PORT ORCHARD — Downtown Port Orchard’s Bay Street just got a new spring in its step with the opening of Josephine’s Mercantile at 701 Bay Street earlier this month.
This eclectic purveyor of one-of-a-kind vintage goods, interior design accessories and original fixtures and furniture opened its doors in the spacious quarters that once housed the Port Orchard Pavilion conference center and gathering spot at the corner of Frederick and Bay streets.
While the space might best be remembered long ago as a skating rink that drew hordes of South Kitsap youngsters over the years, the new location for Josephine’s is now a quiet, tastefully decorated store that displays a fair share of items with “Port Orchard” stamped all over them: pillows, throw blankets and posters that are ready for the summer tourist season.
That’s the hope of store owner Samantha Smith, whose business previously was a little mainstay on the Annapolis roadmap just off the water. It was a quaint favorite for visitors, for sure, but Smith noted that this new downtown Port Orchard location offers customers better parking, downtown amenities and more shopping opportunities.
“We have 15,000 square feet of space in this building,” Smith said of the sprawling location.
“It’s been hard to keep it full” with so many sales flying off the shelves in the two weeks the business has been open.
Since Josephine’s had its soft opening last week, shoppers have been quick to purchase many of the locally stamped products — she said pillows emblazoned with “Port Orchard” on their front have sold out quickly.
In fact, in its first day of business on Bay Street, Smith said the store had 400 transactions, which was as much the store conducted in a month’s time at the old space. Visitors to the store so far have included a significant number of shoppers from outside the region. And, she said, they like what they see.
“Our guests — we don’t call them customers, they’re guests — want variety,” she noted. “We really want our loyal guests to feel comfortable here.”
The reincarnation of Josephine’s — named after Smith’s grandmother — isn’t so much a reinvention of the business, but an expansion of the old location, she said. While the Annapolis location was doing well, Smith said that in order for the business to thrive, it needed to be bigger and in front of a larger audience.
But whether the Bay Street site was to be its ultimate landing spot took a fair amount of consideration on her part.
“I looked at a few locations first, and initially I didn’t see the vision in this building,” Smith said. “It’s been empty for awhile. I was concerned about the building and its condition.”
But being “a Port Orchard girl,” the South Kitsap High graduate decided to take the plunge after concluding the downtown district is in the midst of a business upsurge.
In working with building owner Mansour Samadpour and his Abadon Holdings LLC property management company since announcing the move last fall, Smith said the landlord-tenant relationship has been “awesome.”
She said the owner “has been amazing to work with and has been great.” He’s had the exterior of the building repainted since Smith and her three employees began moving into the location on the first of January.
Because the property she leases is so spacious, it will allow Smith to offer crafts and painting classes upstairs this fall. There’s room there for bridal showers, too, with space for 40 people, she said.
On April 7, Josephine’s also will showcase the fanciful “Pinch Eats Cafe” inside the store. Tucked at the back end of the store, the little cafe will offer a light, evolving lunch menu for shoppers tailored by owner Stacey Hayter.
Hayter is a graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle culinary program, has more than 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, and has studied in the rarified foodie climes of Tuscany, Italy.
When the venture was first announced last winter, Hayter said she hoped to create a fresh, seasonal and convenient menu so diners wouldn’t need a long wait before enjoying their meal.
“We’re going to bring some flavors to South Kitsap that are new and creative, yet will always have the foundation of comfort foods,” Hayter said.
It’s frankly been a challenge for the owner of Josephine’s Mercantile to conduct her usual treasure hunt for items in which to stock inside the quirky store. It’s been a non-stop, busy time for Smith, who also has been involved in spring and fall sales events at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds over the past few years.
But time has been set aside for Josephine’s Mercantile grand opening on April 14. Smith said raffle prizes will be awarded and lots of new and unique offerings will be available for shoppers to purchase.
“We’re really excited so far,” the business owner said, no doubt with plenty still on her mind these days.
“Port Orchard has really blessed us. We’re excited to showcase this community for everyone.”