History of the Pine Tavern Restaurant
Coming Full Circle
In the seventy-plus years of its existence, the Pine Tavern Restaurant has changed hands only four times – which is remarkable for any business, let alone a restaurant.
The Pine Tavern was founded in 1936 by two enterprising and courageous women named Maren Gribskov and Eleanor Bechen. At a time when the country was just barely pulling itself out of the Great Depression, these women built a thriving business serving a growing population of timber industry workers and their families. During World War II, Pine Tavern guests included soldiers stationed at Camp Abbot (now Sunriver) and the occasional tourist or skier who stumbled upon Bend. Over the course of almost thirty years, Maren Gribskov and Eleanor Bechen established themselves as exceptional cooks and gracious hosts, making the Pine Tavern the best restaurant in Central Oregon.
As Bend grew and things changed, so did the Pine Tavern. Some years, the restaurant favored casual family dining, with a cordoned-off and darkened bar. In other years, meals were served on white linen tablecloths and fine china. A major renovation in the 50’s enclosed two gigantic Ponderosa Pines in the Garden Room, at the time, a novel concept for the diners’ experience. After Maren and Elenor, and for a short time a man by the name of "Tex" forged the path. After "Tex", yet another strong and capable woman, Winifred Roley owned the restaurant in the 70’s. Being the shortest by Pine Tavern standards, her tenure lasted only a little more than a decade.
Bert Bender & Joe Cenarrusa purchased the Pine Tavern in 1982. Bert, a Chicago native, spent years honing his restaurant skills by managing Sun Valley’s iconic Trail Creek Cabin and owning legendary Warm Springs Ranch in Ketchum, Idaho. From Idaho’s “Devil’s Bedstead” Bert imported the sinfully good sourdough scones and honey-butter that Pine Tavern diners continue to enjoy.
The 80’s were yet another transition for Bend from timber to tourism. Bert and Joe struggled through the lean years to watch Bend become the fastest growing community in the country. Tourism boomed, and Central Oregon was invigorated by the thousands who visited each year. Among many other improvements, in the 90‘s, Bert and Joe had the patio and garden redesigned, resulting in a magical dining experience overlooking Mirror Pond that no summer diner should miss.
In September of 1997 Joe was killed in an airplane crash and his widow Jean Cenarrusa carried on as a valued partner. Bert Bender passed away peacefully and in the company of his family in June of 2009.
Daughter Justine Bender Bennett and her mother Christine Bender became the owners of this iconic Central Oregon landmark in 2010. Coming full circle - two enterprising women continue the journey...