Heller’s owners say ‘goodbye’ after 31 years

New owner plans to remodel the Washougal restaurant and reopen later this month

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Heller's Restaurant and Lounge, in Washougal, is under new ownership. Randy and Reta Heller (not pictured) recently retired from the restaurant business after owning Heller's for 31 years. The eatery's new owner-operator, Ben Jackson (also not pictured), plans to remodel the space at 1826 "E" St., Washougal, and reopen later this month.

The longtime owners of Heller’s Restaurant and Lounge in Washougal are saying “goodbye” after 31 years.

Reta Heller said she and her husband, Randy Heller, plan to go on trips and “take it easy” now that they’ve sold the restaurant to Ben Jackson, who plans to remodel the space at 1826 “E” St., Washougal, and reopen the restaurant and lounge later this month.

“It has been a lot of work and good times with customers,” Reta Heller said of her three decades’ worth of running the popular Washougal eatery.

Both Hellers said they’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends over the years.

“It’s been a great run,” Randy Heller said.

His father, Eldon Heller, constructed the restaurant building in 1974, and owned the restaurant and lounge for two years. People not related to the Heller family leased it for about a decade before Randy and Reta Heller bought the restaurant and building from Eldon Heller in 1987.

Lacey Swanson, granddaughter of Eldon Heller and niece of Randy Heller, has worked at Heller’s Lounge as a “mixologist” and bartender for the past 18 years. Prior to pouring drinks in the lounge, Swanson worked in Heller’s Restaurant for four years.

Kenny Shold, a former Camas paper mill worker, has been eating at Heller’s for 44 years. In December, Shold created a sign for other Heller’s customers to write messages to the retiring owners, and bid them “farewell and good fortune until we meet again.”

Gayle Godtlibsen and her husband, Ivar Godtlibsen, of Washougal, have eaten at Heller’s for the “homestyle cooking” for more than 15 years.

“We always sit in this booth,” Gayle said while eating lunch at Heller’s on Friday, Dec. 28, with longtime friends Colleen and Bruce Becker. “If you want to know what the locals are up to, this is the place to go.”

Ivar pointed out that other customers also have had their favorite seating areas at Heller’s. His favorite meal there has been the ribs served on Saturday nights, while Gayle likes the “Smokey Tom,” a turkey and ham hoagie.

For the Beckers, of Vancouver, it was their first time eating at Heller’s. Colleen ordered a french dip sandwich, and Bruce got the two-piece halibut and potato salad meal.

“It’s sad we have not eaten here before,” Colleen said.

The Godtlibsens and Beckers got dessert orders to go after lunch — slices of chocolate cake, one with peanut butter frosting, the other with cream cheese frosting.

“They are also known for their tapioca pudding,” Gayle said.

“And large, homemade desserts,” Ivar added.

Anna Mae Murdock, 83, of Washougal, enjoyed a lunch of clam chowder and a grilled chicken sandwich on Dec. 28, at Heller’s Restaurant. She was not a frequent customer at Heller’s, but she said they have always had good food and good service.

Twice a year, Murdock visited and ate with some of her former Washougal High School classmates in the banquet room at Heller’s.