EDMONDS — What do you do when you’ve been priced out of the real estate market, and now you’ve got a hefty down payment just sitting in the bank?
Record low mortgage rates, a shortage of homes for sale and frenzied bidding wars have driven median home prices in Snohomish County up 24% year-over-year in April, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Kris and Kali Kelnero, the owners of Kelnero, an Edmonds cocktail lounge, were in just such a pickle. They recently decided to suspend their search for a three-bedroom home because “it’s insane out there,” Kris Kelnero said of the housing market.
“Now, what do you do with your down payment?” Kelnero said. “If it just sits in the bank, you’re losing money.”
When an opportunity to put those dollars to work cropped up, the couple had their answer: Put it toward a second business.
“By rolling that capital into this place, we can open it for very little debt,” Kelnero said.
By “this place,” Kelnero is referring to Vinbero, a new wine bar the Edmonds couple opened this month at 203 Fifth Ave. S in downtown Edmonds.
If the address sounds familiar, it’s because it is the former location of The Cheesemonger’s Table, a casual cafe and gourmet food shop that closed in April after a nine years.
Last year, the cafe’s owners, Strom Peterson and Maria Montalvo, began searching for the right person or people to take over the business.
The Kelneros, who opened nearby Kelnero at 545 Main St. 18 months ago, came to mind.
“Maria and I know that they care about Edmonds, and we are so impressed with their attention to detail and commitment to offering every customer something special,” Peterson said.
Turning the former cafe into a wine bar — the Kelneros’ plan — was an appealing concept, Montalvo said. “We are so looking forward to their fantastic interpretation of a wine bar in the beautiful, welcoming space they are creating,” Montalvo said.
Former Cheesemonger customers will find similar menu items at Vinbero, Kelnero said.
“To start, we’ll have 10 sandwiches and five salads and 20 wines by the glass, and then build it up from there,” Kelnero said.
Vinbero will also carry a take-out selection of cheeses, chocolates and wines.
“We intend to preserve the legacy of great cheese and food built by Strom and Maria, and expand on that with a wine program,” Kali Kelnero said. “Cheese and wine are a natural pair.”
Vinbero is expected to employ about a dozen people, including four former Cheesemonger employees, and will seat about 30.
In deciding what to name the new establishment, the Kelneros turned to Esperanto, a language created in the 1880s that was intended to unite the world linguistically.
When the Kelneros married, they both jettisoned their existing surnames, said to heck with a hyphenated name and chose a brand new last name, Kelnero, which means “bartender” in Esperanto.
In search of a name for their new wine bar, they again consulted the Esperanto dictionary and found Vinbero, which means grape.
Kris, who grew up in Mountlake Terrace, is handy in the kitchen and the bar, but he’s also handy with a saw. The restaurant’s wine racks and cabinetry are his handiwork, along with an abstract wooden art installation that hangs on the south wall.
The kitchen and serving area were already in place, saving time and money, Kelnero said. It was more a matter of freshening up the look with paint and bar stools, he said. “It wasn’t like building a whole new restaurant or tearing out the drywall and putting in electrical.”
Vinbero is yet another business opening during the pandemic, part of a larger, national trend that’s seen the number of new ventures surge.
Last year, 4.3 million new businesses were founded, according to an Internal Revenue Service measure, up 18% compared to 3.5 million in 2019. The upward trend continues this year. In March, more than 440,000 new businesses were founded, according to the IRS, which processes applications for Employer Identification Numbers.
The Kelneros’ new venture coincides with the arrival of their first baby, due in July. “The timing is a little crazy,” Kris Kelnero said. “But, why not take on a new baby and a business at the same time?”
As for the three-bedroom home they hoped to buy? For now, that search has been shelved.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods