When you think of PUD, you think of electric bills and field trucks and live wires and chain saws, right?
Well, think again.
Think of chicken soup and banana cream pie and meatloaf sandwiches and French toast.
What’s up with that?
Comfort food and coffee is served at a deli in the lobby of Snohomish County PUD headquarters at 2320 California St. in Everett.
Like the power, it’s for public consumption.
“We probably feed 150 people a day,” said Cassie Golden, who co-owns PUDeli with her husband, Dennis. “I’ve had people tell us we’re Everett’s best kept secret.”
Cassie started out as an employee at the deli in 1999.
“I thought this would be fun, a little something to do to get out of the house,” she said. Dennis, a Navy retiree, was working at Boeing and their two kids were grown.
A few months later, the deli came up for sale. The Marysville couple bought it and the deli became their second home — and a place for them to show off their University of Oregon Ducks pride with banners and swag. The Navy brought them to Washington from Oregon, but they stayed crazy Ducks fans.
Non-Ducks fans are welcome and are given the same TLC.
“It says we’re open from 7 to 4,” Cassie said. “We get here by 6 in the morning, so if you come in at 6:05 and need coffee I’m going to get you some.”
They’ve expanded from their original menu of mainly soup and sandwiches. Now they also have lattes and Red Bull, wraps and protein bars.
Drip coffee is 75 cents. Chicken and dumpling soup is $2.25 a cup.
In the past 17 years, they’ve taken two vacations, both times to Alaska. They have five employees and two are currently on maternity leave.
Dennis, 66, does the shopping, chopping and makes a mean tuna salad. Cassie, 55, does the cooking, serving and talking.
And yes, they pay for utilities, just like everybody else.
“We do simple home-cooking,” Cassie said. “A lot of these folks are working during storms, out in the elements and we try to offer them something that’s going to warm them up on those cold nasty days. That’s what we do.”
Office workers are their mainstay, and they know many by name.
“We know when they are having babies and grandbabies,” Cassie said. “I used to have to lean over the counter to see the little ones and now they’re showing me their college diplomas, which is such a cool thing.”
Some have been behind the counter.
“A number of them used to work for us here while they were going to school and now work for the PUD,” Dennis said.
PUD engineer James Robbins comes for more than his favorite tuna and soup combo. “They hold conversations,” he said. “They have a great heart.”
He recently scored a free piece of leftover cream pie.
Daily specials are posted on a board. Thursday is special dessert day. The couple also sell donated pastries to raise money for Relay for Life, a passion because of a family history of cancer.
Diners don’t have to bring money every time.
“Folks can do a prepay, give us a little money and we run a tab for them,” Cassie said. “The IT department says, ‘We can help you get that put on a computer.’ ”
“We write it down the old-fashioned way,” she said.
“We have a three-ring binder,” Dennis added.
Everett retirees Bob and Peggy Vanderway have been regulars since discovering PUDeli a dozen years ago on a stop to pay their bill.
“It’s away from the busy restaurants where they’re slinging hash,” Peggy said. “It’s affordable and they treat us well. We don’t always find that. When you’re an older person and you go places, people can be rude.”
“Or they sit us back in the corner,” Bob added.
At PUDeli, it’s sit where you want or can.
Peak demand applies here. The eight tables with four chairs fill up around noon or when events are going on in the PUD auditorium.
I had lunch at PUDeli with Herald social media guru Ben Watanabe.
He called it an “electric dining experience.”
“Walking in it had a corporate cafeteria vibe, but the folks behind the counter and register quickly blew that away with a friendly greeting,” he said. “The daily special sign posted a few feet from the counter helped dispel that image, too, with the siren’s song of a chicken Waldorf in a pita, or as the Snohomish County PUD Twitter account later claimed it, #ChickenPitaDay.”
I can’t take Ben anywhere without him finding a hashtag.
“There are plenty of places to grab a sandwich,” he said. “But there’s a unique feeling that anything could happen when you’re hobnobbing with the team that makes sure the lights turn on and the dams keep churning.”
ABCs about PUD
The Snohomish County Public Utility District has about 337,000 electric customers and about 20,000 water customers. The service territory covers 2,200 square miles, including all of Snohomish County and Camano Island.
The main PUD office at 2320 California St. has payment counters and customer service. In addition to the PUDeli serving the public, there is a 300-seat auditorium/theater for community plays and events as well as conferences and seminars.
The annual holiday bazaar with about 60 vendors is 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 9. Vendor fees are donated to Helping Hands, an employee-funded program that provides financial assistance to low-income seniors for their winter electric bills.
More at www.snopud.com or by calling 425-783-1000.