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Monday, July 3, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Twin Peaks' cafe badly damaged in arson

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

NORTH BEND

Three days shy of his third anniversary as proprietor of North Bend's most-famous eatery, Kyle Twede got a 3 a.m. phone call yesterday with the news that Twede's Cafe was on fire.

Someone set two fires in a back storeroom and office in order to cover up a burglary, said Eastside fire marshal Mike Absher, who estimated damage from the arson at upward of $250,000. The burglar or burglars got away with $450.

The property was insured.

Twede's Cafe, formerly the Mar T Cafe, was made famous by the early 1990s television series "Twin Peaks." Part of the show's plot featured FBI Agent Dale Cooper's craving for cherry pie from the Double-R Diner, the fictional stand-in for the real-life Mar T.

But for North Bend, the cafe at North Bend Way and Bendigo Boulevard South is more than just a tourist attraction. It's a community hub where just about everybody goes to fill up on morning coffee and daily gossip.

"This place is so important to the community," said waitress Jocelyn Leavitt, 20. "Everybody - and I do mean everybody - comes here and knows at least one person who works here."

Leavitt called Twede after she and her husband, Mike, passed the burning cafe on their way home from a Renton bowling alley.

"Kyle is one of those people who will bend over backwards to help you out," said Mike Leavitt. "I can't believe somebody would do this to him."

Yesterday, the sidewalk in front of the building was cordoned off, and outside the back door charred equipment and wooden flooring was piled high. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call 800-55ARSON.

"It's really devastating," said Pat Cokewell, owner of the Mar T for more than 20 years before selling the business to Twede in 1997. Twede had worked for her a decade earlier.

"It's just sad for an old landmark to be gutted," Cokewell said.

First opened in 1940 as Thompson's Cafe, the property is still owned by the founder's daughters. One daughter, now in her 70s, stood outside the building yesterday surrounded by friends. She declined to comment on the fire.

According to Absher, the fire marshal, someone broke in through a side door that apparently wasn't bolted. A sledgehammer was used to break down the back door. Absher said the fires were started with material in the restaurant.

Tow-truck driver Michael Conway saw flames when he drove past the cafe about 2:45 a.m. and told his dispatcher to call 911, said his wife, Jeannine Conway.

Firefighters from Eastside Fire and Rescue stations in North Bend and Issaquah were assisted by their Snoqualmie and Fall City counterparts in dousing the two-alarm blaze. Police dusted for fingerprints but don't have any leads, Absher said.

In a storage room behind the kitchen, where one fire was started, an avalanche of potatoes lay on the still-soggy floor. Cans warped from the heat, their labels burned off, filled the shelves. Blond wood tabletops in the dining room were stained black except for patches where paper napkins had been laid out. The blue walls, painted just two months ago, were streaked with soot.

"Somebody came in and stole my money, but why they torched my place makes no sense," said Twede, who spent most of the morning moving what food he could salvage into freezers owned by his friends.

"All this for $450," he said. "And it's my busiest season."

Tourists from all the over the world - especially from countries where the short-lived but quirky "Twin Peaks" is in reruns - visit the cafe every summer. The third annual Twin Peaks Festival, planned for next month, includes a bus tour of North Bend with a coffee-and-pie stop at the cafe.

Twede hopes to be back in business well before then, not just to take advantage of the influx of out-of-town dollars but so his employees can get back to work.

"Somebody just put 18 people out of work, and half of them are breadwinners," he said. "There aren't a lot of jobs in North Bend and for many of my employees, this is their livelihood."

Sara Jean Green's phone message number is 206-515-5654. Her e-mail address is sgreen@seattletimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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