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'No' news is good news

An ownership shift at Hayden's Lakefront Grill won't change the 'trademark' restaurant, owners say
by: Jaime Valdez, BUILDING A TRADEMARK — Charlie Sitton, co-owner of the Century Hotel and Hayden’s Lakefront Grill in Tualatin, walks along a sidewalk that connects his two businesses.

TUALATIN - The news that Bill Hayden sold his share in ownership of the trademark Tualatin restaurant, Hayden's Lakefront Grill, sent little ripples of panic through the community recently.

People made frantic phone calls asking about their catered wedding plans, about gift cards, about scheduled luncheons. They wondered how this would affect their plans, how it would affect their families, and in general they wondered how it would affect them.

Built about nine years ago, Hayden's Lakefront Grill started from an idea to create Tualatin's own trademark restaurant. Serving American cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere for families and business types, the restaurant has found its own special place in the heart of the Tualatin community.

In the fall, people can watch giant-pumpkin carving from the restaurant's windows or outdoor seating area overlooking the Lake of the Commons. In the winter, the restaurant gives the perfect glowing backdrop for the annual lighting of the city's holiday lights. In the summer, the restaurant's chef

will compete again in the Tualatin Crawfish Festival's crawfish cook off.

So when the news broke that Bill Hayden ran into some financial troubles with his restaurant consulting business and was forced to close some new ventures in Portland, people wondered if that included Hayden's Lakefront Grill.

The answer is an emphatic, 'No.'

'We want everyone in the community to know that nothing will change,' said Charlie Sitton who along with his father-in-law, Don Roberts, are now full owners of Hayden's Lakefront Grill.

Sitton and Roberts have always maintained more than 50 percent ownership of the restaurant, which sits next door to their other business, the 70-room Century Hotel.

But Bill Hayden was the idea man, Sitton said. So the restaurant which was the last structure built around the Lake of the Commons was named after Hayden.

For now, the restaurant name, much like its atmosphere, food and staff, will not change.

'We had a lot of heartache over (the name change),' Sitton said. 'But people come to Tualatin to eat at Hayden's.'

The Lake of the Commons used to be the site of the Blue Mountain Dog Food Factory. Sitton, a farm boy from McMinnville, can remember passing the odorous factory on his way to Portland. But the changes that were to come weren't a big surprise to him.

He and Roberts were the first investors to develop at the Lake of the Commons with a 40-room hotel called Century Hotel. Lacking a national chain name or the visibility of travelers on I-5, Sitton said the hotel has survived on word of mouth and catering to a business community of constant travelers looking for a relaxing place to stay.

The hotel was built 15 years ago using double-wall construction and real brick façade, both of which added cost and durability to the hotel, Sitton said. It also cemented Sitton and Roberts' future in Tualatin.

'We built it to keep it. We built it to stay,' said Sitton.

The same was true for Hayden's. Hayden's restaurant was the last development completed at the Lake of the Commons. Downstairs is a restaurant and bar area. Above the restaurant are 30 more rooms that were added on for the Century Hotel.

Sitton and Roberts first approached a restaurateur in Vancouver with an idea of creating a trademark restaurant in Tualatin - one that would be located next door to the Century Hotel and along the Lake of the Commons. They were looking for an eatery that could become a trademark of the Century Hotel.

From there, they met Bill Hayden.

'Bill was a great idea guy. He was great at envisioning what was going to happen in the future,' said Sitton.

On Feb. 8, after the failure of his restaurant consulting business N.W. Hayden Enterprises, Bill Hayden sold his shares of his namesake restaurant to Sitton and Roberts.

'It was hard to give up,' Bill admitted earlier this week.

But spinning the news, Bill said that after eight years at Hayden's Lakefront Grill, it was time for him to move forward with his own consulting business. The same day he sold his shares of the restaurant, Bill said he started his new consulting business Dreams and Solutions.

Sitting in a conference room at Century Hotel, Sitton noted that everyone understood what happened with Bill Hayden.

'It's just another hurdle we want to get over. Bill left us in good shape,' Sitton said. 'Nothing really changes up here. We just keep moving on.'

The goal for Hayden's Lakefront Grill was always to create a non-chain restaurant that the Tualatin community could be proud of.

'This one definitely hit the mark,' Bill said.