Business Community

Business Spotlight: Ekberg takes reins at Waterfront Alliance

Posted on March 20th, 2023 By:

Carrianne Ekberg grew up watching her family operate a small business on the Gig Harbor waterfront. Her parents owned the old Shorline restaurant on North Harborview Drive, located in the spot currently occupied by Anthony’s.

In her new job, Ekberg has an opportunity to help a new generation of business owners.

Ekberg is the new executive director of the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance. She replaced the retired Mary DesMarais at the helm of the alliance on Feb. 1. 

DesMarais was the alliance’s director for 13 years, almost the entirety of the organization’s existence. 

“Mary set a really good foundation,” Ekberg said. “She built it up to what it is today. I kind of want to take that and build it further using my social media background.” 

Mary DesMarais, left, retired at the end of January. Carrianne Ekberg, right, replaced her as executive director of the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance.


She comes to the alliance after operating a social media marketing business, E.Consulting PNW.

Ekberg founded E.Consulting with the idea of using her social media skills to help local, small businesses tell their stories. She soon found that the rates she had to charge to balance her bottom line sometimes put her services out of reach of the sort of small businesses she wanted to help. 

When the alliance job came open, “it was kind of the best of everything that I wanted to do.”

Ekberg didn’t set out to be a social media expert. She majored in international relations and political science at Elmira College in upstate New York, where she participated in the ROTC program.

She served in the Air Force after graduation and remains a reservist, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.

E.Consulting happened after she moved back to Gig Harbor.

“I just found (social media) to be something I was good at,” she said. “I really like connecting with people and telling stories.”

New Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance Executive Director Carrianne Ekberg with her family. From left, son Milo, dog Odie, Carrianne, daughter Cora and husband Reid.

New ideas

Ekberg overflows with ideas for the alliance moving forward:

She wants to get younger people involved with the organization, whether as members, volunteers or board members.

She recently pitched an idea of distributing Gig Harbor-themed coloring books to a city commission. 

Ekberg wants to facilitate better communication between business owners and city government. Perhaps stage some educational seminars on topics of interest to small businesses. 

A big priority will be finding ways to get people downtown during the traditional slow season, from January through May. Plenty of people come downtown to shop and dine during the warm summer months and the holiday season, but it gets quiet in late winter and spring. 

“I am excited to be able to tell all the businesses’ stories,” Ekberg said. “That’s what is going to connect to people and get them to come downtown.” 

Another change at the alliance

Ekberg replacing DesMarais isn’t the only big change happening in the alliance’s cozy office on Harborview Drive. 

Josh Sherwin, the alliance’s special projects coordinator, plans to retire after 14 years with the organization. His last day will be May 25. 

Sherwin helped with planning the organization’s many events — like Sip & Stroll, Restaurant Week, Girls Night Out and the Waterfront Farmer’s Market. He also produced many videos to promote the alliance and its activiites. 

“It has been such a pleasure having a front-row seat to watch the growth of our outstanding Main Street organization,” Sherwin said in a news release from the alliance. “I feel fortunate to have been a part of an incredibly talented Alliance team … I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences and extremely proud of all we have accomplished together.” 

The alliance is hiring to replace Sherwin. Click here for more information.