The Slider Café family celebrates Tahoe wedding

Serving smiles with your coffee


February 22, 2023

Marissa Conklin

SAYING "I DO" WAS EASY TO DO – Kimberly Bonilla and Levi Howell are back from their North Tahoe wedding. They left town with the rest of the café staff to have them share in this very special occasion.

The Slider Café is a family restaurant in more than name only.

The Morris Street diner, known to locals for its friendly small-town ambiance and mission to "feed the hangry," is no mere workplace for its staff.

It is truly home.

Owner Pat Ball not only gave his employees paid vacation last month, but closed the café for two weeks so that they could attend the Lake Tahoe wedding of two of their own – cook/kitchen manager Levi Howell and server/dining area manager Kimberly Bonilla.

"Pat wanted everybody to be able to take a good amount of time off, but also stay open for the holidays," the happy bride told The Weekly News. "Because of all the hours we put in during tulips, everybody got time off in January for the wedding and to see friends."

In many cases, those friends were also part of the extended Slider Café family in Tahoe.

Ball said second to having hired the couple in the first place, closing the cafe for the wedding and springing for a group vacation in Nevada was among the best decisions he has made during his long career in the restaurant business.

Nell Thorn Reservations

"I had no regrets and I wouldn't have changed a thing," he said. "It was so awesome."

For that, many are thankful. Most notably the newlyweds, who shared a post-nuptial kiss on a Squaw Creek ski lift.

"I don't think it would've come off if it wasn't for you," Howell told Ball. "It was really cool being there and getting to snowboard on those slopes was very special."

The Slider Café has made things happen for the Howells, who met on-line and began dating in 2014, for several years now.

"Our dream," Kimberly Howell said, "was to work together at a café that didn't serve alcohol and be home at five o'clock. I didn't think it would ever happen."

She preceded her future husband at the restaurant. Levi Howell, who grew up playing baseball and nurturing his food prep skills in Cle Elum, came to town after having attended the Skagit Valley College culinary arts program. The two had their first date at La Conner Brewing Co., where he was a cook.

Things progressed from there. Their daughter, Annabelle, now a first grader at La Conner Elementary School, was born a year later.

Eventually, Levi Howell hired on at The Slider Café.

"The best moves I ever made were hiring Levi and Kimberly," Ball said. "I had no doubt that it would work having a couple working together."

In fact, it wasn't until Ball announced the café would briefly close for the wedding that some regular customers became aware that the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Howell were a couple.

"We work hard," explained Levi Howell, "at separating our professional and personal lives."

On the professional side, both are committed to team building and staff bonding. The wedding vacation was just one example.

"I'm a huge believer in team building," said Levi Howell. "People who work together should play together.

"Here it's a family. I love the family aspect. We can bring our kid into work when we need to. And we've closed sometimes to care for Anna when she's been sick. Pat always tells us that family comes first," he said.

"We're building something special here," he added. "We just want to keep it going."

The entire Slider family was back at the café the first weekend of February, greeting and serving locals and tourists.

"Our goal," said Kimberly Howell, while sharing pictures of her bridal bouquet of baby's breath and pinecones – symbolic of the couple's mountain resort wedding ceremony – "is to make it feel here like you're at grandmas, but also at a five-star restaurant."

The Howells are settling into married life and resuming their regular routines. Annabelle is back in school after her family geography field trip to the mountains near Reno.

The couple said the schools, like The Slider Café, are a main reason why they are vested in La Conner.

"We'd heard people talk about the school district," said Levi Howell, "and we decided we needed to make it happen."

"We love the diversity," Kimberly Howell said. "When you walk into the elementary school, it has 'Be Kind' written everywhere."

Another selling point is La Conner Hook & Ladder. The Howells are looking forward to The Slider Café's annual fundraiser for local firefighters on March 18.

"We'll pass around the boot," said Kimberly Howell, "and are pledging a portion of the proceeds that day to the fire department."

And, before you know it, it will be time for another Slider family vacation. The destination is to be determined, but Levi Howell anticipates it being a less eventful venue than the trip just completed.

"Next year," he quipped, "we may go to a beach and do nothing."


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