EVERETT — With spring approaching and the lease up in April, Martha Quall, the owner of The Sisters Restaurant, began taking steps to shutter the funky Everett establishment that’s nourished thousands of diners since opening in 1983.
In November, Quall closed the restaurant due to a state ban on indoor dining and laid off the employees.
There had been some talk that Sisters might reopen this year, but with the deadline looming, Quall told the landlord and vendors that Sisters, at 2804 Grand Ave., would not be reopening.
“She was about to shut it down and sell everything,” said Victoria “Tory” Quall, one of the sister chefs for whom the restaurant was named.
In February, Tory broke the news to her son, Jackson Quall, that Sisters was no more.
After managing the family-owned restaurant for 37 years, “she was ready to retire,” Jackson said. “COVID was the last straw.”
“Martha, my grandmother, had six kids — all daughters,” Jackson said. “Half of them, including my mom, were employed at the restaurant.”
In 2018, there were 15,690 eating and drinking establishments in Washington, according to the National Restaurant Association and the Washington Hospitality Association.
A Washington Hospitality Association survey found that last year, through September, more than 2,000 restaurants closed permanently.
Some of Jackson Quall’s earliest memories are of sitting at a table inside the dining room at Sisters, reading picture books.
“They started the restaurant in 1983 and I was born in 1985,” said Quall, 36. His first job, when he was 13, was washing dishes at the restaurant.
Quall runs a music curation company in Seattle that provides recorded music for stores and gyms, but before that he spent years working in the food service industry.
His girlfriend, Archie Chandler, 29, is a graduate of the culinary arts program at South Seattle College. In her teens and early 20s, she worked as a line cook at a score of Seattle restaurants.
Together, they talked about opening their own eatery “many, many times,” said Quall. “It was our long-term plan.”
Now his family’s restaurant hung in the balance.
“I had to decide whether to step in,” Quall said, though by the time he heard the news, it was already looking like a lost cause.
“When I talked to my grandma, she framed it like I was too late,” he said. “I had to move quickly.”
He crunched the numbers.
Chandler, who lives in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, checked out Everett and liked what she saw — a growing waterfront scene and a cluster of new stores downtown.
“We decided it was worth giving it a shot,” Quall said. “We reached out to the old staff to let them know our intentions and see if they were interested in coming back.”
‘Do you want to come back?’
Burton Clemans worked at Sisters for eight years before being laid off in November. Hired as a cashier in 2012, Clemans later contributed to the menu with recipes for Cuban sandwiches and Pad Thai.
Two months ago, he got a text from Jackson Quall.
It said: “We’re thinking about reopening. Do you want to come back?”
Clemans’ replied: “Of course.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s changed and what’s new,” said Clemans. “They’ve updated the point-of-sale system,” Clemans said. “It should help the line go a lot quicker. Before it was out the door and up the sidewalk and around the corner,” he joked.
Most of all, Clemans is excited to see “his regulars,” the restaurant’s longtime customers. “They keep me coming back,” he said.
Linnea Covington, a serious regular, rejoiced when she learned that Sisters would reopen. Covington and her husband, Chris, have ordered off the menu for 25 years, “three times a week,” she said.
She’s a fan of the soups. Her husband can’t get enough of the carrot cake. “This is great news. I can’t wait to tell my friends,” Covington said.
Sister chefs Tory Quall (Jackson’s mom), Gretchen Quall and Kathy Pedigo will return to the kitchen.
The only Quall who won’t be back on staff is Martha Quall.
“She’s going to retire and enjoy her freedom,” Jackson Quall said.
Good grandson that he is, “I’m giving her free lunch privileges for life,” Quall said.
A new look
Quall and Chandler plan to keep all the menu favorites — burgers, soups, quiche, muffins and desserts.
“I want the people who’ve been coming her for 30 years to get the food they love,” Chandler said.
There will be some changes. Sisters will offer more vegan options, and the coffee menu will be enhanced to “be more on par with an espresso shop,” Quall said.
Takeout service began Monday. The newly redecorated dining room reopens June 14.
“Before, the dining room was a hodgepodge of color,” Jackson Quall said. “We’re going for off-white and a pleasant airy blue. I put some nice wainscoting on the walls and got rid of those harsh fluorescent lights.”
The whimsical table markers, handed out to customers to help servers identify their orders, will stay — though some of the plastic toys are headed for the donation bin.
Two days before reopening, the three sisters were huddled over the stove at the closed restaurant trying out a new recipe. The savory aroma wafted through the kitchen and traveled out the door.
“It’s a fresh start,” said sister chef Kathy Pedigo.
Tory, Jackson’s mom, beamed. “I am so happy he stepped in,” she said. “We were just going to let it die.”
Janice Podsada; email@example.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods