TROUTDALE, Ore. (KOIN) — Since the 1940s, the 6-acre riverfront property that has been the home of Shirley’s Tippy Canoe has been serving loggers and locals.
Shirley Welton said she had her first cocktail there when she was 21. “That’s when it was really a little roadhouse and a lot of fun.”
But over the years, she said, “it turned into the old-fashioned biker bar and it turned into drugs and it just went downhill.”
Shirley Welton bought the shuttered Tippy Canoe in 2007 and invested $600,000 to renovate it. Seven years later the joint was featured in an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” with celebrity foodie Guy Fieri.
But now it’s gone. And she feels numb.
“I’m not too sure what I’m going to do at 5 o’clock in the morning tomorrow,” she said.
An early Friday morning blaze destroyed the iconic eatery just hours after it closed at its normal time Thursday night.
The call at Shirley’s Tippy Canoe came in just after 5 a.m., Corbett Fire Chief Dave Flood told KOIN 6 News. Firefighters had some difficulty getting into the older building with metal decorative paneling inside.
Gresham firefighters brought a ladder truck to help battle the fire from above. No one was in the building at the time of the fire.
Shirley heard about the fire from TV news. “All of a sudden they said the Columbia River Highway was closed and I thought, gee, it was a problem with a building.”
“I was getting ready to get my coat on and it said the Tippy Canoe. I couldn’t believe it , just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “But I didn’t expect it to be massive.”
“Oh, thank God nobody was hurt,” Shirley said.
‘It was a really nice restaurant, awesome’
Carol Rowley lives right behind the Tippy Canoe, a place she came to love over the years she lived here.
“I’m telling you, it was like a bikers bar when we first moved here. I’m like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to want to go in there,'” Rowley told KOIN 6 News. “But when Shirley fixed it up, it was really a nice resturant. I mean, it’s just awesome.”
The Eagle Creek Fire really affected business for the eatery and Welton “was hurting there for a while trying to keep it going,” she said.
Her neighbor and his brother knocked on her door around 4:30 a.m. and told her about the fire.
“My husband and I came out here and it was engulfed,” she said. “It’s really sad. There were trucks from Corbett and Clackamas and all these fire trucks bringing in water.”
Corbett Fire Chief Flood said there are about 75 hydrants in the community, including one about 50 feet down the street from the Tippy Canoe.
“However, it’s not one of our better hydrants. It puts out about 200 gallons a minute and we were using probably 750 gallons a minute at our peak here,” he said. “That means we have to use our water tenders to go get water and shuttle it back. Luckily, that’s something we do fairly frequently and practice all the time. So that part is not a problem for us. It’s expected.”
An excavator may be brought in for the tear down, he said, because there is a lot of metal from the roof and the ceiling that is covering up some of the spots that may still be burning.
“We can’t go through there safely and hand pick through it, so probably have an excavator come and pull it apart for us.”
No cause has yet been determined. Flood said the investigators “have quite a long ways to go yet.”‘
‘Kids are thinking about retiring me’
Shirley Welton has insurance but said she’s “not too sure what’s going to happen.”
“We just had fun since 2007,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I want to thank (the customers) for everything. I mean, without the customers and the kind that I have, they’ve just been wonderful people. They’re more than customers. They’re almost like families.”
That family extended to those who worked at the Tippy Canoe.
“My people are waitresses or servers. They are part of the family, you know. Everybody can get angry with each other, you can smile with each other, you can love each other, but they’re human beings and it’s really nice.”
Now 82, Shirley said her “kids are thinking about retiring me. So, I’m not too sure. It’s probably time.”
Bob Espenel, who lives nearby, said seeing the Tippy Canoe reduced to rubble is sad.
“It’s been here as long as I can remember because I grew up just next door as a kid,” he said. “To see it go, it’s just sad.”