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Vets building caters to brothers.

Byline: CHRISTIAN WIHTOL Register-Guard Business Editor

TWO VETERANS of the local restaurant business figure the Veterans Memorial Building in Eugene is the place to start a new venture.

Brothers Pat and Bill McCallum, who ran the well-regarded Treehouse Restaurant on Franklin Boulevard in Eugene from 1977 to its demise in 1997, have launched a catering business out of the commercial kitchen at the Veterans building at 1626 Willamette St.

The kitchen has been dormant for the past 1 1/2 years, as the building owners - American Legion Post 3 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 293 - have wrestled over what to do with the property.

The Vets Club, a popular Eugene bar housed in the building, closed abruptly in November 2000. The veterans groups considered selling the 55-year-old Colonial-style structure, but recently opted to keep it, begin upgrades and try to attract new tenants and events.

Pat McCallum hopes his new company - McCallum's Custom Catering - will be able to cater to groups that the revived building draws. But most of the business will come from catering corporate and private events around Lane County, he said.

It's notoriously tough to make money in the competitive, labor-intensive dining business. But Pat McCallum, 44, and Bill McCallum, 41, just can't stay away. "The restaurant business kind of gets in your blood. It's something we really do enjoy," Pat McCallum said.

They've chosen a relatively low-budget approach. The duo initially had thought of buying a building, but then learned that the Veterans property had an unused kitchen, McCallum said.

They are spending $30,000 to $40,000 to buy equipment, start a Web site ( and get the venture running, McCallum said.

The kitchen is large - about 1,500 square feet - and has all the basics, including a walk-in cooler. The McCallums are buying specialized equipment, including a portable propane barbecue unit with refrigerated bays, plus other heating gear and ice chests.

McCallum said about a half-dozen catering firms handle 75 percent of the catering business in the Eugene-Springfield area. "Is there room for us in catering? Absolutely," he said.

The business also is offering private cooking classes in people's homes. Bill McCallum has long offered cooking classes at Pepperberry's, a kitchen-products shop on Willakenzie Road, and private classes are a natural extension of that, Pat McCallum said.

Aside from his work at the Treehouse - which is now home to Mekala's - McCallum helped found and run the Wild Duck brew pub in downtown Eugene from 1995 to 1999. After leaving the Treehouse, Bill McCallum worked as chef at Jake's Place on West 19th Avenue in Eugene.

"We just decided that it was time for us to get into business together again," Pat McCallum said.

Bob Dougherty, who runs the Veterans building, said he and the McCallums have a temporary, short-term rental arrangement, until the veterans groups settle on a long-term plan for the property. He declined to say how much he's charging the McCallums, but he said the money helps cover utilities and the like.

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Bill McCallum and brother Pat are leasing the kitchen of the Veterans Memorial Building to start a catering business.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 13, 2002
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