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Essentially Ashland

Amy ... above the din

As mentioned in a previous column, I chanced upon Amy Wong, daughter of Sam Wong of the Dahlia on the Plaza, some years ago. She was the precocious lass who extracted Nathan&

s hot dogs, chips and soda from our Plaza Cafe hot dog stand, along with her ravenous brother, Mikey. Sam let them into the restaurant to eat every night, not knowing that they had already munched their way around and through the Plaza.

Amy went on to get degrees in psychology and business at what is now Southern Oregon University, though she could never get the restaurant business out of her blood. I&

ve owned several food operations and know, first hand, that it&

s sort of a vampire deal: Once bitten, forever enslaved.

Marty Morlan was in business running Macaroni&

s with Beasy McMillan since 1989, then stepped up to the pasta plate in 1992 to buy Beasy out. Beasy did what he does best and retired to his study, shed a tear or two, counted his money and opened up another operation. In 1995 Marty opened up Martino&

s in what was an open roof above Macaroni&

s (Bob&

s Lunch then Hamlet&

s Roost).

The external construction was done by the landlord, but the finished interior look required some additional talents. The Zebra wood with walnut trim finish seemed preordained. Steve Owsley designed the bar to be user friendly. The touch, feel, and final look came under the careful eye and tender touch of Craig Hudson, who had transformed the old Pink Church into the Oregon Cabaret Theater, a space known for its tasteful feel and striking versatility. Connecting the bar to the food operation below required a custom-designed dumb waiter, which allows a Macaroni&

s menu to be served on the former roof.

Martino&

s opened in June of 1995, and Amy was there to greet the first customer. Since then, she has become the heart and soul of the operation, as she knows most of the customers as well as having a complete understanding of the operation. She fields all questions with cheerfulness and her trademark bright smile.

— — —

Amy Wong and Martino&

s owner Marty Morlan — take a breather at the restaurant.

The patio on the front facade was added, though at the cost of a confrontation with the city council. When we opened up the Plaza Cafe hot dog stand (now Noah&

s Rafting), we were cited by the city administrator for impeding public access on the sidewalks, though the real reason was I did not seek his personal permission, which was not legally required. Five hundred dollars in attorney fees later, the charges were dropped, as there were no legal grounds against our sidewalk operation.

Calle Guanajuato began to draw crowds of shoppers &

it seemed reasonable that dining be allowed. Prior to that, the Jackson County Health Department forbade any outdoor dining for fear that a fly might make it off Noah&

s Ark and land in the vicinity of your plate. Something happened, for soon the parks department was charging restaurants on the Plaza for seating placed in the alley.

With this thinking in mind, the city began to allow sidewalk dining (hey, how about a credit for our attorney bill?), charging merrily for each chair. Martino&

s proposed new patio was anchored, technically, in a City right-of-way, thus, according to those who purported to serve us best, liable for an additional City seating charge. The fee was set at $200/month, a large charge for a new food operation. Somehow, the city council thought this an onerous amount in light of the high cost of renovation, and the fee was waived.

After a play at the festival, Martino&

s is the place to go. Actors hold court as access is directly off the courtyard bricks at the Bowmer. Fans swell the room, eager to get a chance to chat with the actors while having a cocktail and a bite to eat. I say order up, find a roost and chew the fat with your Hamlet of choice.

I dropped by the other night and marveled at how well Amy waited on so many, all the while smiling and laughing. From a kid pleading for a hot dog to a refined woman who is Ashland&

s face to the world, Amy strides through time with a wink and a broad smile to welcome locals and visitors alike to a refuge above the throngs and traffic.

Future columns will focus on various businesses as well as key individuals and events that will lead the charge from times past to lend perspective to the revival of Ashland. Send your favorite remembrances to: lance@journalist.com.