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Jeannie Bayless sat at a picnic table in the courtyard dining space behind her breakfast eatery on South Water Street, the ever present Ellensburg wind blowing her long, black hair just a bit.

The current Early Bird LLC at 412 S. Water St. was once a home in the now defunct Restricted District, which was a three-block by seven-block district that housed an estimated 800 minority residents of African American, Chinese, Japanese, and Native American decent in the early 1900s. The small homes on Water and Capitol are some of the oldest structures in the neighborhood.

She opened the Early Bird in 2017 and has been working on a dream ever since. She’s a small business owner with eight employees, but she knows how to dream big, and when the old Iron Horse taproom building on Main Street came available, she knew it was time to go big.

“The new place is three times bigger than our current location,” the owner/operator said with a laugh.

The new location on Main Street will not have the same character as the outdoor setting area under the Birch trees, which provide not only shade, but character to the setting. But the new location is right in the heart of the historic downtown Ellensburg, right next to The Hotel Windrow and you can’t beat that, she said.

“The old place is small, but it’s been a great place to work,” Bayless said. “We’ve been looking for a bigger spot for awhile now. The new place is a great location, right in the downtown corridor.

“The building has a lot of history. It’s iconic. There been a number of different restaurants at the location, each has had its history of successes in that spot. We’re looking to getting in and ready for business sometime in mid-March.”

Like most small business owners, Bayless has her hand in a number of different aspects, anywhere to running the front end to cooking. But it’s all good she said. They run a brunch menu all day with a variety of breakfast bowls, waffles, breakfast burritos and traditional items like biscuits and gravy.

The menu caters to the breakfast and lunch crowd, but it’s the people who make the business what it is, she said.

“My favorite part of owning a business is the community connection,” Bayless said. “I’ve made so many great friends. This last year has been incredible. It really showed how community oriented this town is.

“We’ve done OK, honestly, during the pandemic. It’s been a rollercoaster. There has been some uncertain times for sure, but I think this move opens up a new future. I’m planning to offer a dinner menu at some point. We’re branching out with the bigger dining room and still continue to serve great people here in Ellensburg.”

The plan is to shut down operations at the Water Street location on Sunday, Feb. 21 and begin setting up shop on Main Street with a target date sometime in mid-March.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way America does business, but for the Early Bird it’s a chance to expand the menu in a bigger dining facility. Jeannie Bayless has gone from dreaming big to going big, adding another restaurant to historical downtown Ellensburg.


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