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Alpenland’s unique recipe for success
The word is out that Alpenland Delicatessen and Restaurant, a venerable Mercer Island institution, is for sale.
Apenland was opened 37 years ago by Katrin and Gunter Bonnofsky. It’s a traditional European style establishment, with a small retail area featuring European imports. On any given day you can find bockwurst, polish sausage and sauerkraut as well as a Reuben sandwich or homemade quiche. In the retail section of Alpenland, you can find wonderful European chocolates, cookies and condiments.
When the Bonnofskys sold Alpenland to Linda and Toni Gadola 14 years ago, they said they’d stay on awhile to teach them the tricks of the trade. But they stayed on and are still there as employees.
It’s like one big happy family, with several employees who have also been at Alpenland since day one.
Toni Gadola was born and raised in Switzerland; Linda was born and raised in Seattle. The couple lived in Switzerland for eight years, but moved to Seattle where Toni went to South Seattle Culinary school to become a chef.
“Having lived in Switzerland I came here for years with my kids to eat,” Linda said.
When the Bonnofskys decided to sell, knowing Linda and Toni as regulars and that he was a chef, they simply made a phone call, and the Gadolas bought the place. They took the advice of the Bonnofskys; “don’t change it.”
Within a year, Toni developed heart problems. Now, his health is forcing them to retire and sell what has become a family affair.
But they want a new owner who won’t change things, either.
The Gadolas had wanted to expand into dinner, Sunday brunch, perhaps have a beer garden and catering, all possibilities for a new owner. Linda Gadola said she will stay on to educate a new owner on all of their contacts locally and in Europe.
“And there’s quite a few of them,” she said.
Their meat comes from a source in downtown Seattle and a company in New York that imports from Germany. Produce is sourced locally, with Toni Gadola picking up everything and still making the soup fresh every morning.
Then, Thursday through Saturday, Alpenland is filled to their 52-seat maximum.
“Those are our pretzel roll days,” Linda Gadola said.
To eat one is to believe how good it is. The Gadolas get the rolls from a bakery in Tacoma. It’s like biting into the most delicious fluffy pretzel ever, but it’s a roll. Linda Gadola said it got to the point on Thursdays when high school let out, kids were lined up at the door to get one, with boys downing maybe five at a time - carb overload!
“We transform at Christmas,” she said. “We have about 200 nutcrackers imported from Germany, then we import thousands of dollars worth of European Christmas goodies.”
Gunter Bonnofsky said they have customers who have been coming regularly for years from Sequim, Bainbridge Island and Seattle. The closure of German delicatessens in Renton, Auburn and the University District of Seattle have made them even more of a destination.
“Every one is sad, very sad,” Bonnofsky said. “For Lory and Helga it’s home, as well as for me. I’m a little advanced in age, so I’ll retire.”
Lory Beetz has been working at Alpenland since day one, and Helga Pelroy for 36 years. They, too, will more than likely retire, but Gadola said some of the younger employees want to stay - if Alpenland stays the same.
“We’ve been such a family here,” Linda Gadola said. “We step in and help when someone is sick or on vacation.
“We have the most loyal customers,” she continued. “Some come every day. It’s going to be sad when the four of us (the Gadolas and Bonnofskys) leave.”
However, Linda Gadola said she plans to come back and enjoy lunch with her girlfriends.
Alpenland is listed with Mark Peizer of Lange and Peizer Commercial Real Estate, LLC.
For more information call (206) 937-3300.