Wednesday afternoon, hours before the Igo Inn was supposed to star in its celebratory spaghetti-night opening, the historic IOOF building looked ready for business.
Tables displayed white tablecloths, water glasses, folded napkins and silverware. Dozens of sparkling wine glasses hung upside down from a rack over the bar.
The Igo Inn remained dark and quiet all Wednesday.
The opening never occurred because chef and Igo Inn owner Rich Buck of Lewiston died suddenly Aug. 14, days short of realizing his lifelong dream to open his own restaurant.
Wednesday inside the Igo Inn, Buck's wife, Chris Bennor, took a break from sorting through restaurant-vendor paperwork and stacks of artwork created by the couple's 6- and 8-year-old sons - material Bennor hoped to postmark in time for Trinity County Fair entries.
"Normalcy," she said with a small shrug. "You know?"
Bennor and I met and chatted over a kayak purchase at the Igo Town Yard sale, which is where I learned the Igo Inn had new owners. She became a frequent commenter and friend of anewscafe.com, and was mentioned in Kelly's story when Bennor and Buck hosted an open house with wine-tasting and picture-hanging in anticipation of the Aug. 19 opening.
I met up with Bennor Wednesday inside wood-floored Igo Inn. She talked at length about life with Buck, the man who wooed her until she finally agreed to marry him. Sometimes she laughed, other times she cried, but through it all she described her husband as someone she loved, admired, respected and already missed. (See Buck Rich's story, here.)
We also talked about the Igo Inn's future.
Bennor said she adored the Igo Inn from the start and bonded with it during the five months she and Buck worked on making the place their own. They painted, they added a new cooling system, they rewired, they had work done on the well, they installed a new hood/venting system, they bought brand new equipment to make the Igo Inn the kind of place Buck had always wanted.
"It was such a pleasure to be his partner to help him fulfill this dream of having his own restaurant," she said. "But I have two young children, I have a full-time job, I volunteer, I'm president of the parent club. I cannot run a restaurant."
Bennor and Buck bought the Igo Inn for about $175,000, and quickly invested more than $70,000 in improvements in the Igo Inn. Now, she says the Igo Inn is literally a turn-key operation. The only thing left is a business and customers. Still, it's not Bennor's dream.
What will she do?
She said that her first choice is to sell the Igo Inn for $295,000. That price includes all the equipment, tables, chairs, dishes - everything except some personal items and pieces of family furniture.
Bennor said she'd also include the couple's front-of-house training manual, and she'd be happy to help train the owners in the art of successful restaurant management. The couple ran a popular restaurant at the Lewiston Hotel some years back where Buck had customer "groupies" who'd wait more than an hour for a table, which might be how he achieved the unthinkable.
"We actually made money in the winter up there," she said with a smile.
Her second choice is to sell the Igo Inn to a buyer who could put down a considerable sum, and then she could carry back a note.
Her last choice, and least-favorite option is to lease the restaurant.
"I'd hate to do that because I'd have no way of knowing whether someone would trash the place, or steal things," she said. "If the Pope is looking to buy, maybe I'd consider him. Basically, it would have to be a very special person."
For now, she'll list the Igo Inn with Brad Maloney, the realty agent who helped the couple buy the Igo Inn in March. Maloney, who happens to be a cousin of Roy Maloney, the Igo Inn's previous owner, said both men were stunned by the news of Buck's death and the state of limbo in which the Igo Inn now stands.
"Rich and Chris were the perfect team," Brad Maloney said.
"We were so looking forward to seeing someone one like them take control of that building, and giving it what it needed. It's just so incredibly sad, and the kicker is Chris has these these two little boys."
Maloney said the couple did a masterful job of connecting with the community, of attending local events like the farmers markets and town yard sales, of introducing themselves and being inclusive in a way that made people anticipate the Igo Inn's opening.
"Everyone in the Igo/Ono area was just chomping at the bit to see it open," Mahoney said. "Everyone is just crushed."
Questions about the Igo Inn property may be directed to Brad Maloney at Coldwell Banker C&C Properties Westside, 1801 Buenaventura Blvd., Redding CA 96001, telephone 530.646.9076, email email@example.com or click here for his website . Click here for sale information about the Igo Inn.
P.S. Chris Bennor would like to hire a few people with pickups to help load and deliver some personal belongings from Igo to Lewiston. If you're interested please contact Bennor through the Igo Inn website at theigoinn.com.