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Iconic Langley restaurant lands on craigslist

Freeland sisters Kayla, 8, and Araya Johnson, 6, enjoy Mike’s Place ice cream cones and chess after performing in a play next door. - Rebecca Leisher / The Record
Freeland sisters Kayla, 8, and Araya Johnson, 6, enjoy Mike’s Place ice cream cones and chess after performing in a play next door.
— image credit: Rebecca Leisher / The Record

LANGLEY — After 27 years as a downtown staple, Mike’s Place has a “For Sale” sign in its window.

“It’s come to a point where we need to close a chapter and begin another one,” said Mary-Elizabeth Rosenberg, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, the restaurant’s namesake.

Mike Rosenberg first opened his restaurant in 1985 down the street, in a building with “crooked, rolling floors” and a potbelly stove. It was charming and cozy, but needed too many repairs, so he moved his business to its current building on First Street and Anthes Avenue in 1989.

The little lot on the corner holds a great deal of the Langley community’s history. It was once where Rich Clyde’s gas station sat, and at the beginning of the twentieth century it was where the town well could be found.

Mike’s Place now is not only a restaurant, but also an ice creamery and a coffeehouse. It has Wi-Fi and games, including the “monster big chess table,” as regular Keith Mack describes it.

“It’s a place where you can come out and spend some time,” he said.

Mack, a freelance writer, has been coming to Mike’s Place since he moved to Freeland 11 years ago.

“I’ll be sad to see it go, but I also know that you know you get to a certain life stage and you just want to do something else,” he said, adding that he hoped the owners weren’t selling for economic reasons.

While the recession has made things harder for the whole community, Mary-Elizabeth Rosenberg said it has nothing to do with their decision.

“For me personally, I haven’t seen my grandchildren in years.”

With eight grandchildren spread out across three states, Rosenberg would like to go live near at least one of them for a while.

An influx of health problems for Mike Rosenberg recently added to the already daunting task of running a restaurant. And his mother, Pauline, passed away last May. She was a Holocaust survivor and was a prominent figure at the restaurant since she moved into the upstairs apartment in 1989.

“We’re physically worn out,” Rosenberg said. “We want to retire.”

Being worn out is understandable after years of restaurant work — especially on top of an ill spouse who is also the co-owner — yet it’s somewhat hard to imagine it happening to someone as spunky as Mary-Elizabeth Rosenberg.

Typical restaurant days are never that, but Rosenberg navigates through them — the mishaps and the fun, the grumpy customers and the cheerful ones — perhaps not always with ease, but at least with a constructive sense of humor.

“You smile,” she said, after tactfully yielding to a customer who demanded 10 cents off his coffee for bringing in his own cup. “And you make sure you go to the dentist so you have the prettiest teeth ever.”

It’s all part of the “roller coaster” of owning a restaurant. “It’s serious business when you’re feeding over a hundred people a day and have to make it seem like it’s seamless,” she said.

But it’s rarely easy to say goodbye, especially to a staff and community the Rosenbergs have become so involved in.

The owners, servers, cooks and baristas form a close-knit family.

Chef Mark Ross has been around all 27 years. Why? “I gave Mike my word I’d help him out,” he said.

Barista Greg Nelson, a student at Western Washington University, quit his higher paying landscaping job to come back to work at Mike’s Place for the summer. And server Ferra Sherlock is finally quitting what she planned on only being a summer job — five years ago.

Between joking with the baristas and offering up her home to a server’s visiting family, Rosenberg was visited by Langley Councilwoman Rene Neff and Police Chief Randy Heston. They chatted about employee parking recommendations, and Rosenberg enthusiastically reeled off a list of her own suggestions for the town, like a racquetball court.

“Wouldn’t that be cool if I could say, ‘Hey, after work let’s go play, and I’m gonna whack the heck out of ya?’” Rosenberg said to Heston. (Despite walking her dog off the leash at times, Rosenberg has a jovial relationship with the police chief. She even sews his shirt seams.)

The Village by the Sea will always hold a special place in Rosenberg’s heart. She compares it to other charming small towns where people pass through on road trips, the ones that make a traveler wonder what kind of people live there and how they sustain themselves.

“And here I am in one of these little towns, making a living. It’s really special,” she said. “You’re not in the rat race of people and traffic and bells and whistles and all kinds of city stuff.

“I’ve been very, very grateful for the entire experience. I have some incredible friends I’ve made in this town.”

While Rosenberg is sad to say goodbye, she hopes the town of Langley is excited to see a new business in town.

“We think that it needs new energy, it needs new blood, it needs a transformation,” she said.

“But the bottom line is, it’s been quite a ride.”

The current asking price for the building and equipment is $969,000, and the property has been listed on craigslist.org. Rosenberg said buying or leasing the business would be negotiable.

Mike’s Place follows three other downtown Langley restaurants that have gone up for sale in the last few years. The Braeburn changed hands late last year, the Dog House Tavern sold at auction last May, and the Edgecliff restaurant remains on the market.

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