PORT ORCHARD — Wales is thousands of miles and an ocean away from Port Orchard, but restauranteur Stacey Hayter hopes to bring a taste of the British Isles via her new cafe, Pinch Eats, which opened for luncheon service April 14 inside Josephine’s Mercantile, another new Bay Street business that is quietly revitalizing downtown.
Hayter said this week that she hopes to instill the loving spirit of her Welsh-born and raised grandmother through the meals she produces at the sunny, bright cafe ensconced at the rear of the quirky vintage and collectibles store.
“My grandma was a big influence on me,” Hayter said. “She loved to cook and so do I. I like to show love through cooking. That’s how my grandma was. It’s my creative outlet.”
So what overseas delicacy will she introduce to South Kitsap diners?
For Hayter, it will include Welsh cakes created from a recipe created by her grandmother. But, judging by the 250 or so diners who visited Pinch Eats on opening day, the cafe’s special biscuits recipe just might steal the culinary crown.
“Biscuits were popular with customers,” Hayter said of the cafe’s first day. “So many were ordered that we ran out.”
Fortunately, the restaurateur said her charming cafe’s menu will rotate offerings, and introduce lots of new ones so that diners won’t tire of any single meal.
It will be heavy on light offerings, she noted, supplemented by vegetables and fruit from the Port Orchard Farmers Market, which operates Saturdays just a block away along the waterfront.
If you’ve sampled meals offered by food trucks in Seattle, then you have a fair clue about the culinary style Hayter is seeking to share at her cafe.
She wants to keep her offerings “small and simple.” There’ll be a variety of entrees on the menu, much of it featuring ingredients in season.
“In the summer, we’ll have salads made from food bought from the Farmers Market,” Hayter said. “We have a vegetarian option every day and also sell baked goods.”
The Manhattan, Kansas native, who graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Kansas, has always leaned in the direction of cooking rather than copy editing.
Even before graduating from high school, she cast her lot with the food industry. And during her college years, she began a seven-year career with Marriott. Working her way up the food chain to managing banquets, Hayter later transitioned into private catering.
She acknowledged that being a caterer is hard, stressful work, but it’s an occupation she loves.
“In catering, I can cook for a thousand people all day long, no problem. It doesn’t intimidate me,” Hayter said.
But owning and running a cafe? “This is scarier to me,” she confided.
“I don’t know how many people are going to come in and how much food I need. It’s new, but I’ll figure it out.”
In a sense, running a restaurant is akin to wrestling an octopus. When you finally pin down one flailing arm, another loose one trips you up just when things seem under control.
It’s intimidating, for sure. But Hayter said the timing is right for her to take on this new culinary challenge.
“It just felt like it was time,” the graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle’s culinary program said.
“I needed a challenge and I wanted to bring something different to the table,” she said.
Her space inside Josephine’s Mercantile is spacious and cheery, a perfect setting for her to create a new gathering place “for people to hang out and have good food and a good experience.”
Hayter also said she likes the synergy it offers for the regular customers of Josephine’s who haven’t yet visited Pinch Eats — and vice versa. And the cafe operator is encouraged by the recent spurt of new businesses on Bay Street.
“I’m excited to have the other businesses opening up. It’s good for all of us,” she said.
An ancillary use of the space, the cafe owner hopes, will include private parties and business events.
Some of those Port Orchard businesses and organizations are already making use of the cafe space.
The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce had an after-hours networking event in the cafe earlier in the week. And later this year, Hayter said the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, a collection of downtown small business owners, will stage some of its morning businesses meetings there.
Hayter said she will continue catering out of the spacious cafe kitchen, which she extensively refurbished this spring.
“I used to rent this kitchen for some catering work. Back then, it was barely a kitchen,” she said. “It was a train wreck when we came in. The building used to be a skating rink and this [cafe space] was a concession stand.”
The business has been in operation for less than a week, but it’s tempting to project what the future might hold for Hayter and Pinch Eats. Gluten-free food dishes are a possibility. And breakfast service also may come to fruition, but Hayter and her husband Ryan have an 11-year-old school-age son who is busy getting ready for school in the morning, so that may have to wait until the summer.
For the budding small business owner, owning and operating a small cafe is now part of the challenge she sought out, borne from the spirit of her grandmother — and a desire to share her love of delectable food offerings to the Port Orchard community.
(Pinch Eats is inside Josephine’s Mercantile, 701 Bay St. in Port Orchard, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Those hours likely will expand into the late afternoons this summer.)