PORT GAMBLE — Nearly 900 cars pass through Port Gamble during the early morning commute. Most blaze on through the old mill town to go north and hit the Hood Canal Bridge. Others head further south on the peninsula. So, there’s not a lot of time to meander and view the picture-perfect, manicured historic homes and lawns on a weekday morning.
But Julie McAfee and Jon Rose want to change that.
In fact, they want to bring the town back to what it was in the early 20th Century. While small services have been recently added, they are starting with a modern convenience — the drive-thru espresso stand.
Historic Grounds Coffee Company, run by McAfee and owned by Rose’s company, Olympic Property Group, opened up at the end of June and business has been as hot as they espresso they serve.
Regulars have been pleased, McAfee said, noting the stand developed a clientele right off the bat.
Not only do the baristas serve espresso, teas, Panache Coffee, fruit smoothies fresh pastries and truffles but customers can get a free history lesson if they ask the right questions.
“All the baristas are informed of the history of Port Gamble,” McAfee said, noting that clients actually do ask questions about the town and what is going on with the buildings, or general history of the community itself.
The 8-foot by 10-foot yellow building with brick red trim is the newest building in town and is located just west of the former auto service/gas station (which sits vacant next to Historic Grounds). But slowly Rose hopes to get the town jumping with redevelopment of the way things used to be.
“As a flavor to the stand, when people stop, they get information and a great cup of coffee,” McAfee remarked, adding that punch cards are available, with Double Punch Tuesdays and the 10th coffee is free.
“(McAfee) is the type of person who knows a lot about a lot of little things about Port Gamble,” said Signe Verrill, a barista with the stand.
McAfee approached Rose with a business plan for the stand and from there, plans were scrutinized and numbers were crunched.
“I believed in this stand from the start,” McAfee said, explaining that cars were counted from 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in 1999, to get an idea of the traffic flow. Based on a Department of Transportation report in the same year, 5,800 cars pass through the town a day.
“People say they are so excited to stop for coffee and have a reason to stop (in Port Gamble),” she noted.
The property group is slowly phasing in new development in the small town, Rose said. After the mill closed in 1995, it shut down a reason to visit Port Gamble, he said. But since the town regained its commercial zoning allowance again in 2000, businesses are jumping, with a new town logo, new economy and the requirement for “everything new looks old,” Rose remarked.
So, it may take a while to figure out if a certain building is historic with a fresh coat of paint, or just a new building with an old feel.