Local business owners Nayeli Rivera and Steven Ramey found themselves holding back tears before the Bremerton City Council last July, announcing the closure of their downtown Life in Mauve storefront after dealing for months with the homeless problem.
Even after tolerating the unruly application of feces to the permanent 6th street location, they were watching helplessly as everything they had worked for to secure the store was “going down the drain” in the timespan of less than a year.
Rivera recently talked about the nasty environment the married couple experienced at the old location and the unlikely but happy ending to the story she found just across the Manette Bridge.
“We really were not sure if we were going to continue to be in business or completely close,” she said. “We had found ourselves avoiding opening because we both emotionally just couldn’t be there.”
The journey to get a permanent storefront had been an up-and-coming idea for the owners of their handmade goods store. They had started to see the decline of foot traffic at the typical markets and pop-ups they had set up shop at.
Rivera said: “I think it goes pretty hand-in-hand with the economy. It didn’t feel as sustainable for us to just continue to do markets, so the end goal has always been a storefront.”
After a brief pop-up in the Manette community, that goal was met in October of 2022 with the soft opening of the downtown Bremerton storefront. The environment was tolerable for the first few months, but as the warmer weather came Rivera said she and Ramey began to see some of the worst of what the growing homelessness crisis had to offer.
While sympathizing with those living on the streets, it was growing much harder to manage the problems for the pair’s store in early and mid-2023. Safety was the largest concern, Rivera recalling the 20-plus 911 calls that had been made since the store’s opening and a particular instance of aggression from a man who entered the store. Being a family run store, Ramey and Rivera’s young child was often there, leaving Rivera terrified of what could happen.
Life in Mauve was even closed for a day after large amounts of feces were splashed onto the store.
“Toward the end of our stay on 6th street, I would let a customer in and lock the door as soon as they left,” she said. “It was that bad.”
Even worse, she said, was the lack of sympathy that seemed to come their way.
“If you drive by the area right now, you’d say it’s not that bad. We always got that feedback,” she said. “You have to remember, once you’re spending so many hours there and are there for a long period of time, you start to catch every single little thing that is going on down there.”
Such an experience would be enough to convince some business owners to move on and try something else, but Rivera believed a change of scenery and a more supportive location could save their dream.
Sure enough, Life in Mauve has called Manette home since October, and the difference between the old and new location has been like night and day. “The community here in Manette has been really welcoming. A lot of people here locally really want to support the small businesses that are here,” Rivera said.
The safety of the location is also better to the point where just one person can feasibly run the store without that same level of fear that had becomewas common downtown.
The path to a storefront to be proud of was not an easy one, but Rivera finds herself counting her blessing. “There was that moment of being like, ‘Oh what a difference,’” she said. “There’s just peace of mind.”