MIck Heltsley and Natalie Niblack // Photo: Estéban Silva
In 1995, Mick Heltsley and his friend, Bill Stewart, went on a kayaking trip in Baja, California. Sitting together on a beach one evening, they had a vision—a place where they could share the things they loved best about Mexico—the people, the food, the spirit of community.
In 1998, Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club opened for business on Boat Street in a building owned by the University of Washington. (In 2005, the Paddle Club became a separate business.) The restaurant is now 20 years young, and many of its employees have been there almost as long. “People bring in their brothers, their cousins, their girlfriends,” Mick says. “We’ve had entire families working here.”
In fact, Agua Verde’s commitment to family is so strong, they keep their staff on year round, even during the slow times, offering catering to sustain the “family” during the winter months.
In 2001, Agua Verde became a UW World Series supporter. “We saw it as an advertising opportunity initially,” Mick says. But after seventeen years, “It’s become a tradition.” While it might be a tradition for his business, supporting Meany Center has personal meaning for Mick. A self-described “non-professional upright bass player,” he really admires the caliber of the artists we bring to Meany Center. He’s married to a professional painter and sculptor, and he understands the unquenchable drive to create. “Natalie would go nuts if somebody told her she couldn’t make art anymore.”
Though he says he doesn’t know much about classical music, he loves the commitment musicians bring to the stage. And we at Meany Center appreciate the commitment Mick and Agua Verde Café bring to supporting the arts in our community.