It all started in the 80s when Christian, a French immigrant, met Annette, his future wife from Washington. They shared a love of food and wine, traveled, started a family together, and eventually built the now 30-year-old business—Capers.
Capers has endured through several eras, and I will walk you through them.
Before Capers, there was Anderson’s (pictured above). It was the first business that Christian owned. It was ahead of its time, offering the same experience that can now be found at Whole Foods: premade foods, fresh-cut meats and cheeses, baked goods, wine, and much more. Anderson’s was around for most of the 80s, and it was where Christian developed recipes that would go with him to his next venture. He learned a lot about running a business and what he wanted. Christian even worked with the man who went on to start Yoshidas sauce (which we use constantly!).
Unfortunately, Anderson’s fell on rough times, and by the end of the 80s, their doors were closed. This is when Christian found himself as the head chef at Capers Cafe. Before he began work, Capers was just a small cafe. However, having brought all his old recipes with him, in no time, the place was uniquely his. Christian wanted to take ownership, and convinced Annette to jump head first with him. It didn’t take long for him to get her to quit her job and join on as the accountant and manager. By ’91, they had taken ownership, with no idea that they had just bought the business that would last beyond their eventual retirement. Together they did it all, developing new recipes in the kitchen, and putting in place the foundation that would keep their buisness running for decades.
Annette was the perfect teammate to Christian, especially when it came to Capers. She came from a family in the food industry. Her family owned a Health Food Store in Auburn, WA, that believed that food was the most vital part of a person’s overall health and could be used as a prescription for better health. Her father, Ray Huber, was actually the creator of the Ezekiel 4:19 bread (which he sold to the current owners.) From a young age, she learned what it was like to start and run a business. She saw firsthand the passion that it took, and luckily, Christian and Annette had that passion.
With Christian and Annette working together, Capers quickly grew to become similar to what Anderson’s had been before. It was a big undertaking; however, it provided a space for Christian and Annette to explore what kind of business they wanted to build. The building offered room for a deli and wine shop, as well as an event space. That extra space paved the way for a venture that Christian had been wanting to explore: catering. At the time, Portland needed it.
I mean, what more could a chef want than to feed large quantities of people who would undoubtedly sing his praises at the end of an evening? I’m joking, but really, he was excited by the idea of creating customized menus for events. It gave him a chance to step out of just deli food and experiment with new recipes. However, until now, he hadn’t had the support he needed to find success. Annette provided that support, and with it the catering side of the business took off. (Fun fact: Capers Catering is who ended up cooking for Annette and Chrisitans wedding a few years later in 1995!)
As everyone knows, PDX’s thing is only allowing space for local businesses. This opportunity was not exactly planned, and investors weren’t eager to back an airport business. Had it not been for 9/11 and the drastic change in people’s airport habits, no one—including us—would have been eager to become an airport vendor. But with the ever-growing wait times and TSA checks, getting people to the airport earlier and keeping people at their gates longer, made being an airport vendor start to look pretty rewarding. So, on April 16th, 2002, Capers Le Bar in the North Lobby had its first day.
Our spot in the airport allowed us to grow our wine cellar and become a competitive distributor in the Portland area, carrying predominantly Willamette Valley wine. It also boosted our confidence. Christian and Annette, now knowing that we could keep a table service restaurant alive, wanted to try branching out into the city, specifically Portland’s downtown.
With thought and love, a restaurant was created in 2007. In the heart of the Pearl District, where Evergreens stands now, the restaurant once was. With a successful opening night, no one would have suspected that the housing crisis would come and cripple Portland’s economy. It closed the doors of many businesses. And though Capers as a whole survived, our first separate location did not. Though a short-lived adventure, it helped Capers see where it should focus itself moving forward.
Not much changed following the recession, that is, until 2016. That is when we opened our second location in the airport, Capers Market. We had been delivering locally sourced foods and wines to the airport, and we decided we wanted to have more. We started to curate a line of market products, all sourced from local businesses: chocolates, nuts, granola, coffee, hot sauce, candles, soaps—you name it—all from the Portland or greater Oregon area.
Come 2021, we all know what that was: Covid! Unfortunately, this transitioned our cafe on Ainsworth Circle into a production site. During the time it’s been closed, we have remodeled the building and are starting to look to spring 2024 when we anticipate the reopening of the cafe.
Spring 2024 also has other exciting things in store for Capers. It is when construction on the airport will be finished, at least contruction on our new location. So we will say goodbye to our two older sites and hello to Capers Bistro, our new home.
We are also starting to say hello to Andy, Christian and Annette’s son, who is now the acting General Manager of Capers. Ushering in a new leader and offering our founders a chance to slow down. Andy has worked at and helped in various roles at Capers since he was 19, now focused on carrying on the legacy of his family’s business.
Who knew 30 years ago that Capers would become what it is today? Christian and Annette have endured ebes and flows with Capers throughout the years, and we wouldn’t be who we are without them and their persistence. However, as with everything, at some point, there comes a time for change. For Capers, we have never stopped evolving, and we are always looking toward the future, eager to greet what comes next. (Like, perhaps a resurgence of a wine club?)
Before we wrap it up, I think it should be re-acknowledged that we have been around for 30 years. That is no small feat. In fact, studies show that only 5% of small businesses survive longer than 30 years. Our success has only been possible because of our inclusion in the wine community, opportunities at the PDX airport, and the incredible community that has used us for catering throughout the years. Lastly, we give many thanks to our employees that keep things running. We are a local, family-owned and operated, Portland business, and we couldn’t be prouder.