With spring fast approaching, a two businesses along the Grande Ronde River are gearing up for fishermen and other visitors.
“It means that it goes from being dead as all get-out to people start showing up,” says Doug Witherrite, who runs the Wenaha Bar and Grill in Troy.
He’s leased the business for 2½ years from Shilo Inn across the road, where there’s also lodging and RV hookups. The Wenaha has been open since the early 1900s, though not always in the current building, Witherrite says.
While he’s eager for fishermen to show up, they’re not his only clientele.
“It’s not even particularly fishing; it’s just people showing up,” he says. “People from Lewiston or wherever drive down here and have breakfast.”
Lewiston, Idaho, is about 57 miles away to the northeast.
Witherrite enjoys the off-the-grid status of life in Troy. His establishment only takes cash or checks — no credit or debit cards.
“The old sign in town used to say, ‘Keep Troy green; bring cash,’ “ he laughs. “The other day someone called me from Google and wanted to put me on it. I said I don’t need Google; word-of-mouth seems to work pretty good. So I got Google off my back.”
He says the favorite items on the restaurant’s menu are the chicken-fried steak and the Wenaha Burger. The latter is a burger with bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickle “and all the fixin’s,” he says.
The restaurant decor includes deer-antler handle on the front door, elk heads adorning the walls and even a stuffed beaver.
Witherite likes living and working in Troy.“It’s been a nice place to meet a lot of good people,” he says. “The way I know is I got to trust a lot of people without credit cards. I send them home with how much they owe me written on the back of (his business card) and they send it in the mail.”
But do they always pay?
“Pretty near all of it,” he says.
The Wenaha can be contacted by calling 541-828-7773.
Farther down-river, but more on the beaten path, Boggan’s Oasis sits along the Lewiston Highway at the bottom of Rattlesnake Grade where Rattlesnake Creek spills into the Grande Ronde.
It’s been owned by Bill and Farrel Vail since 1984.
“We bought this as an out-of-town place,” Farrel Vail says.
The business has known its share of ups and downs. In November 2017, the building burned, but the Vails rebuilt it the following year, Vail said.
The river and it’s fish govern their business. At present, the steelhead are running, and the Oasis is sponsoring a steelhead fishing derby that ends March 28. It brings a lot of people to their door.
Now 87, Farrel Vail and her husband are content to let employees do most of the work. They have between three and six employees depending on business.
“When we built it, we didn’t even hire anybody for 20 years,” she said.
Boggan’s can be contacted by calling 509-256-3372.