Myhre’s, Mall’s new owners have potential

South Kitsap last week saw a changing of the guard as two familiar icons in the community, Myhre’s Restaurant and Lounge and the South Kitsap Mall, changed hands.

Each had been under the same ownership for decades, and both had come to represent different segments of the local economy in some ways, for better or worse.

While the new owners of Myhre’s and the mall have initially announced they aren’t planning major changes, with a little imagination we believe both businesses still have untapped potential for their owners and the community as a whole.

Myhre’s, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Kitsap County, has been owned for the past 45 years by Dick Rylander, whose father had owned and operated it for more than 30 years before that.

In its heyday, Myhre’s was arguably South Kitsap’s most prestigious eatery, and an anchor for the entire Bay Street business district. In recent years, however, it’s become more of a haven for local customers than a drawing card for out-of-town business.

In another location, that wouldn’t matter as much, but with Bay Street working hard to reinvent itself and with an eye toward appealing more to visitors, the sale of the restaurant offers the new owners — John and Mindy Lora — a golden opportunity to update the restaurant’s image and get in on the ground floor of the redevelopment effort.

For their part, the Loras have announced they plan to keep things at Myhre’s “pretty much the same,” but do plan to reopen the building’s upstairs for fine dining.

For now at least, smoking will still be permitted in the restaurant lounge.

We wish the Loras good luck in their endeavor and wouldn’t presume to tell them how to run their business — especially if it means tinkering with what’s been a successful formula for many years.

We just think there’s a way to retain the restaurant’s historic charm while at the same time transforming it into a visitor-friendly asset to the Bay Street redevelopment.

South Kitsap Mall, meanwhile, had been owned since its creation in the 1960s by the Gehring family until Glennys Gehring last week sold it to Larry Li, principal of the newly formed South Kitsap Mall, Inc.

As with Myhre’s, the mall, which in its prime was a retail hub for much of Kitsap County, could probably benefit from some new blood, new ideas, and a fresh infusion of capital.

While still blessed with a convenient location, excellent visibility and sufficient parking, South Kitsap Mall has had its ups and downs over the years and has had to replace a number of high-profile tenants recently.

Assuming Bay Street is serious about redevelopment, the mall could one day find itself at the confluence of Port Orchard’s new downtown, an already-thriving Mile Hill Drive business environment, and the burgeoning Bethel corridor.

While South Kitsap Mall never figures to expand and rival its larger competitor in Silverdale, it has real potential as a smaller, quainter, less-crowded shopping experience — assuming its new owners have the vision and resources to make it so.

Both Myhre’s and the mall have a special place in the memories of South Kitsap residents — as do their long-time owners — and we’re relieved the new owners have an appreciation for their history and what has made each of these businesses special for so long.

At the same time, big things are happening in South Kitsap in the years to come and both are positioned to play a key role in the community’s metamorphosis.

We welcome Li and the Loras to South Kitsap and eagerly await their efforts to put their own stamp on their new businesses.

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