Warming up to outdoor dining, Puyallup and Sumner open more winter-ready patios

by | Dec 4, 2020

Justin and Joleen Jones of JMJ Team civil engineering turned their vacant alleyway into a covered sit-down dining area for customers of any of downtown Sumner’s restaurants. 

The narrow space between 905 Main St. in downtown Sumner and its neighboring building seemed unusable.

What do you do with a 10-foot wide, 40-foot long space surrounded by brick walls?

“It was empty, and it always kind of gnawed at us a little bit,” said Joleen Peterson-Jones, who with her husband Justin Jones, owns JMJ Team, a civil engineering and land-use planning firm.

Since spring 2019, they have worked out of the brand-new 905 Main St., renting the ground-floor commercial unit to Electric Coffee. During construction, passersby would comment on the awkward empty space and say things like, “Oh, too bad you’re not gonna be able to do anything with it,” Peterson-Jones recalled in a phone call this week.

“When restaurants were hit with the indoor dining regulation — the ban — we just wanted to do something to help,” she said.

Inspired by a parklet across the street at Hometown Charm Café, the couple found just the right sized covers online. They outfitted the narrow space with a few picnic tables and bistro lights. They plopped a sandwich board outside and gave it a name: Takeout Alley.

“Open to all,” the sign reads, Takeout Alley lends a public park sentiment to outdoor dining. Peterson-Jones hopes it encourages people to order food from Sumner’s many restaurants and to enjoy their meal without leaving downtown.

“People still want to get out of the house,” she said, “and takeout is wonderful — and we should all be doing it. Sometimes you don’t want to take it home. You want to stay and still experience the downtown.”

She or her husband locks up the entrance to the alley every night and reopens it each morning, emptying the trash, too. For the most part, said Peterson-Jones, guests have been respectful.

“I liken it to a city park bench,” she said. “It’s not serviced by a restaurant, so you’ve gotta pack it in and pack it out, and keep it clean.”