The HideAway turns 5

Joan Spaulding, HideAway Coffeehouse and Winebar

I prompted HideAway Coffeehouse and Winebar proprietor Joan Spaulding earlier this week to hold up the issue of the May issue of the NEG.

It has a feature (page 40) by Felicia Crosby on the HideAway which is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month

Here’s the full text:

The pictures on the long hall of the HideAway say it all. Three large sepia-toned portraits of the Spaulding family – Jim, Joan and their six offspring – illustrate what makes the HideAway such an irresistible destination for a light meal, a glass of wine, or a mid-morning muffin. This very family business feels like home, and when you’re there you’re part of the family.

HideAway in May 2011 NEGOccupying a light and bright space once part of Jacobsen’s Department Store, the HideAway boasts soaring tin ceilings, period moldings and fixtures, and tall windows that overlook busy Division Street. Walls are painted in warm shades of honey and saffron, the furniture is comfortable enough to curl up into, and the nook and cranny eating spaces create the most delightfully intimate places to talk, work and read. Celebrating its fifth birthday in May, the HideAway is convivial and unhurried, exuding a breezy welcome that makes it easy to fantasize about owning this little spot of gastronomic heaven; how hard could it be to own something so fun to be in?

Joan Spaulding has just come in from the daily food delivery to Prairie Creek (they have the food contract for that school as well as St. Dominic) and she laughs when she remembers coming up with the idea of starting this venture. “We knew nothing about coffee shops,” she says about opening the James Gang in 2004, the couple’s first venture into the business. “Neither of us were even coffee drinkers; I don’t think I’d ever had a latte!” But they saw a need and, “that’s what we thought – ‘how hard can this be?’”

An energetic couple – with six young helpers in tow – the Spauldings decided to go for it. “We definitely do things by the seat of our pants,” Joan says. After getting the James Gang (on Hwy. 3) up and running, Jim and Joan began to yearn for a location in-town; when the Division Street space became available, they jumped in and decided to make this one a wine bar, too.

“We knew nothing about wine, either,” Joan laughs, “so we went to California for a week and spent some time in the vineyards.” With both places busy, it didn’t take long for the Spauldings to realize they had a little too much of a good thing on their hands. After a year of juggling, they sold the James Gang to an employee and turned their prodigious energies to the HideAway. “We didn’t anticipate how much work there’d be – and there’s so much behind the scenes! But,” she smiles, “we didn’t realize how much fun it would be, either.” Some of that fun comes from the people who’ve helped make the HideAway special, both employees and customers.

“Our employees are amazing,” she says. “They know our priority is family fi rst – we’re blessed. There are times when customers think the employees are the owners and I think that’s because they treat the place like their own.” She looks around the bustling room for a moment. “We’re not traditional restaurant people – we’re not willing to eat, sleep and breathe work. We did that the first few years but then we realized we had to figure a balance or we couldn’t do this.” And how is that balance struck?

“We start very early,” Joan says, “but we’re done by 3, either Jim or I. Then we’re parents.” It’s as parents who put their own kids front and center that led Joan and Jim to connect with the Children’s Culture Connection, a Minnesota-based organization founded by Dina Fesler, and whose mission is to teach kids around the world about each other. “The HideAway has sort of been an office for Dina,” Joan laughs. The restaurant has hosted the results of some CCC projects, including a photography exhibit by Iraqi children. “We sent the kids the cameras and they took the pictures,” Joan explains. “We’ve had art exchanges and journaling exchanges with kids in other parts of the world. It teaches the kids about each other, and about how much they’re all like each other.” Active in the Culture Connection for about four years now, Joan is effusive in her praise of Dina and the work she’s doing. She tells a story to illustrate this.

“Dina was in Afghanistan recently,” she begins,” in a refugee camp. The tribal leader brought a very sick baby to her and begged her to take it – Dina tried to explain that they had no resources, but the baby was so sick. And then from the tent behind the man came this crying; the mother wasn’t allowed to come outside the tent but she was terrified that Dina was going to take the baby forever. So Dina went into the tent and, with a translator, talked to the woman. She told her they would just take the baby to the hospital. No one thought the baby would live, but it did!” Joan shakes her head a little. “Next time Dina went back, a number of other people brought their sick children to her, so Dina just e-mailed people – ‘any money you can send will go immediately to these kids!’ “Three hundred eighty-six little ones were saved.”

Joan is quiet a minute, and then says simply, “Actions speak louder than words. They come back tenfold.”

And hearing stories of employees who regularly go above and beyond, and of customers who help Joan haul stock; noting cheerful countertop reminders about money not being the end-all and watching the happy folk come and go, a feeling of utter contentment settles in. Great time for coffee and a muffin.

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