Downtown gets a trendy lunch spot with gourmet choices
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff
Atmosphere is a huge factor in the restaurant and bar business.
And local business owners are seeing a growing atmosphere in downtown Chewelah. With the latest opening of the ChewVino Deli, the community can experience a place that feels right out of Portland or Seattle.
When Krisan and Rich LeHew opened up ChewVino three years ago, they wanted to give the Stevens County town their very own Rocket Market or urban dining space. Featuring excellent spirits and wines, they tapped into a nerve of local people wanting to drink in a comfortable space with good conversation and friends.
Judging by the response, the niche that the LeHews provide has been a hit. The ChewVino Deli opened weeks ago with a soft opening, but it was such a popular lunch spot, it basically turned into their regular opening.
“Chewelah is so supportive of us,” Krisan LeHew said. “We have great customers and they really care. They truly want to be here. We couldn’t be more humbled and thrilled at the response.”
ChewVino opened three years ago as what Krisan lovingly called a “speakeasy” since they were just off Main Street with a side entrance.
“We just knew we couldn’t do all what we wanted to do at once,” she said. “Along with Paul’s and the Brewery, we kind of saw that there was a growing niche in downtown Chewelah.”
But the couple wanted to do a business right – paying for things out of pocket instead of worrying about a loan to payback for expansions that they didn’t know would pan out or not.
The customer base came into the Wine Bar and the new deli has made it a tasty spot on main street for both a drink and a bite to eat. ChewVino now occupies the entirety of the old Chewelah Independent building, but instead of news stories, people are consuming select cuts, soups and salads. The deli now includes an expanded wine shop, delicatessens and gourmet sandwiches and soups.
“When the Independent moved to their current location, we kind of had to decide if we wanted to go all-in with the expansion or grow at all. So we decided to go all-in,” LeHew said. “The wine bar had been a hit. We have lots of wine drinkers in Chewelah but we also had people come in who didn’t drink but came for our food.”
Laura Cockrell, who grew up in Chewelah but had moved to Portland, came on board with the LeHews at ChewVino after coming back to Stevens County to help her mom. The three had tossed around ideas about what would work with their kitchen space at ChewVino and what wouldn’t.
“It was great because we could give an idea to Laura and she would tell us if we could do it or not off what we could do in our kitchen and how difficult it would be to do,” LeHew said.
Laura proved valuable in deciding how their deli space would work. One key feature of the new deli is it’s European cheese and meats being imported in. Cockrell now handles the deli, while Ariana Lockwood does the cooking for the winebar.
For the LeHews, the pace hasn’t slowed. They went through a big renovation project of converting the old Independent office into a deli, while raising their four-year old grandson since their daughter passed away.
“We work every day,” LeHew said. “We work 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.”
On days “off” they’ll travel to places like Idaho to buy wine products or do deep cleaning of the store. But they have fun doing it.
“We really try to visit every person who comes in,” LeHew said. “We want to know the story of our customers. Some have become really good friends.”
ChewVino is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sandwich and soup service ends after 2 p.m., but the deli case is open until 8 when items like the imported meats and cheeses are sold to go. The Wine Bar in the back opens at 3 p.m.