Seattle Times business reporter Jon Talton wrote recently of being weary of communities that tout themselves as the “next Silicon Valley” or their marketplaces as “the next Pike Place Market.” They are different places with different histories and different economic forces.
Ah, but dreams die hard, especially when it comes to the economy and jobs. And in Port Orchard, supporters of the new Port Orchard Public Market are daring to make the Pike Place Market comparison. (Incidentally, two weeks before the Port Orchard market’s soft opening, a tenant, Bay Street Meat Co., split an order for bison meat with a business at Pike Place.)
The downtown waterfront marketplace’s soft opening is later this month — the grand opening is scheduled for May 24, noon to 8 p.m. — and supporters hope the market will have the same effect as its larger counterpart across the water: Be a catalyst for economic activity, contribute to community character and livability, and bolster the community’s image and identity.
“The last quote I saw was Seattle gets at least 4.5 million visitors a year,” Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes said. “They come over for day or two, but most of the time they stay longer than that. It makes sense to me to give them a reason to take a ferry ride. A full-time, all-time market will help give the folks going to Seattle some other place to go.”
Here’s how Matthes envisions it: Take a ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton; you don’t need your car. Walk along the waterfront in Bremerton, visit the USS Turner Joy and the Puget Sound Navy Museum, take a 10-minute boat ride to Port Orchard. Now you’re in a laid-back place, the antithesis of Seattle’s hustle and bustle. Shop and dine at the public market, visit downtown’s antique shops, art galleries and historical museum.
For fun, let’s look at how the Port Orchard Public Market could be Pike Place Market’s little cousin.
Pike Place Market: Overlooking Seattle’s Elliot Bay.
Port Orchard Public Market: Slip 45 at Port Orchard Marina, overlooking Sinclair Inlet.
Pike Place Market: Rachel, a bronze piggy bank that weighs 550 pounds.
Port Orchard Public Market: a restored propeller from a Black Ball ferry.
Pike Place Market: Nine acres.
Port Orchard Public Market: 8,000 square feet.
Number of stores
Pike Place Market: 220 commercial tenants, 80 farm day stalls, 225 craft day stalls.
Port Orchard Public Market: Eight commercial tenants, 15 day stalls.
Number of jobs
Pike Place Market: Approximately 2,000.
Port Orchard Public Market: 50 to 60.
Pike Place Market: Employees of Pike Place Fish Market throw salmon and other fish to each other rather than pass them by hand.
Port Orchard Public Market: “We thought of throwing sides of beef to Don (market founder Don Ryan), but I don’t think he’d be able to catch them,” quipped Susan Keller of the Port Orchard Public Market.
Pike Place Market: Country singer Vince Mira was discovered here by John Carter Cash. Other noted buskers include Artis the Spoonman, steel guitarist Baby Gramps.
Port Orchard Public Market: Harmonica Dave is the first to sign up. “He’s very popular in the area,” Keller said. “Everyone knows Harmonica Dave.”
Local entrepreneur Don Ryan (One Ten Lounge in Port Orchard and Poulsbo, The Brass Ring Salon & Day Spa, The Trade Store and Affordable Car Rentals) said the idea for the public market dates to 2009-10 “when the economy tanked on us.” Downtown Port Orchard was 50 percent vacant, and the Port Orchard Bay Street Association began looking for a way to revitalize downtown.
“We had a lot of antique stores and eclectic shops and these big empty buildings. We thought, ‘How do we bring it back?’ That’s where it stems from,” Ryan said.
Ryan envisioned the vacant, century-old building on Bay Street as a vibrant marketplace; he shared the vision with building owner Abadan LLC “and convinced them that Port Orchard is a good place to do this,” Keller said.
Abadan renovated the building with the Port Orchard Public Market in mind, to the tune of approximately $1 million. “I think we have one of the premier destination spots in Kitsap now,” Ryan said.
A public market association leases the building; each vendor, in turn, rents space from the association.
Let’s take a walk through the market. Enter on the right. There’s Northwest Seafood and Wine. Next, Bay Street Market & Gift, featuring locally made products. Continue on to Sue’s Lavender and More, owned by Sue and David Baker. Around the corner is Central Dock seafood restaurant, managed by Kim Cherry. Then, a produce market and juice bar, part of Bay Street Market. Then, Carter’s Chocolates and Ice Cream, owned by Matt Carter. Next, an authentic Mexican restaurant (name to be announced). Finally, Bay Street Meat Co. (another Ryan venture, in partnership with master butcher and self-styled “meat scientist” Brian Brozovic).
Way back in the day, this building housed a saloon and a meat market. In a coincidental nod to history, Bay Street Meat Co. is located exactly where its predecessor was located, according to Keller.
Located in the center of the market will be day stalls featuring local farm products and works by local artists and artisans. Overlooking the inlet is a dining and view patio lined with bricks purchased by local donors. On the second floor is space for a future bistro.
Keller said the public market is “going to add to Port Orchard’s business core.”
That’s what Mayor Matthes hopes. “Port Orchard has some really charming places,” he said. “There are cool ladies’ shops, with stuff Walmart and Freddy’s (Fred Meyer) doesn’t have. We have art galleries, the historical museum. We have three more restaurants opening up this spring. It’s not restaurant row yet, but we hope that’s where it will end up.
“The public market is a great step in the right direction. Give us two more years, you won’t recognize downtown.”