5th on 4th is owner’s 3rd area restaurant

Bonnie Elsey’s ‘weakness for vacant buildings’ leads her to open another Olympia sandwich shop

rboone@theolympian.comApril 8, 2013 

Veteran restaurant owner Bonnie Elsey is at again, expanding her popular downtown sandwich shop on Fifth Avenue to a nearby uptown location on Fourth Avenue that had long awaited a new tenant.

The new business is called 5th on 4th, which opened at 926 Fourth Ave. last week and was quickly greeted with plenty of customers.

“It was wonderful,” Elsey, 66, said Sunday about the early customer reaction to her business. “It couldn’t have been better.”

Her new, 1,300-square-foot location occupies the corner of Quince Street and Fourth Avenue and fills a building that had sat vacant for some time after a Subway restaurant there had closed.

“I have a weakness for vacant buildings,” she said, eventually reaching out to the listing agent for the property and signing a lease with new building owner Walker John, a developer who is quickly raising his profile in Olympia.

John redeveloped the Cunningham building at Fourth Avenue and Adams Street into a mixed-use destination, and also is set to acquire a former state-owned building at 600 Franklin St. that was once home to the state Department of Personnel.

Elsey said John has more plans for the larger 5th on 4th site as well, but for the moment it is just her business, flanked by parking lots. The business also has a drive-up window, which she plans to use, Elsey said.

“I’m just excited to be at this end of town,” she said.

Elsey opened the 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop in 2005 after a long career in Longview running similar businesses.

After she sold her last business there, she had to meet the terms of a noncompete clause, which said she couldn’t operate a business within 50 miles of the city.

That finally brought her to downtown Olympia. She had looked at other locations, including in Tumwater, but settled on downtown for the foot traffic.

“I guess it was a good fit,” she said.

Her sandwich shop has built its reputation on making things from scratch, she said, such as breads, soups and desserts. In addition to sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts, the new location also sells burgers, fries and milkshakes. The business is closed on Sundays, but several people still stopped to check to see if it was open.

One of those was Bruce Bolding of Olympia, a fan of the 5th Avenue shop, he said.

Bolding praised the restaurant business model, saying it offered “good, quality, homemade food at a good price.”

This is Elsey’s third restaurant in the Olympia area. In November, she opened a bistro called 316 Bistro in Tumwater at 316 Schmidt Place SW. She employs about 25 at all three businesses, including her four children.

The 5th on 4th is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com theolympian.com/bizblog

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