Take your pick: New gift shop to open in downtown Bremerton

Staffed by adults with developmental disabilities, The Gift Basket’s core value is “all persons have the ability to grow and excel.”

The gift that gives twice.

That’s what Steve Pyle calls a gift from The Gift Basket, a variety store slated to open December 1 on Pacific Ave. in Bremerton.

On a recent Friday morning, Pyle and co-volunteer Holly James stood in the high-ceilinged, freshly painted store, surrounded by cardboard boxes, unloading inventory and stocking shelves.

“I have experience with marketing,” Pyle, an advertising consultant, said, “but I’ve never remodeled a space before.”

It was hard to tell. The space at 327 Pacific Ave. featured a striking look, with high, wooden arched beams, natural hardwood flooring, a modern color scheme and drop lighting that gave it a contemporary industrial feel.

For Pyle, work with The Gift Basket is a labor of love. Peninsula Services, the nonprofit that runs the store, says its mission is to provide training and employment opportunities to adults with disabilities.

The Gift Basket’s business plan is inspired by the Build-a-Bear model, Pyle said, allowing visitors to customize their experience. The store, staffed by adults with developmental challenges, will be themed for holidays and stocked for special occasions like weddings, baby showers, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and more. Customers will build personalized gift baskets filled with all sorts of items — inspirational posters, stuffed animals, books, clothing and toys. A number of local artists will provide hand-crafted pieces.

Hence the catch phrase: When you buy a gift basket, “you’ll be giving twice,” the company says, “once to your recipient, and once to our differently abled community members.”

Peninsula Services is a 45-year-old local nonprofit that uses government contracts and business partnerships to provide job training and placement to people with developmental, physical and mental health issues. Last year, the organization employed more than 150 people in jobs including shelf stocking and janitorial services at Naval commissaries, cashiers and other roles at two Servmart stores, grounds maintenance at Naval Base Kitsap, and positions at All Shred Document Destruction on Werner Rd.

For Pyle, Peninsula Service’s mission is deeply personal. Since high school, he has formed relationships with people with disabilities.

Growing up in Troy, Montana, Pyle befriended a boy with special needs. He and his friends looked out for him throughout high school.

“It felt really, really good to be able to help somebody out,” he said.

Later in life, Pyle would find himself in a similar position – close to someone with developmental differences, when his daughter was born with Down syndrome.

“Here I am, 13 years ago, and I’ve been given this gift of this child,” he said.

He decided to devote some of his free time to work with Peninsula Services, whose stated philosophy is that “all persons have the ability to excel.”

Pyle and Holly James, vice chair on the Board of Directors of Peninsula Services, said they had been working on the project for a year under a “shoestring budget.”

Last Friday the two surveyed their progress, in anticipation of an invite-only special event on November 27, and a ribbon cutting ceremony on the first of next month.

“After a year’s worth of work we’ve come up with a little store,” Pyle said. “I think it’s looking pretty good.”

James acknowledged Pyle’s passionate work on the project.

“It’s been your energy and mission to bring the Gift Basket to reality,” she said.

“It’s been a collaborative effort,” he replied.

Proceeds from sales at the Gift Basket will go toward job training and employment programs for adults with disabilities.

The ribbon cutting ceremony and open house starts at noon on December 1.

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