Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About Wallowa County chieftain. (Enterprise, Wallowa County, Or.) 1943-current | View Entire Issue (June 26, 2019)
Wallowa County Chieftain
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
‘WE’RE NOT CHANGING THE PLACE —
WE’RE HERE BECAUSE WE LIKE IT.’
By Steve Tool
Wallowa County Chieftain
While the forested and snow-
capped Wallowa Mountains and
the city of Joseph may get all the
tourist glory, Imnaha has its own
special landscape to offer. But
one of its most iconic landmarks
isn’t part of the truly natural, can-
yon landscape. Imnaha wouldn’t
be Imnaha without The Imnaha
One of the oldest continu-
ally running businesses in Wal-
lowa County, founded in 1904,
recently changed hands, with
Cody Mawhinney and Brooke
Van Sickle taking over the tav-
ern/restaurant/grocery store from
Dave and Sally Tanzey last Octo-
ber. With their feet underneath
them and the business running
smoothly, the couple took time
from one of their busy days to talk
to the Chieftain about their adven-
tures as new business owners.
Asked how he enjoys his new
role as tavern owner, Mawhinney
replied: “It’s like cowboying. It’s
Hailing from Baker City,
Mawhinney eventually managed
an Oregon Department of Trans-
portation crew stationed between
Island City and Elgin.
His partner, Van Sickle, is
from Washington and has a back-
ground in restaurant management
and bartending as well as heavy
At the moment, Mawhin-
ney takes care of the behind-
the-scenes management such as
ordering, building spreadsheets,
paying bills etc, while Van Sickle
maintains a presence on the ﬂ oor.
“We’re working on a system
to manage the place right now,”
The ﬁ rst time he stepped in
the Imnaha Tavern, Mawhinney
knew he wanted to own the place.
“I noticed the western playing
AT YOUR SERVICE — New Imnaha Tavern owners Brooke Van Sickle and Cody Mawhinney are ready to welcome
anyone into the sacred space of the Imnaha Store and Tavern in Imnaha. The couple purchased the business last
October. While they plan to expand its inventory, they intend to keep its legendary friendly atmosphere intact.
(on the TV), and that’s a rule,”
he said. “I walked in, and it was
exactly my kind of place.”
He’s keeping the tradition.
Westerns play until 5 p.m. and
stay on unless someone requests
“Except during football sea-
son,” Van Sickle piped in with a
laugh. “I told Cody when we ﬁ rst
met that I wanted to own a funky
little store that was like a cafe, a
local meeting place where people
can play music or put up artwork
and sell it.”
Mawhinney began talks to
acquire the business about a year
ago. He said after that it was all
about ﬁ guring out money and
how to make it work.
“There’s a lot of moving parts
to ﬁ gure out,” he said. It’s not
your average tavern/restaurant
“It’s an information center,”
Van Sickle. “If someone hits a
deer they bring it here, it’s a vet-
erinary center ... “
The couple said it hasn’t been
difﬁ cult transitioning to business
“It’s been exciting and fun —
everything about it,” Mawhinney
said. “There hasn’t been a day
where I woke up and didn’t want
The couple hasn’t made a lot
of visible changes to the store,
yet. Money spent goes behind the
scenes, such as the recent pur-
chase of a new restaurant dish-
washer and utilizing only one
stockroom, along with streamlin-
ing the food production process
and ordering new outerwear with
a newly-designed logo.
One noticeable change is a vet-
eran’s wall in the tavern. Veterans
can sign their names and branch of
service and receive a free beverage,
including beer, for their efforts.
“We’re both patriotic, and it’s
the easiest and simplest way to
thank our vets,” Mawhinney said.
“I’m really excited for that wall.
Someday, people will come in here
and it’ll be black with signatures.”
The couple also ordered a new
taps and had new tap lines put in.
They’ve also added more groceries
and other store inventory to help
locals get through the week until
they can get to town. Creating an
ordering system is one of the cou-
ple’s biggest challenges.
“It’s easy to sell stuff that peo-
ple forget to bring camping, but
this place is a local hub, so we
ask people what they need so we
can order for them.” The business
gets deliveries about twice a week
and the two visit the metropolis of
Enterprise for other items twice a
“It gets awkward after a while,”
Mawhinney said with a laugh. “It’s
like ‘Aw. jeez, there’s a lot of peo-
ple up here.’” One of the couple’s
favorite things about Imnaha is the
lack of cellphone service.
They have noticed more upland-
ers making the trip down to the tav-
ern for taco night and to play pool.
The couple is having a new pool
table made, and pool will be free.
“’m really excited about the
table,” Mawhinney said. “It’s not
worth the money to spend extra on
a coin-operated table.”
Something new the couple is
offering is live music. Two bands
have already made the Imnaha
journey and Mawhinney promises
music at least once a month. The
tavern was packed at both events.
Thursday night bingo and a fam-
ily-style dinner is another option
the couple is considering.
“Our goal is to keep things
cheap,” Mawhinney said. Menu
additions are also on the horizon.
“We still have our chicken giz-
zards,” Van Sickle said. “Those are
The business employs ﬁ ve
people including three full-time
employees. It is open from 9 a.m.
to 9 p.m., but can stay open until
11:30 p.m. on music nights. It is
only closed on Christmas, New
Year’s and Thanksgiving.
The couple’s favorite thing
about owning the bar is the people,
particularly the locals.
“We want to keep a friendly
atmosphere,” Mawhinney said.
“That’s one thing the locals were
worried about, although I’ve
known some of them awhile.
We’re not changing the place —
we’re here because we like it.”
“It’s like a big family out here,”
Van Sickle added.
STIHL CHAIN SAWS
MS 271 FARM BOSS
20 " bar†
SAVE $ 30 *
WAS $ 429 95 SNW-SRP
SAVE $ 100 *
SAVE $ 10 *
SAVE $ 20 *
FS 40 C-E
16 " bar†
SAVE $ 50 *
WITH THE BUNDLED PURCHASE
OF THE FSA 56 TRIMMER
AND RMA 460 SET
18 " blade
WAS $ 159 95 SNW-SRP
RMA 460 SET INCLUDES
AK 30 BATTERY AND
AL 101 CHARGER.
WAS $ 299 95 SNW-SRP
WAS 179 SNW-SRP
"THE PRICE AND RELIABILITY
WAS $ 619 90 SNW-SRP
"VERY AGILE TO HANDLE
Wallowa County Grain Growers
911 South River Street | Enterprise | 541-426-3116
*Oﬀers valid through 7/7/19. All prices are SNW-SRP. Available at participating dealers while supplies last. † The actual
listed guide bar length may vary from the eﬀective cutting length based on which powerhead it is installed on. Check
out these reviews and others on the product pages at STIHLdealers.com. ©2019 STIHL SNW19-621-142860-4