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Port Gamble General Store changing hands

The Port Gamble General Store will close in January and February as new tenants remodel parts of the 1916 building. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
The Port Gamble General Store will close in January and February as new tenants remodel parts of the 1916 building.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

PORT GAMBLE — The Port Gamble General Store closed this week but the historical business won’t be shuttered for long.

After three years running the store, Ethel and Eduardo Molina are giving up their lease on the building citing slow business. Olympic Property Group, which owns and manages the former mill town, has already found new tenants and the General Store is expected to reopen in early March.

Ethel Molina said traffic at the store had been down all year but the closure of the Hood Canal Bridge in May sealed the fate of her business.

“That was my breaking point,” she said.

New tenants Kim Campbell and Erik Kleiva hope a wider offering at the store and a recent influx of businesses to Port Gamble will drive up traffic in town.

The Hansville couple will spend the two-month closure rebuilding the store’s café into a full-service restaurant, complete with a dining counter. In the retail area they plan to add a small grocery section, along with gourmet foods and souvenirs.

“It’s a general store, so that leaves it wide open,” Campbell said. “It’s kind of mind boggling what we can fill it with.”

Campbell and Kleiva each have business experience. Kleiva was a longtime owner of Radio Guy, a stereo store in Poulsbo. Campbell owned the Wildflour Café in Kingston and the Rugosa Rose store in Port Gamble.

They will be the fourth set of tenants to run the store since the sawmill closed in 1995, beginning a period of change for the town.

The store was established in 1853 along with the mill and moved into its current building overlooking the bay in 1916.

The Molina family took over the General Store in April 2006, after Olympic remodeled the building to return it to its original appearance.

The Molinas’ staple was food — they served breakfast and lunch — and the store catered to tourists with an eclectic mix of art, antiques and souvenirs. At one point the store employed 15 part-time workers, Ethel Molina said.

Ethel Molina said her family struggled to keep the store running this year.

Hood Canal Bridge closed for reconstruction in May, squelching the flow of visitors to the Olympic Peninsula. The Molinas tried opening at 4:30 a.m. to attract breakfast business from the commuters being shuttled through Port Gamble. They had few takers.

“There was nothing,” Ethel Molina said.

A skeleton crew of three helped close the store this week. Ethel Molina said she’s proud of the part her family played in rebuilding Port Gamble.

“I know I’m part of the history here,” she said.

Despite the down economy, several new businesses opened in Port Gamble this year.

Olympic Outdoor Center made a splash when it moved its retail store from Poulsbo to Port Gamble in September.

Wool store The Artful Ewe opened a second location in town and Mike’s Four Star BBQ brought a new dining option to State Route 104 November.

A quilt store is expected to open in Port Gamble this spring.

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