Teri Carpenter owned and managed the U Street Pub for almost a decade. The Signal talked to her shortly after she announced a change in ownership.
Q: When did you take over the U Street Pub?
Carpenter: July 21, 2011.
Q: What was it before?
Carpenter: It was the Goose Hollow for about five years, and they struggled. It sat empty for a little bit, then the Harbor Bite picked it up, and they were here for about a year and a half. I happened to find them on Craigslist of, all places. It seemed like they were giving it away. I should have been suspicious at that point.
Q: You moved here to open the restaurant?
Carpenter: I was living in Carnation, Washington. I’d been looking for restaurants and a bar for years. I thought, the Oregon Coast is a choice.
Q: Had you done restaurant work before?
Carpenter: I came from the bar and tavern industry mostly. Twenty-five, 35 years, all aspects of the business. Managed other people. Never owned. After I bought this place I had to call some of my old bosses and apologize.
Q: So you bought the Harbor Bite in 2011 and made it into the U Street Pub. Did you have success right off the bat?
Carpenter: The first two years were the worst years of my life. I’d taken my life savings to buy the sellers out. I had absolutely nothing to start with. And I worked 15 hours a day for two years straight. That’s why now when I see college kids crying on TV, they don’t want to pay back their student loans, I say, “Get a job. You’re crying to the wrong person.”
Q: Did you work in the kitchen, the front?
Carpenter: I did it all. The summertime was good enough. Piece of cake! Then September happened. A couple years of that wore me out. I worked from 7 in the morning to 11 at night.
Q: But you survived to become a neighborhood hangout.
Carpenter: Tried. I think we have a pretty good crowd. It took about five years to develop a clientele. Any place else, you’re going to develop the same clientele in six months. In Seaside you’ve got 5,000 people and 16 places to eat. A lot of the homes here are VRDs (vacation rental dwellings). You think of all this great potential, but mostly these homes sit empty. It’s basically feast or famine.
Q: This year?
Carpenter: Extremely different. Just as we got to the month where we finally put a little jingle back in the pocket, she shut us down.
Carpenter: The governor. The only way to describe it is, to what they’ve done to the business owners, it’s like holding your hands behind your back and bobbing for apples in a bucket of hand sanitizer. When everybody opened up, nobody thinks, well you sell food. Well I don’t sell food this way. I’m not a to-go place. My food doesn’t travel well, so it’s not a good representation. So now you have people complaining on Yelp about your food. It took us five years to find your groove in this town. ... Then to start a whole new business with a different rule set.
Q: What would you like to see? Full open? Reduced social distancing? No masks?
Carpenter: I think there could be a little more leeway. My sense of it, if you have doors open, windows open, fresh air coming through, you should be good.
Q: Do you think Seaside businesses are unified on this, or split?
Carpenter: My sense is other owners would agree with me.
Q: Had you thought about selling before the pandemic?
Carpenter: For about eight-and-a-half years.
Q: Are you going to retire? What are you going to do?
Carpenter: I think I want to wait until the election and see how things how roll out. If they don’t get Trump out of office, it’s going to be four more years of COVID.
Q: Are you serious?
Carpenter: I’m totally serious.
Q: Your political views are complicated.
Carpenter: My grandfather was with the union. A Democrat. I grew up around the table with stories of people getting their arms broke at the picket line.
Q: What is your party affiliation?
Carpenter: I’m more of a libertarian.
Q: You don’t like Kate Brown, and you don’t like Trump, either?
Carpenter: It’s not that I want to vote for Trump, but I don’t want to vote for Hillary, or Biden either.
Q: What’s your next move?
Carpenter: I’d like to find a place in town, live here awhile. Get my stuff caught up. I don’t even know if I like Seaside or not. I don’t know anything but the inside of the store. I think it’s a great town, but I’ve never gotten to enjoy it. I don’t even get out to the beach. I went clamming for the first time.
Q: What do you want to reflect on?
Carpenter: It all happened so fast ... It’s like being in a band. First you play for anybody. Then if you stick with it, people want to hear your music, the shows get easier, the room is more fun. That’s kind of what this is all about, putting on a show, trying to keep the same show going night after night. By the time you get tight, it’s closing night. I’ll be offstage definitely until after the election probably at least six months, then start looking around.
Q: How has reaction been from the public?
Carpenter: The sum of it, you don’t think anybody is going to care if you’re open or closed. The kid at the grocery store next door said people are pissed that I’m closing. There are people saying “I’m going to miss you.” There’s so much love out there.
Q: How does that make you feel?
Carpenter: It makes me feel like I’m making a mistake. Well, it’s like your family, “You can’t move, you have to stay, and then you stay, and the next week they got a job and move away on.”
Sometimes in life, we don’t see or appreciate what our value is to our community, or what our communities’ value means to us and our lives. And as it is, often in life, it’s not until much later that we genuinely know, what that value truly is. However, fortunately for me, I already know what that is, I consider myself blessed to have been known, and have known Seaside. With much sincerity, I hope that I know it for many years to come. Thank you, Seaside.