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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Greg Platt and his ingenious Hashbrowner

From the tap-dancing taste-buds department, Noel V. Bourasaw, hash-slinger
      Sedro-Woolley was once known for the patented inventions of Skagit Steel & Iron Works, where Sid McIntyre took a Fordson tractor and used it in ways Henry Ford never dreamed of to yank trees out of forests and stumps out of the ground.
(Greg Platt with hashbrowner)
Greg Platt with hashbrowner. Under his feet is his basement, crammed with bicycles except when the nearby Skagit river dishes up a mighty flood

      Eight decades later the town is now becoming known for another ingenious gadget man, but this one makes your tummy feel good and full for 35 cents and the equipment is small and takes 20 seconds to wash. You'll find this man in the oldest clothing store in town, Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop. He may be helping you pick out your suspenders. Greg Platt is our Walter Mitty who has broken free from daydreaming into regional fame. If you are looking for a perfect last-minute gift for a happy homemaker, or a stocking-stuffer for a friend or relative, Greg has your answer. Just for full disclosure sake, I must admit that he is my bike doctor. He has replaced more than one flat tire on my ten speeds and has dried my tears through two stolen bikes.
      Back when Cookson Beecher and I used to write for the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, our favorite break during the day was to chat or have coffee with Greg. He was the nicest guy on the street and things have not changed since then. Many of Greg's fans went into a slump when he left Oliver-Hammer for awhile, but he returned. Oliver-Hammer owner Dyrk Meyers, like Pinky Robinson before him, knows that the secret to retail in a small town is to have people working for you who care about their customers and show it sincerely in little ways. Greer Drummond at the neighboring Valley Hardware says that Greg is the genuine article and he should know. He has been in retail on Metcalf street for seven decades, including several years at J.C. Penney, where Bus Jungquist Furniture stands today, and at Oliver-Hammer.
      Greg cares about my bicycle. He fixes it every time I screw it up. And he rehabilitates bikes for kids all over town. That's his way of being a good neighbor. But his most important gift to folks is his Hashbrowner. A former donut man, Greg has found the joy and simplicity of making a breakfast based on the noble potato. He is like a preacher with a tent full of hungry parishioners and he preaches a tasty gospel. He even provides the means for making the breakfast. But I will let two authorities tell you about it. His old friend Cookson Beecher recently wrote a story for Capitol Press and the Seattle P-I's down home columnist Jon Hahn motored all the way up here to see Greg's gadget that has made of the world a yummier place. I warn you. You'll want one for yourself and we tell you how to get it at the end. Tell Greg we sent you.

Hashbrown lover promotes spuds as healthy-choice breakfast
By Cookson Beecher, Capital Press Staff Writer
(Hashbrowner with taters)
Hashbrowner with taters.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Unk

(Carly Moreno)
The proper hashbrowner technique, illustrated by Greg's neighbor and UW student, Carly Moreno.

      A combination of an antique food shredder and the microwave oven has launched a self-proclaimed gadget man into an entrepreneur devoted to introducing people to the joys and health of homemade hashbrowns.
      Gadgets are Greg Platt's weakness, and that includes kitchen gadgets of every kind. He has more than 50 potato mashers and 30 ice cream scoops, as well as every kind of slicer known to man. A garage-sale regular, he finds these treasures while on lunch breaks .from his job at Oliver-Hammer Clothing Store.
      About 10 years ago, he found a real treasure — a heavy-duty hand-held grater at a garage sale. Since then, he's discovered that it's at least 80 years old. It was just what he had been looking for — a shredder with bigger holes than the typical cheese shredder. He happily put it to good use, making hashbrowns in the mornings. When his brothers would come to visit and dine on a good hearty hashbrown-and-egg breakfast, they always wanted to take the grater home with them. But Platt held tight. Because he had never seen another since he had .bought his, he steadfastly refused to part with it.
      With the advent of the microwave, he quickly discovered that it's easier than ever to make hashbrowns. No more boiling the potatoes first. And no need to peel the potatoes. His webpage holds out this promise: "Make a great breakfast in 10 minutes for less than 35 cents." Better yet, the way Platt describes the process, a person can iron a shirt and watch some morning news while preparing the spuds.
      He has found a company that makes these solid stainless steel big-holed shredders and now orders batches at a time to sell to anyone who seems inclined to want to listen to his brief sermon extolling the wonders and health benefits of a homemade breakfast.
      "You do it once, and you're hooked," said Platt. "From then on you'd rather make your own breakfast than eat out. I can promise you that the taste of homemade hashbrowns is 10 times better than anything frozen you can buy." And while many people might think they just don't have enough time to bother with something like this, Platt said that anyone who tries it is amazed at how easy it is. They're also surprised at how many hashbrowns you get from just one potato.
      He has repeat customers. Once people buy one of his shredders and follow his recipe, they come back to order more for friends and relatives. The state's Potato Commission bought one and is considering buying more to include in gift packages. Men like them as much as women. And Greg said women might like them even more for this reason:
      "Once guys know the routine, they'll do it on their own. That way their wives can sleep in." One man bought one for himself, came back and got two more for his sister and his mom, and two others for his brother and his wife's brother. Platt has discovered that his customers are hungry for "real food" and that they enjoy experimenting, making up new recipes as they go.
      "I love hearing how they use the Hashbrowner," said Platt. "It's great to see people discover this like I did." On his path to spreading the word, Platt learned about a fellow traveler with similar mission. In her book, Potatoes Not Prozac, addiction expert Kathleen DesMaisons, explains that the same brain chemicals that are altered by antidepressant drugs are also affected by the food people eat. She says that many people are sugar sensitive and become depressed because they're eating too many sweets and not enough foods with complex carbohydrates such as potatoes and whole grains. Some say her diet plan, which includes three meals a day with protein as part of them, has an impressive success rate in helping alcoholics stay sober. Others say they've lost weight following her advice. Platt has exchanged one of his shredders for a copy of her book. A doughnut lover, he has found that what she has to say has a lot of truth to it.
      Eating potatoes with eggs and a small slice of ham for breakfast takes away his urge to eat sweets during the day. He has also found that not only does his energy level stay high during the day but that he has lost weight as well. His webpage, which includes recipes and potato puns, as well as links to several food-related books, was designed by his daughter Rachel Unk, a webmaster. Just recently, she added a feature that allows customers to order the Hashbrowner with a credit card — a process that keeps the information secure.
      "Potato growers love this, because it gets people eating more potatoes in different ways," he said. More information about the Hashbrowner and how to cook hashbrowns is available on Platt's webpage:

Discovering gadgets and good breakfasts
By Jon Hahn, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 24, 2002
      On the main downtown street of this hyphenated old logging town, at the sometimes-hyphenated Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop, there works a fellow who's a salesman-cook-entrepreneur-gadget-and-bicycle collector.
(Jonee painting)
Jonee Platt's painting of their beautiful farm on the way to old Sterling

      I went looking for Greg Platt because someone told me he had hundreds of old hand-operated kitchen gadgets — which he does — and makes one helluva ham, eggs and hash browns breakfast — which he surely does.
      But in the bargain I found a fellow who shares my fascination — some call it a sickness — with garage sales. Greg and his wife, Jonee, indulge one another in this passion for seeking nuggets in other folks' castaways. "I don't know if there's a cure for it, once you start collecting stuff and always feeling like you want to add to what you've already got," confessed Greg.
      His pride and joy is the stainless steel "Hashbrowner," which is a knock-off of an old hand grater he and Jonee discovered at a garage sale more than 10 years ago. The seven rows of larger-than-usual grater holes make it perfect for making hash brown potatoes.
      Since that discovery, Greg and Jonee tracked down the Chinese manufacturer still making the large hole grater, and he's been importing and selling them around town and around the Internet. "Everyone in town must have one by now," quipped local businessman Chuck Ruhl, who confessed that after being given one for a present, he bought several more to give to relatives and friends.
      Greg, 52, admits that he didn't expect sales of the simple grater to do so well, with some 2,000 sold in less than two years. "We've learned not to depend on any deliveries out of China if it's anywhere near their New Year," he joked. "We just had to send out little notes to people, explaining that their deliveries would be slightly delayed."
      Greg and Jonee package all the day's orders for Greg to shlep to the Sedro-Woolley Post Office when he rides his bicycle to work the next morning.
      In less than 10 minutes during his workday lunch hour, Greg demonstrated how he could grate a partially nuked Yukon Gold potato — Skagit Valley grown, of course — into an electric crepe pan and add an egg and a slice of ham to produce what he calls his "No. 5 breakfast" at a cost of "about 35 cents."
      The Platts buy a 50-pound bag of the fresh-out-of-the-ground local potatoes for $6. And they negotiate a similarly good price for the fresh brown eggs from a neighbor. Greg and Jonee's pantry also is stocked with their own homemade apple sauce and apple juice.
      "We got into this because Jonee developed a serious allergy to wheat products and we were looking for a way to make a tasty and nourishing breakfast without wheat and without sugar and a lot of carbohydrates," Greg said.
      I will personally attest to the tastiness of the No. 5 breakfast, and to the ease with which it can be prepared. I also will report that Greg's collection of hand-operated kitchen gadgets and implements runs the gamut from genuine antique to pure kitchen kitsch. And he readily admits that he's "got hundreds of these things." Occasionally he and Jonee break down and buy some secondhand item with an electric plug, such as the Galloping Gourmet Hurricane Oven he keeps atop the refrigerator. "It really can cook a whole meal in about 30 minutes!" Greg said.
      As to the rest of his kitchen gadget collection — and the 100 or so items I saw were just a small sample — Greg admits to buying more than a few without really knowing what they originally were used for. And just because he has one pair of hot-jar tongs for home canning doesn't mean he cannot collect several others of slightly different designs.
      Well, with their two kids raised and only the gardening to do on their one-acre spread out on Sterling Road near the Skagit River, you'd figure a guy needs some kind of hobby to stay active. And Greg does ride a bicycle the three miles to and from work on Metcalf Street downtown every weekday, rain or shine. Fact is, he has his choice of bicycles to ride, because he collects them, too. "Go ahead ... show him your bikes," Jonee said to Greg, with just a hint of a smile.
      "So, how many bikes do you have?" I asked innocently, after having seen just part of his kitchen-gadget collection. "Oh, maybe 100 of them," he said with a slight grin as he opened the door to his basement bicycle shop and storage area. A bicycle repair vise, a well-outfitted tool and work bench, and wall-to-wall bicycles, including old Schwinns, banana bikes, recumbent bikes, you name it.
      Greg is from a very large Texas family and Jonee was born in Seattle and raised in Chehalis, and they met and married in California. They managed dime stores in various states and various parts of this state, including Kennewick, Forks and Grand Coulee, gradually working their way back to the Western Washington that Jonee loved. Only after they settled in Sedro-Woolley did Jonee discover through a family history project that her grandparents had first met at a dance in the Odd Fellows Hall a few doors from the Oliver-Hammer shop.
      For a Texas native, Greg has pretty much evolved to a true Northwest kind of guy. He knows the sometimes subtle differences between the 10 apple trees he planted out back as well as he knows the nuances of loggers' work clothing and why one man might prefer a C.C. Filson tin coat while another would prefer a Filson timber cruiser coat.
      I figure it's worth the 90-minute drive from Seattle just to shop their large selection of galluses, which is what loggers and old-timers call the wide suspenders used to hitch-up their double-knee loggers' jeans. "Of course, they always order 'em big enough to take two steps before the pants actually move!" Greg said in Sedro-Woolley terms.

      Information: Hashbrowner grater information available at or 360-856-0710. Or better yet, stop in at Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop, 817 Metcalf St., Sedro-Woolley; 360-855-0395. The clothes go well with the hasbrowner.

Story posted on May 17, 2003, last updated on Dec. 10, 2008
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