When Christy Hayes opened a new restaurant in 2012 in downtown Woodland where Morrison’s Upstairs had operated for a quarter century, she knew she had big shoes to fill. Morrison’s was an institution in this charming agricultural town, a place where locals were likely to bump into a friend or neighbor most any night of the week.
Nearly a decade later, Hayes has built her restaurant, Kitchen428, and the adjoining bar, Mojo’s Lounge, into a community gathering spot that’s every bit as significant as any civic or cultural institution in town.
From the beginning, Hayes wanted to create a space where patrons felt at home. The restaurant’s loyal following—some regulars drop by two or three times a week—is the result of “connecting with people on a human level, not going through the robotics of ‘Hello, here’s your dinner, here’s your drink,’ she says. “It’s about getting to know people on a personal level.”
It’s a lesson Hayes absorbed from the owners of Morrison’s, where she worked for six years before the restaurant closed. “I learned so much from them—how to handle the front of the house, how to take care of customers, how to make sure things go smoothly for them,” she says.
Hayes also set out to be a force for good in the community—and she has delivered. “I’m really big on community events,” explains Hayes, who has supported numerous nonprofits and local causes through creative fundraisers. For a year during the pandemic, when the restaurant was shuttered, she arranged for the kitchen to prepare meal kits for three dozen local veterans, completely paid for by donations. “It was a way to keep us busy and keep people in the community fed and healthy and able to stay home more so that they could stay safe.”
It’s that civic spirit that Hayes hopes will propel Kitchen428 forward for another decade. “I know that it’s possible, especially when you think about the longevity that Morrison’s had,” she says. “I hope that can happen for us, too.”