After more than 30 years in the restaurant industry, Michael Paul and Stephanie Gamble wanted to work less and enjoy more.
The couple – married 27 years this month – knew they couldn’t reach their goal working 50-hour-plus weeks in Portland. The self-described “blue-collar-worker bees” – he’s a bartender, she’s a waitress – kept dreaming of something simpler.
One day last year, browsing a national Realtor’s Web site, Stephanie came across several Spokane listings. She’d found their new city.
“We really couldn’t believe the affordability of housing,” Michael says, adding that a visit to downtown’s Spokane River falls and the promise of four seasons sweetened the selection.
Last fall, the couple doubled their money on the Portland home they’d bought five years earlier with a small inheritance. They came to Spokane debt-free – no credit card balance, no car loan. They bought a North Spokane house outright.
“We could pay cash for a house,” Stephanie says. “That’s a good thing.”
The decision to move “had nothing to do with leaving Portland and everything to do with achieving our goals,” Michael says. In fact, Spokane’s friendly people remind him of his former hometown. “We get these crazy, positive vibes here.”
“It’s big enough to be a city, small enough to be a town,” says Michael.
“We like to hike and camp and fish,” Stephanie says. Portland offers many of the same outdoor escapes, but “you’re doing them with thousands of other people.”
The couple found a 100-year-old, three-bedroom, three-bath house, a “modest fixer-upper” previously owned by a retired chef, Michael says. “The house wasn’t perfect, but if felt like a home.”
“It’s large, and we could afford it,” Stephanie says, noting that the family room spans 500 square feet.
While the couple arrived in Spokane unemployed, they quickly found work in the city’s burgeoning restaurant world. Their 24-year-old daughter moved here four months ago and is settling into a Browne’s Addition apartment. They hope to move Stephanie’s mom up from Southern California sometime soon.
“We’re bringing our little family together,” Stephanie says.
The couple recently bought a 30-year-old boat with an outboard motor, perfect for exploring the many lakes dotting the map around Spokane. They also leveraged equity from their home to buy a rental across the street.
Michael is taking a Master Gardener’s class, and he plans to build an urban wildlife habitat in his backyard.
Stephanie says she’s no gardener, but she’s happy to reap the benefits of his expertise. “I like the results of his gardening.”
They both say they miss their friends back in Portland. They know new connections will come with time.
“We like our life here,” Michael says. “It was very much the right decision.”