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Bay Street merchants try again

Follwing a year-long hiatus, the Port Orchard Bay Street Association may be getting a second lease on life.

Fred Karakas, a downtown businessman and original member of the association, is trying to rally support around re-launching the group.

The association was dissolved in February 2003 after reports of in-fighting and poor attendance wore out the patience of its leadership. Not only were few merchants actually coming to meetings, no one wanted to take over vacated officers’ positions.

A dearth of officers would have put the association in violation of state laws regulating nonprofit organizations, so the remaining association president and vice-president chose to pull the plug.

“In the past, we’ve had nobody willing to fill a vacancy,” said then-vice president Ron Rider. “It’s like pulling teeth.”

Karakas, however, believes the time has come for another try. The initial organizational meeting he held at his shop Jan. 29 attracted a half-dozen merchants and numerous other interested responses.

“There was a lot of people who couldn’t make it because they had other things on their agenda,” Karakas said.

Interestingly, most of the people who pledged their support for the new association weren’t actively involved in the old one. This is indicative of Karakas’ hopes for the new group — he wants an organization that, while based on the old association, creates its own place in the community.

For instance, he said, he wants this group to emphasize political activism to a much greater extent than the last one. Karakas said the new group — tentatively named the Bay Street Merchants Association — should focus on promoting downtown and speaking for the merchants as a group at City Council meetings. He said a merchants’ association could wield much more clout on universal issues like parking than individual merchants could.

“We need to talk as one voice,” Karakas said.

Although the group is expected to take over responsibility for downtown events like the Easter celebration, that will not be its focus. It will also loosen its ties with Fathoms o’Fun and Festival by the Bay — two events heavily supported by the old association.

Right now, the nascent association is trying to tie up any loose ends left over from the old group. Karakas wants to use the ex-association’s charter, but doesn’t want to inherit any money issues he suspects may have been left behind as well. He’s also looking for his own replacement — although vehemently in favor of re-launching the association, Karakas said he’s not the one to run it on a permanent basis.

“I’m not very good as a leader,” he said.

The next meeting of the Merchants Association will be at 9 a.m. Feb. 10 at Security Financial, 100 Frederick Avenue in Port Orchard. Those who cannot attend may contact Karakas at Olympic Bike and Skate — he said he would keep any interested merchants informed of the group’s progress, whether or not they can participate.

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