North Bend, Washington’s Twede’s Café is like any small-town diner: There’s a sprawling menu with plenty of pies and a whole page of burgers, chrome bar seats, vinyl banquettes, and all-day hours. Except that it’s also one of the world’s most famous fictional diners, the Double R Diner from Twin Peaks, a.k.a. the cherry pie place. On February 29, Rachel Bennet, who grew up in the town, and her husband, Max Spears, completed their purchase of the place from its previous owner. Two weeks later, Washington’s governor ordered the state’s restaurant shutdown. Bennett talked to Grub Street about how they came to own Twede’s, keeping the business going as first-time restaurant owners during a pandemic, and appealing to fans of the show without turning her hometown diner into an amusement park attraction. Grub Street spoke with Bennet about the big-time purchase and the difficulty of shutting it right down.
How did you come to own this place?
I grew up in this area and moved away when I was 18. My now-husband and I moved back in 2018. I was working a little bit as a midwife but not making much money. We were watching Twin Peaks at the time. I had tried to start it a few times over the years, then we got really into it. I needed a little bit extra money on the side, so I was like, Maybe I can get a job at Twede’s — it would be so fun to get a job at this cute little dinner.
Pretty early on, I found out that the previous owner was interested in selling. He wasn’t advertising. It wasn’t even a serious proposition, but as a fun idea we started talking about this. Like, We could do so much cool stuff to make that place better. The Twin Peaks experience could be so much better. The previous owner did not buy the place because he was a Twin Peaks fan — he bought it ’cause it was a diner.
As time went on, neither my husband or I were finding any good job opportunities that would allow us to live where we wanted to be. That’s when it became a more serious conversation, and even though I hadn’t been working there for long, the owner was really excited. It snowballed from there, and we got a Small Business Administration loan to buy the business. Our first day as the new owners was March 1, and then we found out we would have to be takeout only because of COVID.
So, you said you weren’t initially a big fan of the show?
Oh, yeah, I think growing up in the area, it was just too much of a thing. My very first job was at this place — it doesn’t exist anymore — called the Fall City Grill, and it was also featured in Twin Peaks. It was in Fire Walk With Me as the Haps Diner. As a 14- or 15-year-old, I would interact with Twin Peaks fans. There was already such a cult following, and they would come in, busloads of people, and try to talk to me about the show. I just thought that they were weird!
Later on, I went to college at Evergreen, and had a lot of friends who were huge Twin Peaks fans and thought it was so cool that I had grown up in this area. Over the years, I was like, “I really need to give it a shot and see what all of the fuss is about.” I tried watching the pilot episode a couple times, but it’s 90 minutes long, and I’d fall asleep every time. I really think it took living here again, because it makes the experience much cooler. We’re in it and there are all these places I know really well. I went to the high school featured in the show, you recognize the roads they’re driving down.
What has kept you afloat?
When it was takeout only, we were not making money at all. We would’ve lost a lot of money because we were keeping our staff on, but we did get one of the PPP loans. The one we applied for was for over $100,000. That was huge for us, in that we didn’t have to think about our sales for two months, which was most of when we were takeout only. It allowed us to pay everybody as if we were open for regular hours. The sales we were doing were just paying for the food we were buying and nothing else.
We keep saying to ourselves how lucky we are that this is the restaurant that we bought because there are so many people who care about it, want to see it continue, and have embraced us as owners.
What changes have you made?
Our idea with taking over Twede’s is we want to enhance the experience for fans and really bring the Double R Diner to its truest potential, but also make it our own. We don’t want it to just be like an amusement park or something really fake. For example, we did this hand-painted wallpaper, which is a nod to the wallpaper in the show. It’s not an exact replica, but our tribute to it.
The back hallway was always the memorabilia museum, but everything was haphazardly hung up without any order or design. It was just like, Here you go, Twin Peaks fans — here’s a bunch of pictures, enjoy. We wanted to make that back hallway more of a Twin Peaks experience, but it wasn’t really featured in the show. So my idea was to make it more like the Black Lodge. We repainted it with this deep red color, we have black trim, we replaced the ceiling tile with these cool black tiles. There’s a closet that I’m in the process of turning into our merch room. I have red velvet curtains I’m going to put up. And I just hung the photos in a more intentional way, so they have a zigzag pattern. David Lynch is so into symbolism, so we’re trying to also incorporate that into how we present all the things.
You have to walk a fine line creating a place that’s an attraction to people. You want to appeal to them without going too far in one direction, as you were saying.
Yeah, definitely. The other thing we’ve thought about is the idea of diners being places for everybody, which is what makes them so special. They’re such an American thing. That’s the case with Twede’s, which makes it really cool. We get such a wide range of people. We get the fans, but we also get rural families driving through, or local people who don’t really care about Twin Peaks. We want to make it accessible and welcoming to everyone but also capture the magic of the show.