“I came down the hill and saw the harbor and was sold on the idea,” Kandice Claybaker says about her decision to move cross country and buy Waterfront Natural Market in January 2020.
A transplant from St. Petersburg, Florida, Claybaker was drawn to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She experienced that beauty during visits with her brother, who was attending school in Oregon.
Kandice Claybaker bought Waterfront Natural Market on Harborview Drive in 2020 and focuses on regionally made, sustainable products. Julie Warrick Ammann
After years working in the construction industry, Claybaker traded coasts and moved more than 3,000 miles away to try her hand as a first-time business owner in a small town.
While growing her career in Florida, Claybaker rooted herself in community work with the Claybaker Dustoff Foundation. The nonprofit supported combat veterans with transitional assistance during times of hardship.
“It was fun providing for the community,” Claybaker says. The foundation helped to supply backpacks with essentials like toiletries and food to homeless veterans.
Claybaker bought the market from Bruce Winfrey, who founded the store in 1975. She believes that one of the selling points was her promise to keep the storefront as a local market.
Claybaker instinctively knew that she wasn’t just buying a business. She was adopting a community with the goal of increasing the presence of more locally sourced products.
Products displayed inside Waterfront Natural Market in Gig Harbor. Julie Warrick Ammann
Waterfront Natural Markets continues the tradition of selling supplements and natural foods. But Claybaker has redesigned the interior to provide expanded real-estate to showcase products from the region. Handpicked by Claybaker, each local item has its own story of community.
Among the items for sale at Waterfront Natural Market:
Unpaper Towels, a reusable paper towel, is made by Marley Monsters in Eugene, Oregon. Julie Warrick Ammann
This small market covers all the senses. From the San Juan Islands comes My Fav Sweater Eau de Toilette, a perfume created for a daughter by her mother. The perfume promises to “transport you into a quintessentially warm, tea+books+fireplace-in-super-chill-weather setting.”
No Man’s Land, a line of jewelry handcrafted in the Pacific Northwest, uses responsibly sourced North American hardwoods and natural mineral pigments combined with vintage paper.
Kandice Claybaker helps customer Paula Henzel select a product at Waterfront Natural Market in Gig Harbor. Henzel said she likes coming into the store and finds the staff to be helpful. Julie Warrick Ammann
Reorganizing retail space has also allowed Claybaker to open up room for local artists and events. Veteran artwork is currently on display in the “Artist Corner,” with plans to rotate artist shows. Upcoming events include pop-up stores with partnering vendors, and participation in local events such as the Sip and Stroll on Oct. 8, and Girls Night Out in November.
Connecting to neighboring business owners is also important to Claybaker, a member of The Gig Harbor Downtown Alliance. Waterfront Natural Market also maintains strong relationships with neighboring communities like Port Orchard, with locally laid duck and chicken eggs, and raw milk deliveries from Blackjack Valley Farms, and wheat berries from the Palouse in Eastern Washington.
“We love feedback,” says Claybaker, adding that she has learned to listen to the community as a first time business owner.
When Kandice Claybaker bought Waterfront Natural Market in 2020, she made certain to carve out display space for regionally sourced, sustainable products. Julie Warrick Ammann
“We have a lot of special requests,” says Claybaker, “that’s a lot of what we do.”
Quality supplements are a considerable part of business at Waterfront Natural Market, with special orders for all products welcome. Customers receive personal shopping assistance to help navigate individuals needs whether it be diet restrictions, snack suggestions, or even the perfect PNW gift idea.
Leaving the city for life in a small town has also brought some unexpected and rewarding benefits for Claybaker. Calls in to the store extend beyond the typical product questions or requests.
“Some will call to chat, and just say hi and see how we’re doing,” Claybaker says.
With large windows opening to the sidewalk on Harborview Drive, staff see the typical dog walkers, but on some occasions something really unusual shows up — like a costumed pig on a leash.
It’s just a day in a life as a small business owner in Gig Harbor.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (253) 851-8120
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Address: 3122 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor
Kandice Claybaker behind the counter at Waterfront Natural Market on Harborview Drive. Julie Warrick Ammann
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