By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: Winding road to Bayou renovation

In a strange way, the late Del Smith had a hand in current plans to refurbish Bayou Golf Course and remodel the stately Colonial-style mansion. After all, Smith’s creation of the Evergreen Museum ultimately brought Brooks Pickering to town.

Memories were sparked this week when our Bayou news story quoted Pickering, founder and CEO of Headwaters Concepts, a Portland-based restaurant developer and manager.

Some remembered that in mid-2018, during the third bankruptcy involving properties on the Evergreen Museum campus, we quoted a press release identifying Pickering as “a seasoned strategic growth executive specializing in corporate turnarounds, restructuring and expansion” who had taken on the principal leadership role of the financially collapsing Falls Event Center, LLC.

Pickering came to McMinnville as a hired gun for a high-stakes job, but he obviously liked what he found here. Especially in Independence.

“I lived in the Independence Hotel for about nine months,” Pickering told a reporter for the city of Independence tourism website, “so we got to know the owners, the managers, all of the employees. As a result of that, you get to know other people in the restaurant business in town … What was nice was the access and everybody’s openness sharing their ideas. It was a pretty easy process, and we fell in love with the town immediately … It’s absolutely a fantastic place to do business.”

Pickering set up shop in the old Opera House on Main Street, saying he will convert it into a wine studio. This past summer, his group opened Field + Stream, a fine-dining restaurant in the Dundee Hotel. In McMinnville, Pickering said he wants “to create a nice place to play, dine and relax” – golf, event space, dining, walking trails, even access to the Yamhill River for kayaking and canoeing.

The Independence reporter wrote, “Doing a big turnaround on a restaurant owned by a company out of Salt Lake City, Utah, influenced him to form the restaurant group.” That Utah Company was the Steve Down empire that crumbled into a complex, long-running bankruptcy that took down event centers and restaurants in multiple states.

One of those Steve Down restaurants — Even Stevens — now operates its seven locations in Utah and Idaho under Pickering’s Headwaters Concepts.

One Steve Down detractor wrote in 2019: “Though Even Stevens is now run by Brooks Pickering, he appears to be continuing the fraud in the Steve Down style.” I thought Pickering might take a legal swipe at the maker of that loose-lipped statement, but he clearly was too focused on the bankruptcy tasks at hand — and his own future possibilities — to worry about a catcall from the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Del Smith would be happy to know that Evergreen Museum, operating on a sprawling campus under new ownership, is fulfilling the legacy he launched many years ago.

Contact Jeb Bladine at or 503-687-1223.


Tom Hammer

Good to see a free enterprise golf course stepping out.

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