Salmon Canyon Cafe ‘family’ sticks together after tragedy

I’ve only eaten at the Salmon Canyon Cafe once, shortly after it opened just over a year ago. I could tell the place was already a fixture for south-enders wanting a no nonsense breakfast.

Talking to the restaurant’s regulars and writing this story (below) makes me wish I’d gone there more often, and that owner David Ortiz will make a speedy recovery and open Salmon Canyon’s doors again.

David Ortiz

Until recently, the Salmon Canyon Café has been a humble place for coffee, eggs, toast, easy hellos and long conversations.

Some customers stopped by the Lynwood Center restaurant three times a week. Pregnant mothers compared notes with moms coddling newborns. Customers felt comfortable enough that they’d even talk religion and politics with strangers.

So when the regulars heard the unfamiliar clang of the café’s locked door on a recent Saturday morning, it was as though their own kitchen was suddenly closed.

Word spread quickly in the south Bainbridge community that Salmon Canyon’s owner and cook, David Ortiz, had been seriously injured in a car accident while making a run for bread and eggs.

One family put up a sign at the door offering help. By the end of the day, the board was full of names and phone numbers.

“David was in a Friday night accident, but by Saturday morning there was a board from one of our regular couples saying ‘we’re so sorry,’ and volunteering to work as servers,” said Shauna Sheridan, Ortiz’s wife and Salmon Canyon’s lead waitress. “By the end of the day, seven other couples had added their names, saying they would do whatever. It was just really amazing.”

But customers learned that much more than ready hands were needed.

Ortiz, a father of three daughters, has no health insurance.

Sheridan doesn’t yet want to know how high the medical bills have grown.

“The amount of money we’re talking about…I just can’t get my head around,” she said. “But I can’t worry about that now. I know I should be worried, but I still do need to sleep at night.”

Meanwhile Sheridan has made daily trips to Harborview Hospital in Seattle to visit Ortiz, who is recovering from broken ribs, cracked vertebrae, lacerated organs and internal bleeding. Recuperation was made more difficult when his lungs filled with fluid.

“He was hit on the driver’s side, so it’s a miracle we’re not talking paralysis,” Sheridan said, describing the Aug. 1 collision between Ortiz’s Honda Civic and a Jeep on Miller Road. “He’s doing better everyday, but he’s in a lot of pain.”

Within days of Ortiz’s accident, Salmon Canyon customer Chris Kelly had established a bank account for people to make donations.

“I’m a small business owner too, and I know that if I didn’t have insurance, lost my car and had to close for even a couple weeks, I’d be screwed,” Kelly said. “Who knows when David will be back to work. Nobody’s paying disability or sick time.”

Salmon Canyon was a special place for Kelly and her daughter, a six-month old who became a regular while “in utero,” she said.

“I’ve been on the island for 15 years and I’ve never found a place like this,” Kelly said. “You can take your kids, not break the bank and be treated like family.”

Customers use the word “family” a lot when describing Salmon Canyon, despite the fact that the restaurant’s been open little more than a year.

“David and Shauna truly enjoy interacting with everyone,” said Sativa Brown, who lives next door to Ortiz and Sheridan, and is a regular customer. “They’re such a sweet family, and they make you a part of it.”

Brown made phone calls and marched up and down Winslow Way to gather donations from local businesses. She plans to hold a bake sale and silent auction with the donations on Saturday.

She received gift certificates and merchandise from local sellers of furniture, toys, wine, yarn, jewelry and women’s clothes. Children’s tutors, goldsmiths, house cleaners and beauticians donated their services.

“There’s a strong support system that’s always been here,” said Brown, who was raised on the island. “Even with the large amount of people who’ve moved here, it’s still there. It seems to be contagious.”

The outpouring of support is proof that Salmon Canyon became the restaurant Ortiz dreamed it would be, Sheridan said.

“He wanted a comfortable place, a family place where we would see people a couple times a week rather than every couple months,” she said. “We love our customers. And that they appreciate the café this much…I’m darn near speechless. I never saw this coming.”

How to help

Donations to help cover the medical bills of Salmon Canyon Café owner and cook David Ortiz can be made at the Bainbridge branch of the Wells Fargo Bank, 1180 Hildebrand Lane.

A bake sale and silent auction to benefit Ortiz is scheduled for Saturday at Lynwood Commons near Walt’s grocery store on Lynwood Center Road. The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon. To donate items or volunteer, call Sativa Brown at (206) 473-8117.

One thought on “Salmon Canyon Cafe ‘family’ sticks together after tragedy

  1. Our thoughts and prayers to Dave & Shauna and hopes for a speedy recovery. They’ve got a sizable gang of customers that have been going through withdrawls since the cafe has been closed but that is secondary to Dave getting on his feet and getting his mobility & strength back. We’re pulling for you buddy!

Comments are closed.