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From the moment customers see the double curve of its guitar-shaped counter, they know there’s something special about Silverdale, Washington’s month-old Guitar café & soda Fountain. This was launched by Ray and Paola Rutledge. The business combines food, music lessons and guitars. The co-owners say the unique business model developed naturally, driven by Ray’s passions for music, woodworking, and ice cream in his coffee, a drink he calls a lazy latte.
“The idea is, it’s a family-friendly place to hear music,” said Ray, who has spent most his life playing the guitar. He connected with instructor Ken Tissue, who needed a venue for his students. That inspired the Rutledges, and now Tissue is a teacher at a café. Paeola handles the food side of the business, making the sandwiches, soups, and salads from scratch with natural ingredients, including fresh herbs and berries from the couple’s home near Keyport.
They created their business to offer underage guitar students an alternative to performing and listening to live music in bars. The café, which seats 40, does not serve alcohol. Ray promises that every seat has a good view of the performance area, especially at the guitar-shaped counter, which he also said facilitates conversation because the curves allow people to see and talk to each other.
Paola was born in Italy and spend part of her childhood there. She is a cappuccino aficionado and the café serves expresso drinks in the Italian style with a double shot and in one traditional size. The house coffee is a custom blend from Ootopia and is served in a 20-ounce French press.
Lifelong woodworker Ray restores vintage guitars and sells them at the store for prices ranging from £80 to £320. He plans to carry local handmade instruments and is a full-time retailer for Cordoba and Guild Guitars.
The café partners with three music instructors and one song writing teacher, who provide lessons and workshops. Ray calls them ‘world-class’ and reels of their credentials: Craig Alden Dell is the U.S. invitational Guitar Competition winner; Roger Ferguson is national flatpick guitar champion; and Tissue, Ray’s guitar teacher, is a veteran of numerous Northwest bands and has been teaching for 30 years. Rounding out the group is nationally recognised songwriter Nyle Hartley.