New owners of former Stutz Fuel property foresee fun gathering spot
Activity at the corner of Soundview and Harborview drives has everybody wondering what’s going on with the former Stutz Fuel property. That’s yet to be determined, but the new owners are open to suggestions.
Brad and Michelle Bailey recently closed the deal on the 0.4 acres at 7003 Harborview Drive, across from the Tides Tavern. That follows their purchase two years ago of the abutting 0.6-acre plot above it at 7718 Soundview Drive, where they are remodeling a small 1940 house for lodging.
The Baileys have scheduled a meeting with city planners, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Waterfront Alliance to explore possibilities for the Stutz parcel. To help boost businesses that haven’t recovered from the pandemic, they’re favoring fun, crowd-attracting ventures.
Open to any ideas
“We’re brainstorming to come up with something to drive people to downtown,” Brad Bailey said during an interview at the property Wednesday. “It might range from food trucks to a venue for art events. The thinking at this point is it will be a multi-use piece of property. We’re just generating ideas right now. We’re open to any ideas people in the harbor have.”
Fire tables and gazebos are other ideas the Baileys have kicked around.
“We’re just having fun brainstorming and dreaming,” said Michelle Bailey.
They envision a somewhat portable venue for the first roughly five years before further developing the properties. “Something that would be easy to put together and take down when we do want to put up permanent structures,” Brad Bailey said.
Bigger plans down the road
“Combined, it’s quite a chunk of downtown. Eventually, we do want to develop it. It could be anything, from retail, business office space, maybe some lodging. We have no idea at this point.”
The interior of the 83-year-old home on the upper parcel has been remodeled. The exterior will follow. The city has approved it for Level II lodging, not Level I that includes short-term rentals.
“Basically it’s going to be a boutique hotel,” Michelle Bailey said. “Rent the hell out of it, and this (Stutz property) place will be for fun.”
The Baileys founded and own Bailey & Bailey, a wholesale supplier of specialized jewelry and memorial products for people and pets. They also own and manage Gig Harbor office buildings, warehousing and the Babich-Bailey Netshed.
Their Soundview and Harborview properties were originally part of the Sam and Anna Jeresich (correct spelling at the time) homestead. Sam, a fisherman, came to Gig Harbor in 1867 and decided to settle here.
Former owners included Jeresiches, Adams
Frank and Anna Adams bought most of the land bordered by Harborview, Soundview and Pioneer Way from the Jeresiches in 1905, and built a home on the corner. A trail led up the hill to small, primitive cabins, where brush pickers and mill workers lived.
In 1933, the Williams Brothers of Vashon Island opened a Shell Oil distributorship on waterfront just west of where the Tides is today. Sheldon Stutz arrived in Gig Harbor in 1943 and took over the business from the second owner, Harold Rehn. Stutz bought the Adams parcel in the early 1960s, according to son Del Stutz.
“He was worried about a fire on the waterfront, so he put the trucks across the street,” said Del, 86, who gradually took over managing the operation as his father aged. Sheldon Stutz died in 1988. Stutz Fuel closed in 2003, Del Stutz said.
In 2004, the Stutzes removed a warehouse, office, above-ground fuel storage tanks and contaminated soil from the waterfront property through the state Department of Ecology’s voluntary cleanup program. The city purchased the land in 2010 and built the Maritime Pier, which opened in 2012. Commercial fishermen can drive onto it to load and unload their nets. There’s also a float for recreational boaters.
Parking lot was in the works
Ron Roark had been in discussions with the Stutzes about a lease agreement to build and operate an auxiliary parking lot for his Gig Harbor Marina & Boathouse on the 0.4 acres along Harborview Drive. He drew up plans and participated in a pre-application conference with city planners in March 2022. The owners decided to sell instead.
The Stutz property sat dormant for several years. Neighbors complained about its condition. The owners neatened the grounds between 2019 and 2021, according to the city. It was free of violations when the Baileys bought it.
“To see those properties cleaned up is a great value to the community downtown and resolves those enforcement requests,” said Gig Harbor City Administrator Katrina Knudson.
The upper property, though it received no complaints, was messier. It was like a time capsule from the 1950s, Brad Bailey said. Dump trucks hauled away 15 loads of junk and the mountains of blackberry bushes it was hidden under, Bailey said. They found a rusting-away wagon-wheeled watering cart, tin-roofed outhouse, swing sets, cement and pottery culverts — “70 to 80 years of accumulated stuff,” he said.
Good to see it put back to use
People are excited to see the properties getting attention after being neglected for years.
“I get the impression everybody is looking forward to it being a function of downtown,” Brad Bailey said. “The corner of Soundview and Harborview is a central part of downtown. It’s a really important historic and current portion of Gig Harbor.
“It’ll be a lot of fun to figure out a use for it that enhances the harbor. Whatever we decide to do there will hopefully be something that lasts and is meaningful to the community.”