WALLACE — With the town’s notable history, it’s a given that most business spaces in Wallace have accommodated different owners over the years. In keeping with an unwritten Wallace tradition, when one business is replaced by another, that new business then pays respect to the memory and legacy of the old one in some way. Sometimes this is done by simply carrying on a name, other times it’s done more subtly by keeping a memento that was present before the change.
The space on the northwest corner of Bank and Sixth streets has recently become the newest example of this tradition when it became the home of a new local eatery. Sporting an exciting modern-yet-classic theme, Cogs Gastropub pays homage to the building’s former businesses in more ways than one.
Owned by Barbara and Stu Strother, Cogs Gastropub held a soft opening in mid-June of this year, but only held its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 13 as part of the latest Wallace Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Barb, originally from Minnesota, and Stu, originally from Washington, first experienced the area during a January 2018 ski trip. At that time, they had no plans of moving to the area — let alone opening a restaurant.
“At the time we were dreaming of buying some land someday, but we wanted steep land for backcountry skiing,” Barb said. “A Realtor out of Coeur d’Alene told us to look around Wallace, which is what first brought us to the town.”
After seeing Wallace and the Silver Valley firsthand, the married couple quickly fell in love with the place and its historic buildings. The newfound love drove them to snatch up the Delashmutt (i.e. the Smokehouse building) as soon as it came on the market with plans to turn the upstairs area into a brick loft apartment.
For years, the building had been the home of the Smokehouse BBQ & Saloon, but that didn’t mean that Barbara and Stu immediately wanted to open a restaurant with their new space.
“We never intended to open a restaurant or bar, but when the Smokehouse BBQ tenants moved out, the pub was in need of a major renovation,” she said.
The duo, both business professors by career that run several small real-estate related businesses together, did not have any restaurant experience coming in. What experience they did have though was with remodeling and design.
“Our plan was to renovate the bar and open it back up again under a new name, and find a managing operator who was more experienced in the industry to run it,” Barb said. “Chef Nathan Gough is our managing partner, running the day-to-day operations ... Our interest was in doing the creative work of renovating and designing the space and coming up with the business ideas. It was always our intention to bring in someone far more experienced than us to run the day-to-day operations of the gastropub.”
The renovation process was an intensive one. The building required a completely new plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems. The new owners also brought in a new bar and restaurant equipment.
“Nearly everything needed to be redone or replaced.”
The decision was made not to recreate the old kitchen, but instead turn it into another new business- Spokehouse Electric Bike Rentals.
“You can get both a beer and a bike at Cogs,” Barb said. “Though preferably not in that order! The kitchen is now located inside the original old vault. It’s not much bigger than the space you’d have in a food truck, which is one reason why we’re keeping the menu somewhat simple.”
As for the theme and the name of the business, Barb and Stu went back to the building’s ‘smoky’ history for inspiration.
According to Barb, in 1905 in what is now the restaurant, used to be a smoke shop called Cogswell’s Cigar Factory. Evidence of this can be seen by patrons when they walk in the front door and see “Cogswells” spelled out in the old penny floor tile.
“This is why the building was called the Smokehouse, a reference to the original cigar factory,” she said.
Since the former tenants had legal rights to the name “Smokehouse,” the new owners decided to call the place “Cogs,” as a reference to Cogswells. The name also allowed them to play off the theme of gears and cogs, inspired by steampunk style, which fits the Victorian era of the 1890s building.
In another callback to Cogswells, Cogs displays the original — renovated — cigar humidor and sells cigars just like in the olden days.
“We also uncovered and restored the old original penny tile and wood floors and the original tin ceiling,” Barb said.
The new gastropub offers a barbecue-style menu complete with gourmet street tacos (smoked pork belly, smoked salmon, portabello mushroom, mango chicken), goat cheese quesadillas, freshly made soups and salads, smoked pulled pork and brisket sandwiches with house pickled onions and house kale slaw,
In the few months they’ve been open, Barb said her favorite part of owning the business is showing off the historical aspects of the building and telling its stories, as well as helping people discover the area and the local bike trails through the e-bike business.
“We’re getting rave reviews of the food, thanks to Chef Nate!”
The new owners still have plans to open up the upstairs loft apartment and are working on that process now.
Cogs Gastropub offers swing dance nights every few weeks — free lessons included — and launched weekend brunch, complete with retro cartoons on Saturday mornings.
The business is located at 424 Sixth St. in Wallace and can be contacted by phone at 208-274-3854. For the latest news, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cogsgastropub/.