Hi-Lo brings neighborhood together in Bremerton

From left to right, John Thow, Amy Roszak, Corben Roszak and Maddie Roszak enjoy an afternoon meal Tuesday at Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Cafe.  - Lynsi Burton/staff photo
From left to right, John Thow, Amy Roszak, Corben Roszak and Maddie Roszak enjoy an afternoon meal Tuesday at Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Cafe.
— image credit: Lynsi Burton/staff photo

When Heidi and Lowell Yoxsimer set out to open a new restaurant on the corner of Bremerton’s 15th Street and Wycoff Avenue, some didn’t think they had a chance.

“A lot of people told us, ‘You’re crazy’ for opening on this block,” Lowell Yoxsimer said, noting the “ghetto” reputation of the west Bremerton neighborhood.

But the Yoxsimers pressed ahead anyway, opening Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Cafe in 2006. Since then, the breakfast and sandwich shop has established itself as a neighborhood hub, drawing diners to its “moon biscuits” and gravy and green eggs and ham. As the only restaurant in a radius of several blocks, the cafe has weathered the recession by staying true to its working-class and family appeal.

“You come in here and it’s like coming into a family,” said Ron Whittaker, who lives two houses down from the cafe and comes in about once a week. “That and you have good food and decent prices with good service.”

Adorning the restaurant is an eclectic collection of Heidi and Lowell Yoxsimer’s favorite things. As avid collectors and yard sale shoppers, vintage album covers from several different eras are hung throughout the cafe and old advertisements cover the dining tables. The restroom comes complete with a turning disco ball.

“It’s pretty much all our favorite stuff,” Heidi Yoxsimer said. “Hopefully everybody that comes in can find something that they relate to.”

The Hi-Lo is also home of the self-declared “Unofficial Thermos Museum” — between 280 and 300 Thermoses line high-hang shelves in the restaurant and the Yoxsimers have almost 100 more in their collection.

“We think it’s nice and funky,” said Amy Roszack of Bremerton, who ate with her family at Hi-Lo Tuesday. “We love to bring friends here.”

Her daughter, Maddie Roszack, added, “I like the atmosphere.”

Lowell Yoxsimer said the Hi-Lo hasn’t been burned by the economic downturn. It has stayed afloat by keeping its prices low for its blue-collar customer base, he said.

“We wanted people to feel comfortable coming a couple times a week, not once a month,” he said.

Hi-Lo has become a home base for west Bremertonians who run into friends and neighbors there, Lowell Yoxsimer said, likening it to the 1980s TV show, “Cheers.”

“People just started getting a sense of pride, a sense of community,” he said.

Each customer is like a guest in their house, Heidi Yoxsimer said.

“We just set out to be the little corner mom and pop place,” she said.

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