offers its patrons the ability to engage with qualified instructors (vetted by Ray himself) through workshops and one-on-one lessons. As if the spot didn’t already have enough oars in the water, the café also hosts a weekly open mic session on Fridays for new and up-and-coming performers to get their toes wet in a more intimate setting.
The end of November marked the café’s one-year anniversary, and Paola Rutledge said she’s enjoyed her time at the helm of The Guitar Café.
“It’s been well-received,” she said. “We’re achieving what we wanted to, which is to kinda become a community meeting place, with a lot of musicians. It’s been great.”
— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at ntwietmeyer@sound publishing.com.