Our thanks to Ursula Schaefer, one of four partner-owners at Gorge Community Music in The Dalles, for talking with Gorge Owned about the various joys and perils of life as a local business owner (and as a patron of others). 


GO: Would you say Gorge Community Music has made special efforts to build community in the Gorge?

Schaefer: It’s exactly what we set out to do. [We] provide a gathering place, an outlet, a resource for musicians. The design of our physical space and our programming is part of this effort. We opened up the floor plan and made sure to provide ample seating so people knew they were welcome to stay a while. We built a stage upstairs and left room for an audience so we could host concerts; we’ve held at least a dozen so far. We also seek opportunities to bring people together to make music, and actively promote local musical happenings, whether or not we’re involved. Our large glass windows are always plastered with upcoming events. We take community seriously. 

GO: What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a small business owner?

Schaefer: For me personally, the hardest obstacle has been grappling with my own unrealistic idea of creating a “perfect business”. The way I’ve overcome it is by shifting my perspective. Businesses are just an extension of the imperfect humans who created them. There are limits to what each of us owners can do. Fortunately, these limits aren’t fixed. We can improve, evolve, find ways to be more efficient. It comes down to acceptance. Acceptance is a practice of self-love, which includes establishing boundaries. We have to be honest with ourselves about what we can do, and what we simply don’t have the time/money/resources/energy to accomplish. In a world of big box stores, corporations and Amazon — places of business where things really can seem to be “perfect”, [that acceptance] is almost radical.

GO: What does the best day ever look like at Gorge Community Music? 

Schaefer: Fortunately for us, we are sandwiched between two awesome cafés: Kaino’s Coffee & Petite Provence. So naturally, the day would start with a tasty treat and warm beverage. Once caffeine and sugar cravings were under control, we would get to work. Maybe we would all be there — Wendy & Steve (my mom & dad), Caleb (my partner), Psalm (our 4 year old son), and myself. “Granny”, as we endearingly call her, would be in the Ho’okipa Ukulele workshop, putting together her latest batch of handmade instruments. My dad would be posted up at the front counter, greeting people as they walked in, and DJ’ing tunes that he loves to blast onto the sidewalk. Chances are he’d have Psalm on one knee. Caleb and I would have our heads together tackling the tasks of the day. Students & teachers would be in and out for private lessons, friends would be serendipitously meeting up, and people would come in and sing or play throughout the day. 

GO: What is your favorite local business in the Gorge (besides your own, of course)? What do you love about it?

Schaefer: One of my all-time faves is Mother’s Market in Hood River. It always smells amazing. On any given day, you will find freshly baked cookies/muffins/bread, hot steaming soups, and fresh pressed fruit and veggie juices enticing your senses all at once. The charm is real. Old wood floors, hand painted signage, colorful African baskets, and friendly staff…in a word: homey. Margaret, the “mother” of Mother’s Market can be found in the kitchen, or up front at the register more times than not, and always greets me with a smile. 

GO: You’re at your favorite locally-owned restaurant, brewery, winery… (pick your poison). What do you have to order every time?

Schaefer: Having lived on the Big Island for 15 years, I had the chance to experience a variety of global cuisines. One of the most prominent? Japanese. So when Kobe Hibachi came to town, I was stoked! My go-to is the Veggie Tempura or Veggie Gyoza Ramen/Udon bowl. Toasted sesame seeds, seaweed, boiled egg and green onion in a sweet & savory broth, with the tempura or gyoza on the side. It is all around satisfying and a total belly full.

Gorge Community Music is located at 410 E 2nd St in The Dalles, and is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 – 6. Check out jazz americana and Brazilian bossa nova duo Max Hatt and Edda Glass in concert at Gorge Community Music this Saturday, October 6th, 7 – 9 pm.


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