John Graf, EDA Board Member
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the owner of The Pearl Bar & Grill, Blake Collins. I expected that our time together would be a fairly typical visit; me asking him questions about his business and him replying with boilerplate responses.
Instead, I got served up a lesson on life. How to live with courage. How to invite vulnerability into your life. How to embrace your fears. How to dream big. How to cast away doubt and live each moment with fervor. Awesome!
As you may know, Blake has experienced personal tragedy in his life. During his teenage years, Blake’s father passed away. Blake was a caregiver to his father during his last days and this experience began to shape his thinking process. In his early twenties, Blake became a licensed skydiver. Not long after he earned his license he crashed – really hard. Consequently, Blake hung out in the hospital for a number of weeks with injuries that would relegate most humans to life in a Lazy Boy forevermore. Instead of succumbing to the cards stacked against him, Blake made moves. It was after this experience that he made the decision to leave a high paying job in the hospitality business to open his first restaurant – The Pearl.
The idea of opening a business is daunting to me, especially the restaurant business. So much risk, it seems. Not in the eyes of someone who has survived a fall from 12,000 feet. Easy Peasy. As Blake says, “Worry is a misuse of imagination”. His personal tragedy provides a basis for his no-fear attitude. “Not taking a step out of fear is foolish – there shouldn’t be a fear of the unknown – because it could be amazing”. As you can tell, opening up The Pearl was an easy decision for Blake.
As I mentioned earlier, Blake served up a lesson on life. How many decisions have I strayed away from that could have been really cool. Ok – not that many :). But I’ll bet you that a lot of us have missed out on an awesome opportunity because fear was standing in our way. We all have a lot to learn from Blake’s rogue approach to handling fear.
As far as The Pearl goes, Blake has big plans. Good food and drink are of course on the menu but The Pearl is much bigger than that. In the coming months, The Pearl will play host to rock bands, folk singers, comedians, and more. Blake sees his establishment as a place to foster intimate connections over a good meal while blending in some delightful entertainment. You see, Blake is convinced that Ellensburg is about to transform. He has noticed that visitors may notice our downtown energy more readily than those of us that have lived here all of our lives. From Blake’s perspective, Ellensburg’s draw is incalculable – it is a magical place.
It was during this part of the conversation that took me back to the history books. This little town of ours has long lured others from far and wide. The train depot, the multiple highways and byways, and the trails all brought folks to visit here. This place has been a gathering place even before the Shoudy’s put down their roots. I suspect that this notion helped Blake shape his “gathering place” motto. He is simply enhancing the traditions of Ellensburg.
As we move forward to writing our own history, Blake holds our old history close to his heart. Our forefathers certainly weren’t afraid of taking a risk and trying something new. Ellensburg wasn’t here and then it was. The town burned down and then it was rebuilt in just a few months. We didn’t have a college and now we do. You see – what defines our little town are courage and risk, believers and doers, and no fear of the unknown.