Blackwell sells The Metropole to Dude’s Kitchen

Owner Sterling Blackwell, right, and shop manager, Herbert Miller, left, pose in front of The Metropole in early September 2022, just after Blackwell purchased the coffee shop from previous owner Lynette Buller. Blackwell has sold the shop to free up a very tight schedule. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
It would be fair to say that Sterling Blackwell has a lot of irons in the fire, so speak.
 In addition to his full-time job teaching musical theater at Fruitland High School, he also serves as an adjunct faculty member at TVCC, puts on a number of public musicals and plays, and runs Sterling’s Shaved Ice in the summer months.
 On top of that, he is a Weiser City Councilman, serving as a liaison for the Weiser Public Library.
 Then there is The Metropole Café, a business he bought over a year ago, that takes up whatever time he has left, and then some.
 Sterling bought the coffee shop from previous owner Lynette Buller.
 But now, with so much going on in his life, at times, he is just plain pooped.
 “I’m mostly just burned out,” he told the Signal American last week. “I’ve got too much on my plate and I’ve got to figure out some way to balance all of it.”
 Although owning a coffee shop was a bucket-list item for him, Sterling has decided to sell The Metropole, the popular Weiser gathering place he put his heart and soul into over the last 12 months.
 It just so happens that Dude’s Kitchen, a bakery in Fruitland, has been looking to move to Weiser.  
 Easton and Amanda Shepard, who started out in a food trailer, have outgrown their operation and have agreed to purchase The Metropole at an undisclosed price. 
 Sterling first made contact with Easton when the two partnered to sell pastries at The Metropole.  
 Since that time,  the Shepards have moved from their food trailer to their current location at 402 S.W. Third St. in Fruitland.  
 The business has blossomed over the last year, bulging out of what has become a cramped space.
 Amanda Shepard also operates “The Plant Babe” as a side business, offering plants for sale, as well as maintenance of office plants and decorating businesses with them.
 “He was lamenting to me one Saturday about needing more space and I had actually, just the day before, come to the conclusion that I am stretched way too thin,” Sterling said. “So, I made the offer. I think Easton and Amanda are in a great position because it is the only job he will have. It’s his passion, his life. He has a wealth of experience and I think he’s the perfect fit to step in and take The Metropole to the next level, and it gives me a chance to breathe and not have to work every single day of my life.”
 Dude’s Kitchen currently offers small batch, original recipe donuts, croissants, pastries, burritos, and espresso.
 Easton told the Signal American that nothing will change in terms of the coffee component of The Metropole, which Sterling worked so hard the last year to fine tune. He also plans to serve lunch, including sandwiches, soups, and salads, in addition to breakfast burritos and more.
 “We are so excited for the opportunity,” said Easton, who formerly ran a business in Washington state. He and his family will be moving to Weiser. “The goal is to turn it into more of an operating café/restaurant,” he said of The Metropole, which is tentatively set to be renamed “Dude’s Kitchen at The Metropole.”
 He added that the unique name was born in Washington where he test-batched his donuts, many commenting, “Dude, these are really good!”
 Inside The Metropole building, Easton plans to install a hood vent, which will allow him to make flatbread pizzas and other hot-meal items, and will serve beer and wine, which means obtaining a license. 
 Considering the difficulty meeting with contractors these days and the normal process involving licensing, it will take a few weeks before his ambitions are realized.
 “We might not have those things right from the get-go, but before November would be our goal,” he said.
 He is currently considering operating the business from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. or even 6 p.m.
 “We’ve had so many people message us or come into our shop, asking us to please stay open later because they enjoy their evening coffee,” Easton said.
 Speaking of coffee, he added that he currently uses Agape Coffee House coffee, a small-batch roasterie in Payette and has been in contact with Stumptown Coffee, a large purveyor out of Portland.
 The new owners plan to open the shop the first week of October. Sterling said he is taking the last week of September off, which means there will be about one week when the shop is closed.
 “As long as the health department gives the approvals we need, we will open right at the beginning of October,” said Easton, adding that he is shocked at the success he and Amanda have seen in such a short period of time.
 “This has been surreal,” he said. “We didn’t think we would be in this position so soon, but God provides; you just ‘gotta show up, give up control and let Him take care of it.” Sterling is likewise amazed at how things have turned out.
 “It was kind of an answer from Heavenly Father, saying, ‘Hey, this is someone who knows what he is doing and has success in the business … he’s a great person to take over.”


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