Loretta and Marion Sluys stand in front of the bakery that started it all back in 1966. Over time, they acquired most of the properties along the east side of Front Street in the Historic Downtown District. (Terryl Asla/Kitsap News Group)

Sound West Group buying most of Sluys properties in downtown Poulsbo

Company plans improvements, but ‘we’re not going to knock down buildings’

POULSBO — If all goes according to plan, Sound West Group will purchase seven parcels on Front Street and on Moe Street from the Sluys family on June 16. That’s the target date, although both parties say it may take until the end of the month to close the deal.

Not included in the sale are the two properties that house Sluys Bakery and Tizley’s, Marion Sluys said. Those will remain in the family.

While he declined to give the dollar amount of the sale, Sluys said the properties were being sold for their assessed value. The combined assessed valuation of the properties is almost $6 million, according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s online database.

Sluys said Sound West Group has “the same vision for Poulsbo” that he and his family have.

“Once the deal goes through, [Sound West Group] will pretty much own everything on the east side of Front Street, from Moe Street by the City Hall to the Olympic Building [at 18830 Front St.],” Sluys said.

Michael E. Brown, the Sound West Group principal in the project, commended Sluys for selling the properties as one package to one entity. “He could have made a lot more money if he had parceled [the properties] out and sold to individuals. He’s taking a financial hit to do what he thinks will be better for Poulsbo.”

So, what are Sound West Group’s plans for the east side of Front Street? It’s easier to explain what Sound West Group is not going to do, Brown said.

“What we’re not going to do is knock down buildings,” Brown said. “And we’re not going to change the tenant mix. That’s what makes Poulsbo ‘Poulsbo.’ There’s a character to Poulsbo that nobody wants to mess with. Our goal will be to elevate that character, not deplete it. We want to keep Poulsbo authentic to what Poulsbo is today.

“People come to Poulsbo because they like the village feel and the quaint shops. The one thing that strikes me about Poulsbo is that it really is a Northwest seaport town.”

Don’t expect to see any immediate changes beyond painting and minor repairs. Brown said Sound West Group plans to not do anything major for at least six months.

“And even then, we’ll take it in small bites and work our way through it,” Brown said.

They’ll use that six months to do what he called “programming the space.” That includes figuring out the number and size of apartments and the amenities that should be built in the existing second-floor living spaces. The apartments will all be market-rate rentals, Brown said.

“Any redevelopment and facade changes would [have to] be reviewed against the special design standards the city has established for the historic downtown area,” said Planning &Economic Development Director Karla Boughton. “I’m looking forward to working with them.”

“Most of the big changes, people will never see,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of life-safety work to be done, such as rewiring and adding sprinkler systems.”

Brown said Sound West Group is also interested in working with other Front Street property owners to make the area more of an urban village with coordinated signage and public areas.

“You have to ask yourself, what is authentic to the character of the existing community as your frame of reference,” Brown said.

Started with a $1,000 loan

Marion Sluys was a baker in Bellingham in 1966 when he purchased the Poulsbo bakery from Edith “Babe” Schafer, using a $1,000 down payment he borrowed from his sister. Business took off, largely because of his motto, “Don’t change what works,” he said.

His son, Dan, started working at the bakery “when he was still so small he had to stand on a five-gallon can,” Marion recalled. Today, father and son are certified master bakers. Dan, co-owner, runs the bakery.

Sluys said the family (they have six children) acquired their first additional property in 1971 — a 900-square-foot home built in 1916 at 261 Moe St. — when Poulsbo was little more than a small village of 1,800 residents. That was “back in the days when you could shoot a rifle down Front Street after dark and not hit a soul,” he said.

Over the years, the Sluys family purchased other buildings to house their many businesses, including Nordic House, which sold Scandinavian items; Sluys Shoe Store; and a gift and toy store. Today, those buildings have other businesses in them.

Marion Sluys said the family’s faith in Poulsbo has been amply rewarded. Today, “the bakery does more business than 90 percent of the bakeries on the coast,” he said. “And the other properties stay full … Poulsbo is a pretty good place to do business. We’ve been fortunate to have all of our buildings stay full because we don’t try to rip off our tenants. We all have to make a little profit. Profit’s a good thing.”

So why sell now?

“I’m 84 years old,” he said. “We’ve got 29 great-grandchildren. The only thing you leave behind when you go that has any value is your children … How do you equitably distribute buildings to your children” and grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

His wife, Loretta, added, “I just think it’s time. This is an opportunity to do things in town working with mainly local folks who understand Poulsbo, not strangers who’d want to tear everything down and throw up condos.”

— Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@soundpublishing.com.

Aerial map showing the Sluys properties in Poulsbo’s Historic Downtown. With the exception of the buildings housing Sluys Bakery and Tizleys, they are being sold to Sound West Group. (Marion Sluys/Contributed)

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