Shirley Welton seeks help after Eagle Creek fire hurts Historic Columbia River Highway business

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO  - Shirley Welton, 80, has worked in the resturant biz for decades. She purchased the Tippy Canoe in 2006 and reopened it the next year."I'm not going out of business, I can tell you that. It's just a real hard struggle."

That's the latest word from Shirley Welton, the Troutdale resident who reopened Shirley's Tippy Canoe on the Historic Columbia River Highway on the Sandy River in 2007.

Despite her optimistic outlook, the 80-year-old restaurateur needs help keeping the classic Americana-themed watering hole afloat. Her friends are now seeking as much as $100,000 in donations on a crowdfunding website.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO  - The Tippy Canoe has served loggers and locals since the 1940s. Welton says she's still reeling from the Eagle Creek Wildfire that raged through the Columbia River Gorge in September.

A six-mile closure on the Historic Highway between Bridal Veil and Ainsworth State Park cut down on tourist traffic, though the winding route remains open for miles on both sides of the Tippy Canoe, located between Troutdale and Springdale at 28242 Historic Columbia River Highway.

Welton says media reports made it sound like the entire road was closed. She also had to unexpectedly close her doors for four days around Christmas.

"September is the month that I pay insurance and taxes," she noted. "I've got $65,000 in property taxes that I've got to pay, and the money just wasn't there."

Welton has a long history in the dining and hospitality business. She and a former husband opened Sam's Hollywood Billiards in Northeast Portland in 1964. Eighteen years later, she made the trek out to Newport and Lincoln City, were she operated four eateries and a catering service for 35 years. She bought the shuttered Tippy Canoe in 2006 and invested $600,000 to renovate it.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO  - Shirley Welton appeared on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with notorious celebrity eater Guy Fieri in 2013. In 2013, the joint was featured in an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" with celebrity foodie Guy Fieri. The six-acre riverfront property has a bit of a checkered past, but it's been serving loggers and locals since the 1940s.

"Absolutely everything you eat, we cook. And it's all real food," Welton boasts. "We go through 1,500 pounds of potatoes a week."

To support Shirley's Tippy Canoe, visit Welton will also speak at a Learn Over Lunch networking event hosted by the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce at noon on June 6.

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