PORT GAMBLE — Port Gamble General Store proprietor Ethel Molina opened her doors last Friday to welcome visitors to the newest chapter of the building — one which focuses on the best aspects of the 1853 structure.
With eight employees, her family and a vast knowledge of business, she is working toward a grand opening sometime in the near future, ironing out the kinks with her soft opening March 30.
“It’s been wonderful,” Molina said. “A lot of people have come through, and they love it, love it. People love how open it is, a lot of people have stopped by to check it out.”
The store closed Jan. 1 for renovations that included stripping the floors to their original hardwood and removing offices constructed about 10 years ago in the back of the store behind the stairwell.
Renovation was red tagged by Kitsap County officials toward the end of the project due to permitting issues, but Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose said the county worked hard with Molina and Port Gamble manager Shana Smith to ensure the store would open by its March 30 deadline.
“Frankly, we weren’t sure why we were red tagged,” Rose said. “Somebody called something in, but the county really responded to our need to get it open on time and really helped us out.”
An open house was held Thursday night for the other Port Gamble shop owners to visit the store, sample some of the menu items and see how Molina and her workers will fit into the town. Best Friends Antiques owner Sheila Walters said she and a friend stopped by to try the lunch at the store, and were impressed by the changes to the building.
“The store looked so pretty, nice and clean,” she said. “There’s a lot of open space. It’s got a nice feel, not too formal. It’s fancy and relaxed.”
An interior decorator was hired to give the building an historical quality as it was one of the first constructed in the old mill town. Now, Molina is slowly building up a stock of goods and foods to also reflect that heritage, and a little something new. Another addition to the store, along with the renovations, is a deli counter where Port Gamble and North End patrons can purchase meats and cheeses.
“The deli case is fresh, like when you walk in and see a deli case you would find in any other market or deli,” said Port Gamble Tea Room owner Janis Kelley. “Also, the ice cream counter excited my grandson tremendously. I don’t see anything negative about her store.”
Molina said she is just waiting for a beer and wine license before hosting a grand opening.
“We’ll expand little by little,” she said. “It has been very busy, and I’m very happy with it.”