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'New' Bay Street store features familiar face
Downtown Port Orchard’s retail landscape changes, as it stays the same. After an absence of about two years, veteran merchant Brenda Kruse is re-opening Brenda K’s Home Gallery. The new location is across the street and down the block from the old location, although the high-end inventory has remained consistent.
“We have a good product here,” Kruse said. “This isn’t an antique store. We have accessories, lamps and artwork that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Kruse said the only item that hasn’t made the transition from the old store to the new is the large pieces of imported furniture, which “really isn’t what people around here want.”
The original store opened in 1990. Kruse closed it down two years ago in order to spend more time with her husband, retired Superior Court Judge Leonard Kruse. As a sole proprietor, she could never take time to travel. The couple took several trips, including Key West and Mexico, before Judge Kruse fell ill. He passed away in April.
Kruse, who had continued to operate her contracting business from downtown, sold her building over the summer. It took only a month or so before she started making plans to open another shop, and rented a vacant space next to the movie theater.
“When I closed the store two years ago the economy was on a downturn so my timing was pretty good,” she said. “It hasn’t quite recovered, but I’m confident this will be a success. I needed to do something with my time, but I didn’t want to take a job away from someone else. And since I haven’t worked for anyone else in 35 years, this feels right to me.”
Kruse doesn’t expect to do sell product on the Internet. Instead, she plans to do business “the old fashioned way;” in the shop, Tuesday through Friday. She has held on to her customer list, and expects to draw upon past clientele for future sales.
Kruse has used this list in the past, contacting them when she closed the store and offering them first crack at the inventory. She repeated this process this week, inviting customers to a sneak preview of the new store prior to its Friday opening.
Kruse’s list isn’t exclusive or elitist. In order to get special access, all you need to do is visit the store and sign up for the mailing list.
Kruse said she has “adjusted her expectations” about the success of the business, and expects to draw half of her sales from out of town.
“We keep losing good businesses downtown because people don’t support them,” she said. “We have lost a lot of business to the malls, but we need to make it worthwhile for people to come down here by offering good product. After they build the parking garage that will help, because it will allow shoppers to park for several hours and visit all of the downtown stores.”
Kruse has worked as a design consultant during her entire career, a skill which she said is self-taught. She says she “lives to design.”
Kruse was one of a handful of downtown merchants who did not participate in this summer’s “Paint the Town” event, declining offers to paint the building that she owned at the time. Currently, she has overcome some of her skepticism.
“Everything you do down here has a positive effect,” she said. “Delilah mobilized people and got them to work together. She deserves a lot of credit for that.”