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Another empty Bay Street spot as wine shop closes
In 2008, John Ready framed a front-page article in the Port Orchard Independent about his reopening of the Puget Sound Wine Cellar.
Three and a half years later, he took the article off the wall.
“I made the decision not to renew the lease in June,” said Ready, the 57-year-old owner of the wine shop. “It’s a sad thing to close the door for the last time, I know that.”
Ready said it was the poor economy that ultimately put his store, which closed for good on New Year’s Eve, out of business.
“I bought the store in 2008,” he said. “Timing is everything.”
Ready managed to weather the first few years of the economic downfall quite well. He said that the business grew and set record sales every month for the first two years. But in October 2010, the store hit a wall.
“That’s when the economy really started changing around here,” he said. “Every month up until then we achieved our goals.”
Ready noticed a decline in customers on multiple fronts. First, the military men and ship workers who normally frequented the store stopped buying wine; afraid, he said, that their jobs weren’t quite as stable as they once thought. He also noticed that the boaters who visited Port Orchard started to rein in their spending.
“It used to be all boaters,” he said. “Then, the boaters that showed up weren’t spending the money they usually did.”
By June 2011, Ready knew he had to close the shop. Not wanting to skip out on the lease he had signed through the end of the year with the Mentor Corp. & Eldorado Hills, LLC, the group that owns the building at 835 Bay St., Ready “gutted it out” and did his best to stay open through the year.
“They were patient,” he said. “They worked with me.”
Ready calls his shop another one of many that has fallen to hard times. The outgoing president of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, a nonprofit group committed to enhancing downtown, he pointed up and down the street, noting numerous vacant storefronts.
He doesn’t blame the City Council or the mayor for downtown’s struggles. Outside of the economy, he thinks property owners have a large say in whether or not downtown succeeds.
“No mayor, no city councilman could change what’s happening down here,” he said. “Nothing’s going to happen until some of the absentee ownership changes their ways.”
As president of the Bay Street Association, Ready tried to create a buzz around downtown. Taste of Port Orchard and Concerts by the Bay were two events, he said, that brought people into the stores to shop. He’s confident that his successor, the owner of the the 110 Lounge, Don Ryan, will continue to implement events that will draw a crowd to Bay Street.
“I love downtown and I’m going to continue to support it,” he said. “There’s a lot of good people down here trying to do good things.”
Ryan wants to continue with Ready’s idea to bring events to the downtown area. The summer festival, the car cruise, and the Lady’s Night Out, were all successful Bay Street Association events, Ready said. They are also one small step towards Port Orchard gaining an identity, something, he said, is desperately needed.
“Port Orchard needs help with creating a strong identity for itself,” he said. “Port Orchard has been forgotten. It’s not a huge draw. By building an identity we could start drawing more to our downtown business, both locally and from afar.”
Port Orchard resident Joni Randall said she recently found the Wine Cellar. The personal touch of someone who can recommend a nice pairing with food, she said, is what she will miss most.
“Here, there is someone you can ask to recommend something and it’s not an overwhelming atmosphere, “ she said. “To me, that’s everything.”
Ready was a bit relieved to close up shop after such a roller coaster year emotionally, he said. But he said the relief takes a back seat to his sadness. He’s also nervous to step into the job market, he said, hoping to find work as a sales representative with a major wine distributor. And though he was a bit relieved to close up shop after such a roller coaster of a year, he said, more than anything, he’s sad.
Ready was left with more than memories, though. Since all of his wine inventory was purchased outright, he said the leftover bottles of pinot noir and merlot will stay with him.
“I’m going to have one hell of a wine cellar,” he said.