POULSBO — The pending sale of the Sluys family’s 11 properties in downtown Poulsbo does not mean the family or their mark on downtown will disappear from view anytime soon.
After nearly half a century in business, the family leaves behind a body of cultural art that remains a part of the local landscape.
A taste of Europe
Start with Sluys’ Bakery, arguably one of the anchors of Front Street. Loretta and Marion Sluys said they made numerous trips to Europe and tried to bring some of that European flavor back home with them.
“The European flavor came from our travels,” Loretta Sluys said.
“Lots of people can’t afford to go to Europe. We wanted those people to be able to come here and feel like they been to Europe,” Marion Sluys said.
That taste of Europe explains the giant gold-leafed pretzel that hangs outside the store. In Europe, the pretzel is the universal sign for bakeries, the Sluyses said.
So, the next time you go to Sluys, count the number of pretzel symbols. There’s the pretzel on the wall behind the counter. The motto below it says, “Give us this day our daily bread …” in Norwegian.
And there’s a story behind the bronze pretzel door-handle you push on to enter the bakery, too. Marion Sluys wanted that pretzel handle. The plan was to have it cast in bronze at a foundry in Ballard, he said. That meant the foundry needed an original pretzel from which to make a mold.
“My son, Dan, made the first one out of dough. But that didn’t work,” the elder Sluys recalled. “So, he carved me one out of wood and that’s what they made the mold from.”
Daniel, who now owns the bakery, built most of the bakery’s wooden cabinets, too.
Sluys, who Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson called “the quintessential small-business man,” continued to expand. At one time or another, he and his wife owned and managed a Norwegian gift shop, a shoe store and a toy store, always buying the buildings they housed them in along the east side of Front Street.
Those businesses are closed now. “You can only manage so much,” Loretta Sluys said. But some remnants of those businesses still remain. Next door to Sluys’ Bakery, look closely at the Indigo Plum shoe store’s carved wooden shoe sign. It still says “Sluys’ Shoes.”
And then there’s the enormous leaded stained glass panel depicting the “Five Swans” that used to hang in the back of the “Loretta’s’s Gifts,” the couple’s Norwegian gift store (it was where the Dancing Brush is now). Created by an artist on Orcas Island, the white swans represent the five Scandinavian countries and, if you look closely, you will notice that each swan has the flag of one country on its neck.
Tile, quilts and murals
There is also an exquisite, smaller tiled piece, showing a smiling older man and woman dancing in traditional Norwegian clothing.
Today those pieces, along with two of the king-size Poulsbo Heritage Quilts created in the 1980s by local women, hang upstairs in the old Olympic Hotel building, which is off limits to the general public.
However, the art works are included in the properties that the Sluys family is selling to Sound West Group.
“We hope [Sound West Group] will find a good place for them when they remodel, so that the public can enjoy them,” Loretta Sluys said.
In addition to those pieces, there are two murals of note that depict Poulsbo’s waterfront the way it was in the early 20th century, before the waterfront was filled in to create Anderson Parkway and Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park.
The first mural the Sluys had done was painted by the late Anne Campbell in 1968 and still hangs in Sluys Bakery. Campbell was a local artist who played a large part in the creation of the Poulsbo Heritage Quilts. The mural depicts Front Street as seen from the curve just past what was then the Olympic Hotel. The scene was a compilation of some 50 different photos, the Sluyses said.
“One lady said, ‘That’s me and my husband in the car,’ when the mural was unveiled,” Marion Sluys said. “[Campbell] put me in the painting too,” he said, pointing to the man in the bakery wagon in the lower left corner.
The second mural, also Campbell’s work, is a companion piece that shows that same Poulsbo waterfront as seen from fishing boats out in Liberty Bay. That mural is located on the wall in the lane leading to the entrance to Tizley’s Europub.