As the bouncing beats of Louis Prima jazz played in the background, more than 70 people packed into The Den, a small bistro in downtown Curlew, to mingle and enjoy food during a recent open house hosted by Mike Stanton, the owner. The event was held in partnership with the Curlew Community Church, where Mike worships, to raise money for the BESTOW Project, a Christ-centered, non-profit organization founded last year by another member of the church, Leah Foster.
The charity provides help to widows and orphans in Hyderabad, India, one of India's most heavily populated cities. Stranded on the streets of this city, struggling to survive crime, poverty, and sickness, are countless widows and orphans who need help. The BESTOW Project takes these women and children off the streets and places them in homes where they receive health care, food, housing, schooling, and Biblical training.
The open house began after church service was over on Sunday, March 4, when the congregation of the church walked over to The Den and bowed their heads while Pastor Roger Thiele gave the opening prayer and blessing to start the fundraiser.
The food was free, but donations were gladly accepted. Mike appreciated the overflow crowd. "I liked the high turnout. I hoped it would create interest in other people." Vivian, one of The Den's talented staff members, made sure the coffee kept flowing. "It was so busy, for an hour I didn't even get a chance to look up once from the espresso machine."
Mike believes strongly in the importance of helping others. "I want the business to be associated with our church. Whatever we have belongs to the Lord. That's the way it's supposed to work. Every area of our life should be devoted to our Lord, not just our Sundays and Wednesday evenings."
The Den hasn't been in town for long. Just a few months old, the doors first opened to customers on December 5. The site used to be a coffee shop and health food store that sold coffee, pastries, vitamins, and supplements. After Mike purchased the building from the previous owner, he remodeled the interior to create a restaurant that's more bistro than coffee shop.
Mike elaborated. "The Den's specialty is panini sandwiches, a heated, Italian-style grilled sandwich." The most popular sandwiches are the chipotle turkey and Swiss, the Reuben, and the roast beef, blue cheese, and apple. "People don't appreciate how good roast beef, blue cheese, and apple taste together until they try it."
In addition to delicious desserts like peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake, both big hits at the open house, The Den's menu offers a variety of specialty coffee drinks like mochas and lattes, and the Americano (espresso and hot water), as well as specialty teas like London Fog, which is made by blending Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and honey or vanilla.
Mike is passionate about the quality of his food. "It's always fresh. We either make it ourselves or buy locally. Our coffee beans are roasted by Scott Brothers Coffee Co., and the bagels are baked fresh by The Baker's Stone in Republic."
Mike wants The Den to be a place where people feel welcome to come and visit, talk with friends, meet new people, study for school, or simply hang out. "Atmosphere is the most important thing. Good music. Good food." Customers can also connect with their friends online through free Wi-Fi Internet access.
Though The Den is new to Curlew, Mike has a long history with the area. His family has lived in Curlew for over 200 years on land near Toroda Creek. His father was born there, as was his grandmother, his great-grandmother, and his great-great-grandmother.
After graduating from Curlew High School, Mike moved to Seattle and became a professional arborist. "Arborists do many things," Mike explained. "Consulting, tree removal, tree pruning, law—providing testimony in court, tree care and maintenance." The company he started is called Seattle Tree Service. He recently turned over the managing of the day-to-day operations to others and moved back to Curlew to stay.
Although he now runs The Den, Mike is still an active arborist. He does the annual tree pruning, cutting, and removal for the P.U.D. He described the scale of the work. "There are over 800 miles of power lines in Ferry County, from the Columbia River to Canada, and west from the top of Boulder and Sherman to Hanging Rock outside of Wauconda." From the end of snow to the beginning of snow, Mike and his crew have the responsibility to protect Ferry County's power lines. "Nearby trees and hazardous trees must be removed. There needs to be ten feet of clearance."
Throughout his years working in the forests of Washington, Mike led teams of men. Now his team is all women. Three young ladies, Vivian, Evie, and Janae, are his indispensable permanent staff.
Vivian enjoys working at the Den. "I love it! I'd work there for free. I get to be creative in the kitchen. It's a bright spot in the community." Evie makes one of The Den's best pastries, the Pecan Tassie. Each tassie is a miniature pecan pie. Evie won't tell how she makes them; her recipe is a closely guarded secret. Mike jokingly volunteered that the conversations Vivian, Evie, and Janae have at work are completely different from what he's used to hearing while pruning trees in the forests with the guys.
Located at 9 River St. in downtown Curlew, The Den is open Monday thru Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Extended evening hours will start this spring. For more information call 779-4437. Check out their Facebook page "Curlew's Den" for daily specials.