Red Cedar at the Vasa ushers in a new era at Vasa Hall

A blue and white banner with the message “Ice Cold Beer” on it, beckons thirsty travelers from a power line pole that stands near the entrance to Vasa Hall.

The first floor of the historic building, built in 1927, is now home to Nancy Dudley’s beer bar, Red Cedar at the Vasa. Even the name of the bar comes from history.

“Red Cedar is named after an old saw mill that my grandpa owned in Lake Quinault, back a long, long time ago,” Dudley said.

Dudley explained why she wanted to open the bar — 1941 Riverside Ave., — that has a clear view of the traffic on Riverside Avenue, and Hoquiam River, as cars whizzed by during a clear, blue sky day on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 17.

“I bought myself a little job, just so I can hang out with my friends,” Dudley said happily.

According to Dudley, her husband Shawn also wanted to have his own place.

“It was my husband’s dream to open a bar, so we’re doing it” Dudley said. “Ideally, we want to have some food in the future. Maybe it’ll be big enough that that’s what the two of us do.”

Locals should recognize Dudley, as she worked as a bartender at 8th Street Ale House for eight years before she decided to take on this new enterprise of hers. She opened her doors for an intimate gathering with friends and family on Monday, July 4. The bar’s been open for customers ever since, with hours of 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Dudley said friends have come to see her, and then they stay to play games, drink beer and be merry.

Inside the bar, which can hold about 30 people, according to Dudley’s friend, landlord, and contractor, Jessie Hancock, sits a granite bar separating customers sitting on the bar chairs from Dudley, who serves tasty local and regional beers. Outside of the bar, there are multiple tables with comfortable chairs for drinking and playing games on a big screen TV. Dudley, and her customers, love playing games on the Nintendo Switch while they socialize at the bar.

And then, the walls have a couple of paintings by Jenny Fisher, including one that people can see when they enter the bar that is of Merriman Falls in Lake Quinault.

Of the current local beers available, Dudley can pour a mango wheat beer from Hoquiam Brewing Company and a “Pina Colada Cream Ale” from Steam Donkey Brewing. She also has an India Pale Ale from Fort George Brewery and a pilsner from pFriem Family Brewers, plus a couple of beers from outside the region. Those beers are a strawberry cider from Ciderboys Hard Cider, from Wisconsin, and Goose Island Brewing’s Lemonade Shandy, from Chicago.

Outside of the beer, and a selection of white and red wine, which helps keep locals there, the building itself is an attraction for folks, according to Dudley. And although it took a little convincing for Dudley to start a business at Vasa Hall, she sounds happy that she did.

“Jessie and I have been friends and she decided to revamp this building, and came to me and asked if I wanted to open a bar here, and I said ‘No, definitely not,’” said Dudley as she and Hancock laughed. “And then we revisited it later. When we agreed to do it, you could see from one end of the building all the way to the other. (Hancock) and her husband, they really brought it up. We’re bringing back the history of Hoquiam.”

Hancock said when she started renovating Vasa Hall to make it into something more usable, it was “in studs.” That gave Dudley and her husband Shawn some pause when they walked into the building.

“I think they were frightened at first, but then it started to come together,” Hancock said. “Nancy is a fixture in Hoquiam.”

In addition to the revamping of Vasa Hall — which took from September 2021 to July 2022 to get to the clean, comfortable interior it has now — the business also has a large beer garden with handmade chairs and tables, according to Dudley. Dudley called the efforts of Hancock and her husband Tino, “amazing.”

“It’s just huge,” said Dudley of the more than 3,000-square-foot beer garden that’s guarded by a wood fence. “We’re gonna safely say that it’s the biggest beer garden in Hoquiam.”

Local songwriter Amanda Ransom is scheduled to play a concert at Red Cedar at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20. Since the bar doesn’t yet serve food — just some bar snacks — Dudley recommends people eat before they come to Red Cedar. But, if not, they can bring takeout from “anywhere,” according to Dudley.

Hancock said the Dudleys were the first people to commit to opening at Vasa Hall.

“It’s been such a great adventure to see this building have life again,” Hancock said. “It’s all because of their vision with the bar. It’s been really fun.”

Dudley said she keeps hearing stories about bands, such as The Beachcombers, who played upstairs in past past years. One artist that Hancock mentioned was Merrilee Rush, a singer who had hit songs throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

In addition to Dudley’s enthusiastic charm, the history keeps bringing people into the bar for the reason that they want to see the work that’s been put into the establishment.

“It’s interesting,” Hancock said. “Nancy gets a large swath of people from 20-somethings who just got off work at a sawmill (who) come in, and then we get sexagenarians and octogenarians who used to come here in the 1950s and 1960s and listen to Merrilee Rush.”

Dudley said she also hears about Vasa Hall’s history at the YMCA, where she teaches a senior citizen workout class.

“They told me about all the fun they had here,” Dudley said. “Even my husband, when he was in high school, he came to school dances here.”

Hancock said the ability to join the Dudleys with such a historic building has worked out really well.

“The building has a long history,” Hancock said. “Nancy has a long history (here) and Shawn has a long history (here,) too. So, it’s fun to marry the two together.”

Dudley loves that Vasa Hall, to her, is the “entrance to Hoquiam.”

Dudley couldn’t say enough about the work that Hancock and her husband did to revitalize the cream-colored building. Outside of the bar, Vasa Hall also houses Boulevard Bakery.

“Jessie, her husband, and their company (Paraiso Property Professionals,) completely brought this building back to life,” Dudley said. “They redid the foundation, and everything. And there are also two available retail spaces in the back for anybody who wants to turn them into something awesome.”

For late night beer drinkers, Dudley said she’s happy to continue to entertain, not all night, but for a little extra time. On Tuesday night, Aug. 16, Dudley said there were people there until 11 p.m., which is one hour past the posted closing time.

“If I have a crowd, I’m never gonna kick you out,” said Dudley with a smile.

The customers don’t just include people, either. Dogs are encouraged to join their people at the bar, and outside, where the fence keeps them from roaming onto the busy street.

“Everyone is welcome,” Dudley said.