Serving it up

Jodie Empolen-Smith (left), Taylor Wagner and Cathy Wagner opened Two Blocks Up Cafe in downtown Bremerton last October.  - Courtesy photos
Jodie Empolen-Smith (left), Taylor Wagner and Cathy Wagner opened Two Blocks Up Cafe in downtown Bremerton last October.
— image credit: Courtesy photos

Two Blocks Up Cafe offers sandwiches, salads and more in downtown Bremerton.

The ladies of Two Blocks Up Cafe have been keeping busy since last year.

Jodie Empolen-Smith, Taylor Wagner and Cathy Wagner opened Two Blocks Up Cafe last October on the corner of Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Bremerton.

The three women have known each other for years and decided last summer the time was right to open a business together.

Empolen-Smith and Taylor worked together in the past and became good friends. Taylor and Cathy also have a special bond and have known each other for many, many years.

“She gave birth to me,” Taylor said with a smile.

Empolen-Smith, Taylor and Cathy decided to open a cafe last year when all three of them lost their jobs around the same time. They’d worked in the restaurant business before and decided the time was right to open their own place.

“We all had jobs for a long time and they all just sort of went away at the same time,” Empolen-Smith said.

“Then we just all started talking and decided we could do this,” Cathy added.

Around the same time, Goodies closed in downtown Bremerton and the ladies decided it was the perfect location for Two Blocks Up Cafe.

“We didn’t even know we wanted this place actually,” Taylor said. “It all just kind of worked out.”

Two Blocks Up Cafe serves sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries, espresso, beer and wine. Customers can build their own sandwiches by selecting which meats, vegetables, spreads and type of bread or wrap they’d like. Empolen-Smith said nothing on the menu costs more than $7.

“We do catering too and box lunches for people who want them,” Cathy said.

“Everything’s really fresh too. We buy all the produce the morning of,” Empolen-Smith added.

Taylor said the daily specials and 2 Block Chop salad are popular with customers and Thursdays offer a little something different that customers seem to enjoy.

“The tacos on Thursdays are really popular,” Taylor said.

Taylor said it was “surprisingly easy” to create the menu and the three women knew they wanted to serve sandwiches and salads because they can be prepared quickly, so customers don’t have to wait long for their meals.

“We all had our favorite items that we said we just had to have on the menu,” Empolen-Smith said.

Cathy said it’s hard to decide how much food to buy each day, but they are getting the hang of it.

“Our customers put up with us really well. They’re great,” she said.

Cathy said customers seem to like the Two Blocks Up Cafe atmosphere and some people come in for just a cup of coffee and the wifi.

“We have a homey, kind of comfortable feel,” Empolen-Smith said.

“It’s relaxing,” Taylor added.

Empolen-Smith said choosing a name for the business was difficult, but the three women selected Two Blocks Up because the cafe is literally two blocks up from the Bremerton waterfront.

“It’s just right in the heart. It’s two blocks up from everything,” Cathy said.

“Downtown is going to be getting busier,” Taylor added.

Taylor said opening Two Blocks Up Cafe has been an emotional challenge, but well worth it.

“I thought it was going to be more physically challenging, but for me, it’s been more emotionally draining because it’s your own place and you want everyone to like it,” she said.

Taylor said they’d like to expand the cafe in the future by knocking out a wall and Empolen-Smith said they want to add more foods to the menu.

Empolen-Smith also said Two Blocks Up Cafe will open on weekends if there’s an event in downtown Bremerton or to host special events, such as prom dinners or birthday parties, if requested at least a couple weeks in advance.

“When you have parties you don’t want to have to be worried about cleaning and preparing,” she said. “You just come and have a good time and we take care of it.”

Taylor said being an owner of Two Blocks Up Cafe is the best job she’s ever had and she enjoys spending time with her mother and good friend each day.

“We’re all friends, so it’s just like we’re hanging out,” Taylor said. “And knowing that it’s ours, we don’t have a boss, it’s great.”

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