Chalet House of Omelettes Closes after 45 Years

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On Jan. 22, Chalet House of Omelettes announced via Facebook the 45-year-old restaurant on Eureka's Fifth Street would be closed permanently. Over the phone from the Chalet's Cutten location, owner Bill Tuttle told the Journal his mother, Vera Johnson, opened the restaurant March 1, 1975 in the former Mr. Swiss ice cream parlor after having worked as a server at a number of places, including Ben Chin's Canton Cafe (the first Chinese restaurant in Eureka since the expulsion of Chinese residents in 1885) and the storied Lazio's. It closed March 15, 2020 after shelter in place was declared. 
The Chalet House of Omelettes on Fifth Street is no more. - COURTESY OF BILL TUTTLE
  • Courtesy of Bill Tuttle
  • The Chalet House of Omelettes on Fifth Street is no more.

"It needed remodeling, new carpeting and the walls done … nothing real big and major — it just had to be shut down for a while and when it shut down I didn’t have the money for it,” said Tuttle. While the Cutten Chalet has a patio and tent for outdoor dining, he didn't feel the lot at the old restaurant on Fifth Street could work for outdoor seating, nor did he have confidence it would get enough takeout traffic to sustain it.

Staffing, Tuttle says, has also been a challenge during the pandemic. “Nobody wants to work, they’re getting too much unemployment," he said, though the additional $600 COVID-19 related unemployment benefit ended in July, and other employees didn't feel safe coming to work because of the virus. He added difficulty maintaining staff, especially cooks, was already a problem after legalization of cannabis. "We also started having trouble once they opened up the pot businesses [which often offer higher wages] … and it’s a unique trade to be a short order cook. … it takes quite a while to train 'em,” he said, noting working a flat-top grill and handling special orders takes a special skill set, and that he'd just lost one that day. Tuttle said he's talked to other owners who are struggling with the same challenge. "Your employees are your business."

Tuttle, who's keeping his chin up, said he got into the business when he returned from 30 years in the Marines to care for his ailing father in 1998 and started helping his mother out at the Chalet. He started bussing tables and washing dishes, both duties he still pitches in with at the remaining restaurant, where he works daily. “I still do that now, whenever they need help,” he said. “I’m either really good at it or really bad and they keep training me.”


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