There are two Ketchum restaurants—longstanding establishments with plenty of history—that typify the Ketchum experience: the Pioneer and the Kneadery. Now, through an emotional but smooth transition, Pioneer owner Duffy Witmer and his daughter Alyson Tierney have bought the Kneadery from the late Michael Martin´s family.
The stories of the two restaurateur families are linked by years of friendship, trust and admiration, Gail Severn, Martin´s widow, said.
When he moved from San Francisco in 1975, Martin bought the Kneadery six months after it had been built as a spec restaurant. Through all the remodels since then, it remained a family style restaurant with old barn wood and whimsical decorations. He not only raised his two children amidst the restaurant´s friendly chaos but also made it one of the original performance spaces in the valley.
Artists and performers honed their acts there, including the Vuarnettes, Mike Murphy, Chris Milspaugh, the "Whoop Show" and Nicky Night and the Whoops. And visual artists, like photographers Steve Snyder and Jack Williams, showed their work on the Kneadery´s walls. There have been many weddings, private parties and memorial services over the years as well.
"He was most proud of having served many generations, and when kids came in he´d say, `When you´re older come see me about a job,´" Severn said. She said they´d start young, bussing tables and helping in the kitchen. Many stayed on for years. One such woman, Janie Reynolds, began working at the Kneadery at age 14.
"I worked on and off between bike and ski racing," Reynolds said. "Michael was nice enough to let me support my athletic habits. He worked around our schedules and was very supportive of all the girls´ lives. We worked very hard for him."
Several of his former and current "girls" stood around in the Kneadery two days after the Witmers had closed on the restaurant. Lovingly, they shared stories and caught up, laughing when Reynolds mentioned Martin´s support.
"He was very strict and protective of his girls," she continued. "A father figure who took it on with a vengeance every day."