A Friday the 13th soft opening went off without a hitch for The Harbor General Store, which welcomed shoppers with open arms on the notoriously superstitious day.
Business has been booming for the downtown newcomer, with sandwiches selling out, shelves emptying and customers packing the deli area.
Everyone has been patient, said owner Stephanie Sagle, and the support has been good to see.
“We’re so blessed and we’re so excited,” Sagle said.
Sagle, 30, and her husband, Cody, 32, spent two years preparing to open the store in downtown Gig Harbor. After remodeling, permitting and stocking, the vision is truly beginning to take shape.
The opening marks the end of a four-year grocery store drought downtown that began when QFC left Judson Street in February 2011. The departure of the grocer left downtown residents stunned.
The new general store seeks to partially fill the void that was left.
“We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time,” Mayor Jill Guernsey said.
When Guernsey was out doorbelling for a run at Gig Harbor City Council in 2012, what she heard over and over again from voters was a need for a grocery store downtown.
Sagle got the inspiration for the store while in Napa Valley, California, for her younger sister’s graduation from culinary school. Sagle visited Oakville Grocery and it’s blend of deli, sundries and outdoor seating sparked an idea.
“I just thought, ‘You know, this is what Gig Harbor needs,’” Sagle said.
Items available in the Gig Harbor store include beer, wine and everything from cleaning products to baby food. It may not have the selection of other stores, but it does provide all sorts of services.
“We hope to be a store where you can get all of your essentials,” Sagle said. “We want to be a neighborhood grocery store.”
Sagle addressed issues of price at the store, but commented that much of that is determined by order constraints. With a small square footage, the store can’t order in large quantities.
“We can’t get prices like the big box stores,” Sagle said.
However, there’s a varied selection of Northwest products such as 7 Seas Beer.
“In the Puget Sound we have some awesome products,” Sagle said, so the store tries to showcase area foods.
It’s part of a group of new businesses that have opened downtown recently. Guernsey said the new building tenants are part of a new era for downtown.
Guernsey pointed to businesses such as The Weathered Cottage, Bella Kitchen and Home, Heritage Distilling opening their doors.
“All of those are just perfect for downtown,” she said.
The grocery building at 7804 Pioneer Way has a few past lives. Most recently it was Seasons by the Bay, a year-round Christmas store. Many years ago, it was a bank. As a throwback, the old teller window has been converted into a drive-thru coffee stand.
Someday, Sagle is considering offering drive-up grocery service, she said. For example, patrons can swing by and pick up a gallon of milk, like the dairy drive-thrus in Florida.
For now, it’s about establishing a place in the community. That place, as Sagle says, depends on community support for the store.