KINGSTON — Most North Enders are familiar with Kingston’s southerlies but now there is a new scent floating on the breeze and it smells like Grandma’s peanut butter cookies.
The secret is out and it’s not Grandma’s baking.
It’s Clark and Tami Bowen, the young owners of CB’s Nuts, located off Highway 104 in Kingston. Each week they provide Northwest families with fresh, gooey peanut butter, roasted pistachios and peanuts. Their highly confidential roasting recipes remain under wraps.
In the Pacific Northwest, where gourmet and boutique foods prevail, the married couple knew they had to differentiate from the quality coffee roasters and microbrewers already established in the area.
“Only a handful of people throughout the country specialize in nuts,” Clark said. “Our goal is to produce a fresh, roasted product every day.”
Between marriage, two kids and a business, Clark, 36, and Tami, 35, embrace their busy, nutty lives.
“She’s the brains, I’m the brawn,” Clark said laughing, adding to an inside joke: “I guess I could be the bomb, too.”
The makings for the operation started “way back when.”
Peanuts, Clark’s favorite after-school snack, became his obsession.
In 2001, he started his own peanut stand outside Safeco Field on Vendor’s Row where he sold re-roasted Hoody’s peanuts to baseball fans.
Six years of street-side vending and experimenting with roasting raw peanuts paid off. CB’s celebrates its one-year anniversary in April as an established retail shop and roasting operation in the old Kingston volunteer Fire Station 89.
The Bowens have something else to celebrate: CB’s Nuts is booming.
CB’s Nuts distributes all over the North End and Seattle to major and local markets such as Central Market, Town & Country Market, Whole Foods, Metropolitan Market, Hansville Market and Indianola Store.
CB’s allows their brown paper sealed bags to stay on store shelves only 60 days.
“We feel beyond that point it’s lost its full flavor potential,” he said. “We want to be the best-tasting peanut company in the world.”
As CB’s Nuts has yet to lose a taste test, it seems the couple is well on its way to establishing prominence here in the Northwest.
“When you bite into your average market pistachio, there is no crunch,” Tami said. “The nut is naturally so porous and has taken in so much oxygen it just kind of mushes. The way we process ours, it’s fresh and crunchy. They don’t taste stale — there is a definite difference.”
CB’s Nuts produces an average of 300 pounds of fresh-roasted nuts daily, but has the capacity to turn around 450 pounds, Clark said.
A look in their walk-in refrigerator and there are 23,000 pounds worth of bags filled with raw nuts, all grown in southern states. While the conventional Virginia peanuts are crops out of west Texas, the organic Valencia peanuts are grown in New Mexico. Pistachios are grown in Hanford, Calif.
The process starts when CB’s lead roaster, Duane Carroll, loads a batch of raw nuts into a Georgia-made salter.
While it’s no secret that all the equipment is specially made in the South, the Bowens won’t give up their top secret salting recipes. “No one is willing to give this stuff up,” Clark said. “We literally went through thousands and thousands of pounds of nuts to get our recipes just perfect.”
After the nuts are salted, they are put into a drying shed for about eight hours.
Next comes the roasting process in special carbon-steel barrel roasters made in Fort Worth, Texas, and modeled after those made during the turn of the 20th century.
“They distribute even heating that’s more thorough in cooking,” Tami said. “The nuts have to move through the heat to unlock the flavor.”
Then the nuts are cooled, packaged and distributed.
The Bowens said they wouldn’t be where they are without the support of the community, including Don Wyatt of Hood Canal Brewery who lent his home brewery space to the Bowens when they first started.
“It’s been tremendous,” Tami said. “Without the local support we wouldn’t be able to do this. We are so lucky to have so many people believe in what we are doing and tell their neighbors and friends about us.”
As a way of saying thanks, the Bowens are looking into ways of getting their nuts into the community, such as in Little League concession stands and honoring local sports heroes on private label bags. “We would love to become a large company that provides jobs to people in Kitsap,” Clark said. With the North American peanut industry being a $2 billion market, Clark said it’s a highly probable possibility. “People love their nuts.”