What was once a popular dining spot in Port Orchard has been transformed into a destination for wine and women after its owners used misfortunes as a chance to change their business model.
It’s been over a year since co-owners Suanne Martin Smith and Paul Robinson announced the closure of Home Made Cafe, which offered an assortment of “clean comfort foods” to customers for nine years.
The restaurant, like many small local businesses, struggled during the pandemic. Staff shortages, conflicts with the city and a major change in cultural behavior contributed to the end of Home Made Cafe. Smith decided she had enough.
“People changed after COVID,” she said. “They were either super nice or super opinionated, and then having to survive the debacle of everyone having to learn to wear masks. I just said I can’t do it anymore.”
At first, being out of business was a sobering experience for Smith and was further complicated when Robinson was diagnosed with a blood clot. However, a conversation from that experience with doctors helped influence the new direction of their business.
“They said the only thing he can drink with alcohol was a glass of red wine. So I just bought a bunch of red wine, and then I was trying to figure out what we’re going to redo,” Smith said.
Those two subjects merged into Holy Water: A Heavenly Lounge. Aside from some furnishings used in the restaurant, Home Made Cafe’s space was transformed into an aesthetically pleasing wine bar that offers a wide variety of food and drinks.
The bar is decorated to resemble the spiritual feel of the old church building on the corner of Dekalb Street and Cline Avenue, which the business operates in the basement of. The bar top was constructed from some old wood from church pews, and the outside of the building continues to resemble the church that once was. Even the two uni-sex bathrooms, which are reserved for “Saints” and “Sinners,” have their own unique themes.
The bar quickly became a gathering place for the women in South Kitsap. Shortly after opening, Smith realized there was an influx of women at their bar and worked with that knowledge to promote her business as a place that champions them.
“There isn’t a lot of places for women to go anywhere, where you can take a group of girlfriends or a couple friends and go out and feel embraced and celebrated,” Smith said.
Smith pointed out the walls of the bar are largely covered in second-hand art depicting “beautiful, sexy women” as another testament to what she calls “an incredible species.”
There are some things Smith misses about the restaurant, like families that would bring kids in and the larger community that it could apply to. She said it was a challenge to start over, but what came from it is incredible.
“It was time for a change, and we love what we’ve created,” she said.
Looking to the colder season and to keep bringing in customers, Smith is also looking to expand services and events. Along with her regular Paint n’ Sip gatherings and upcoming trivia nights, the business will also begin opening for breakfast on Sundays in January. The bar is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.