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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Closed by fire, this 75-year-old Portland diner hopes for summer reopening

Fuller’s Coffee Shop, which opened in 1947 and moved to the corner of Northwest Ninth Avenue and Davis Street in 1960, as it appeared before a February fire.  (Tribune News Service)
By Michael Russell

Fuller’s Coffee Shop, a throwback Portland diner first opened in 1947, hopes to reopen in June after fire and smoke damaged the restaurant’s interior, co-owner Mark Byrum said Thursday.

Known for its meandering lunch counter and corner windows evoking Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” Fuller’s has sat at the corner of Northwest Ninth Avenue and Davis Street since 1960. That’s where a fire broke out shortly after closing time on Feb. 19, with flames quickly spreading up an exhaust hood that Bynum says had been professionally cleaned just five days before.

Though the restaurant survived, extensive smoke damage meant that many of its finishing touches – including the wood-grain Formica counter tops – have to be replaced.

“There was minimal burning, but because the smoke permeates all the wood, the finishes, you have to go back down to the beams and rebuild everything,” Bynum said. “We had to open everything up and build it back, but maintaining that old diner feel is so important.”

The diner is aiming to reopen in June, but Bynum – who also owns Urban Fondue, Brix Tavern and several other restaurants in Portland and Eugene with co-founder Carla Byrum – says he’s been through enough remodels to know not to hold his breath until a construction project is complete.

Potentially slowing down the remodel: The restaurant’s exhaust hood stretches two stories up to the roof of the restaurant’s Pearl District building.

“It’s all in the hands of that hood, because we had to replace that completely,” Bynum said. “Its massive hood runs all the way up through the roof.”

Fuller’s “core people” have landed shifts at other Urban Restaurant Group properties, including Toro Mexican Kitchen, a just-opened steakhouse at 1335 N.W. Everett St., Bynum said.

Byrum says he first ate at Fuller’s Coffee Shop in 2000, and quickly approached his Urban Fondue landlord, second generation Fuller’s owner John Fuller, to see if he would ever sell.

“(Fuller) called me in 2017 and said, ‘This is what I want, no negotiating. Do you want it?’ ” Byrum recalls. “We took over in January of 2018. My kids used to go there. It just has that great rich Portland feel to it.”

Beyond the business aspects, Byrum has a personal reason for wanting Fuller’s Coffee Shop to open.

“I miss my bacon omelet,” Byrum said.