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Once homeless, this couple runs two businesses designed to serve Seattle

Paul and Stephanie Staley of CHOMP! Foods catering renovated The Canal, where they host events, pop-ups and a weekly market for small businesses.

SEATTLE — A longtime staple of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is getting a new, multi-purpose lease on life.

The Canal, with stunning views of the Locks, was a restaurant and special event space for decades prior to the pandemic. Now, it’s been acquired and restored by a couple who understand what it means to “start over.”

Chef Paul Staley and his wife Stephanie turned the space into a hybrid facility for private events, pop-ups and eventual food service. There is also a weekly “Market By The Canal” featuring an array of local vendors.

"It's a beautiful, beloved venue in Ballard that for years was an institution,” Stephanie said. "Someone you know probably has been here."

Paul added, "We felt the need to support other small businesses, other entrepreneurs."

The Staleys also operate CHOMP! Foods catering company, serving clients throughout Seattle.

Sometimes it's hard for them to believe everything they’ve built, given where they were back in 2008.

"The recession hit hard, so we both lost our jobs,” Paul said. "We were bouncing around from Seattle to Portland to Spokane looking for anything and we couldn't find anything, so we were pretty much homeless, living in our car."

After it became clear there wasn’t anything available, they decided to create their own jobs and launched a small confection company.

"Our first event was a craft fair where we did hand-painted truffles and we actually had to make them in a hotel room the night before,” Paul said.

Their treats took off, and they slowly began building a client list. Eventually, they expanded to a full-service catering menu, and in 2022, they were able to buy The Canal. It was in rough shape so Paul spent a year remodeling it before re-opening the doors.

The myriad of ways it’s being used speaks to the Staleys' desire to create community and uplift other small makers.

"By helping others, you're helping yourself,” Stephanie said. “You may not get anything tangible out of it, but there’s fulfillment in knowing that you're doing something for someone that maybe you didn't have done for you - just to help make it better."

The market operates every Thursday from 4 – 9 p.m.

On Sept. 21, they’re also hosting a pop-up six-course tasting event called “Savory Soiree: A Culinary Odyssey.” Tickets are $85.

A list of even more upcoming events is on their website.

The Staleys said they’re living a dream, and now they want to share it.

"It's kind of like that old adage, if you enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. I mean, that's highly inaccurate,” Paul said, laughing. “But, it does make sense. Because I would still rather have my hardest day here than a normal day in an office."

The Canal is located at 5300 34th Ave. Northwest.

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