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Matt and Maren McGowan

Dovetail Joint, Richland, Washington

Both sets of Matt's grandparents had farms in Iowa. At an early age, although he didn't always like it, he was working the farm so they didn't have to do it all. "It's one of those experiences you appreciate later and value," he says. "In the mid-west during winter, parts of the house will be closed off to keep a portion heated. That always included the kitchen, and it was the activity nexus; indoor or outdoor, you worked with your hands."

He attended college in the South, cooking his way through and realizing he did not want to teach English. Moving to Sacramento, California, he attended a culinary school in the early '90s (now defunct). "I loved Sacramento in those days, but as time went on it became gentrified and kitchen people couldn't afford to live there. Maren and I met there but as we considered having kids, we knew we couldn't afford a nice place to live."

Maren grew up in Pennsylvania. Wanting a change and having family in Sacramento, she moved there in her 20s. "I've always been into photography and worked in restaurants most of my adult life." Photography-wise, she has always worked solely with film. Working at Black & White Lab in Sacramento, she realized she knew enough to do custom photography on her own.

Both Maren and Matt worked at restaurants owned by the Paragary Restaurant Group but never at the same one, until Esquire Grill. As Sacramento changed, they decided to move elsewhere. They traveled to Portland and then looked at surrounding areas. They found Goldendale and rented a house Maren's parents owned. With their next month rent fast approaching in Sacramento, they decided to go for it, gave notice, and moved to Goldendale.

Matt began working at a Hood River restaurant that closed, then went to the Lyle Hotel in Lyle for two years. Maren got her real estate license, then an insurance license, then went back to real estate. She would fly to Sacramento to shoot wedding and commercial events, then return home and work part-time in restaurants. Maren finally convinced Matt to take a vacation and when they returned, they found that the owner of the Lyle Hotel had sold it to another chef. As a real estate agent, Maren came across a restaurant house. Their quick decision to take it ended in a nine-year run for the Glass Onion in Goldendale. In 2016, they added a food cart so they could cater events and increase their income.

Feeling they had outgrown their space and Goldendale, it was time to consider something new. Their kids are both artistic and opportunities in Goldendale limited. Maren's parents had a house in Richland, and they would visit. The kids got involved in various community arts programs, and Matt and Maren decided to move to Tri-Cities to start their food cart business. As they looked at Richland they realized there were a lot of corporate food chains and their type of food would stand out. There was more diversity as well. Since they already had a food presence in Richland with the food cart, they had a foot up. For a year after moving to Richland, they operated the Glass Onion and the food cart. "We feel lucky we were able to sell the Glass Onion in 2017, and have since sold the food cart," says Maren.

Opening Dovetail Joint in 2019 they found they had more nearby resources (farms, producers, wineries) and could elevate what they'd been doing in Goldendale. After four years in Richland, they purchased a home near where the kids attend/will attend high school that is near their restaurant.

October 2020

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