(Joe Egg at the anvil with Horrel Coulter c.1920 | Photos courtesy of Deschutes Historical Museum)
Like many of the original buildings in downtown Bend – each has a story, a history and a legacy. Built in 1923, 211 NW Greenwood was the home of Pete Pierson Blacksmithing and is an example of one of the finest blacksmithing buildings left in the country. It is not known how long Pierson was a blacksmith there, however he soon sold his business to Joe Egg, who ran the business for the next fifty years. As late as 1973, Egg was well-known in Bend and Redmond as the best blacksmith in Central Oregon. Egg once told The Bulletin that ‘although his business was fast becoming outdated by acetylene torches and electrical welding, he could still fix almost anything, and still shod horses.’
The building is now home to one of Bend’s highest rated restaurants, properly named, The Blacksmith. Owners, Todd and Nekol Bardwell have owned the restaurant since 2013 and are excited to share their story, another anniversary and a fresh update to their cocktail and food menu, debuting this summer.
What is the history behind your ownership of Blacksmith?
Todd and I opened our first restaurant in 2009 in Eugene, Oregon, [with partners]. In late 2012 we decided that we wanted a restaurant that was ‘just ours’. We began looking for the right fit around Oregon in October of 2012. In December, our agent called to tell us about an opportunity that had just opened up that could be the perfect place for our new dream. We arrived in Bend a few days later only to find out that the building we were coming to view had been rented that afternoon. We were extremely disappointed but our agent urged us to give another spot he’d mentioned before, a shot.
We originally did not want a pre-established restaurant, we wanted to build our own, like we did with our first one. We decided to go to dinner at The Blacksmith that evening. The funny part is, the food was awful. The staff however, was amazing. We spent the next month traveling back and forth from Eugene to Bend making sure we really wanted to do this crazy thing. We purchased The Blacksmith on February 1, 2013. We immediately closed and got to work, spending the next 5 weeks remodeling day and night. The Blacksmith 2.0 reopened March 7, 2013.
What is your take on the restaurant scene in Bend?
The restaurant scene in Bend is outstanding, in my opinion. We reside in a much larger city and have half the options as Bend provides. I love that you can get dressed up and have several options to choose from or you can also choose to not dress up at all! The variety of food is strong in Bend and I love how every place gives their restaurant its own twist.
What are the key milestones of Blacksmith in the past five years?
The Blacksmith was on a rapid downward spiral when we purchased it. It took a lot of work, from a lot of people, to get it back on top, like its former glory days. The restaurant business can be very hard and I [was]thrilled to have made it past year one, let alone heading into year seven! I’d say another important milestone was when our Chef Bryan, Sous Chef Kevin and General Manager Beka took on a much more important role than just management. Without being technically ‘owners’ they treat and take care of The Blacksmith like it’s their own. We spent years living between two cities, two and a half hours apart, growing this business. [Bryan, Kevin and Beka] were there at every step and because of them and our wonderful staff, we are now able to spend most of our time in Eugene with our family.
What challenges, if any, are there to owning a business and living in another city?
The first few years were brutal. I bartended and was the general manager for the first several years. Todd had to tend to our other company, our family, and all the repairs and maintenance on The Blacksmith. We spent a lot of time on the road with many late night hours. I’d say that our biggest challenge is still similar to above. Having a building from 1923 is amazing, but when something goes wrong, we aren’t always close by to fix it. Thankfully we have wonderful, dedicated people who work there to help us.
What sets Blacksmith apart from other steak houses in Oregon?
Yes, our steaks and food are fantastic and we source as many local ingredients as possible, make absolutely everything in house, carry the best beef Oregon has offer, etc. but it’s our staff and their service that makes The Blacksmith top notch. Every single person is knowledgeable, friendly and genuinely excited to make guests have a great experience. When we took over The Blacksmith, we didn’t want that stuffy five star service any longer. We wanted a light hearted, fun, laugh a little, relax and enjoy yourself vibe. And that is exactly what we provide.
What do you and your husband/family like the most about the Oregon lifestyle?
It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. I love that you can drive a few short hours and have access to mountains, a beach or a big city, all while having minimal traffic on a daily basis! I love how we can be snowmobiling one weekend and swimming the next. The Oregon summers and the fall are unbeatable.
What’s new for Blacksmith this year?
We recently purchased all new furniture, replaced the carpet and added a few touches to make our dining rooms that much more inviting. We hope to install a fireplace in the near future as well. We just launched a new cocktail list, changed up some wine by the glass options and added some new bottles to our list. All in preparation for our summer menu which will be launching soon too.