Olalla Bay Market open, serving food, conversation and community
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the little country store once known as Al’s of Olalla has re-opened, transformed into Olalla Bay Market.
After a soft opening on April 12, the mercantile-cum-pizza restaurant officially opened at 9 a.m. April 13.
The market is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Restaurant service begins at 4 p.m. each day, with made-to-order sourdough pizza, salads and charcuterie plates on the menu.
Other items – like espresso, soft serve, locally made cookies, snack items, wine, on-tap beer and staples like milk and eggs – are available all day.
As things settle in, manager Marta Drevniak plans to expand restaurant hours to include lunch. The market will also be open Tuesdays starting in late spring or early summer, she said.
While finishing touches were being made at the store, she and a couple other kitchen staffers attended Sourdough Willie’s Pacific NW School of Pizza in Kingston to learn some tricks of the trade. They’re using a sourdough starter Drevniak mixed up during the pandemic when, “like everybody else” she immersed herself in bread-baking.
Two styles of pizza are available at OBM – Neopolitan (the traditional round shape that originated in Naples, Italy) and Sicilian (baked in a rectangular pan with a slightly thicker crust).
Al Robbecke owned the property for decades. The store was Al’s of Olalla, known for its butcher shop and well-stocked grocery. Locals stopped by in the mornings for a cup of coffee and the latest gossip.
Al’s son John took over when his dad retired. He continued the butcher shop and center-of-the-community tradition. When he died in 2010, an Everett-based investment company bought the property. The store went through a series of owners with intermittent closings and re-openings.
Al’s of Olalla closed for good in 2020, shut down by the Kitsap County Health District because of problems with the septic system.
Drevniak’s parents, Gregg and Claudia Olsen, purchased the property — the store, a former post office building and nearly 1,000 feet of Colvos Passage waterfront — in 2021.
The first thing the Olsens did was renovate the old post office building and rename it Olalla Bay Landing. It houses a small museum filled with artifacts from Olalla history. Its meeting room has already become the venue for weekly yoga classes, sewing groups, book clubs and other activities.
Now the Olsens have transformed Al’s Store into a shiny modern space with a distinctly uptown vibe.
They completely re-did the interior, adding a big, domed pizza oven, soft serve and espresso machines, tables and chairs and an expansive patio space with a gorgeous view of Colvos Passage and Vashon Island.
Nearly all the work was done by volunteers who were thrilled that the property had been saved by a local family committed to making it a welcoming place for old timers, newcomers and visitor alike.
But the transformation was rife with challenges.
Two weeks before the new market was to open, a fire broke out in the kitchen area. All the appliances were destroyed, windows were shattered and the old “Al’s Store” sign that had been hung on a wall to honor the store’s history was gone.
The entire building suffered extensive smoke damage. A big hole, created by firefighters to access the flames, punctured the roof.
It meant starting over for the Olsens and all the volunteers.
Enter the community
Right away, the Olalla community rallied on the Olsens’ behalf.
The owners of the Olalla Winery set up a Gofundme account. Other neighbors held fundraising events. Once the fire marshall finally gave the all-clear, the volunteers went back to work, scrubbing soot from walls, installing new windows and wiring and basically re-doing everything they’d done earlier.
More problems arose.
Kitsap County required additional permits for the store’s specially designed septic system. But soon after the new septic tanks were in place in a trench in front of the store, an installation error was discovered. The tanks had to be dug up and re-installed.
King tides flooded everything, including the Landing. The saltwater also invaded the well, requiring installation of a new system of pumps and filters and daily monitoring.
The Phoenix effect
But the Olsens and their crew were undaunted and work continued. Finally – like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes – Olalla Bay Market is a reality.
Although it has been open for only a week, the Market has already become gathering place for a glass of wine, an expresso, a pizza, a cone or just “visiting.”
Even the “soft opening” was a full house.
“We’ve learned that in the days of social media, there is no such thing as a ‘soft opening,’” Gregg Olsen said.
The Olsens are delighted with the results. “Dormant friendships are being rekindled,” Olsen said. “And the presence of children with their parents is a fulfillment of a dream.
“We’re grateful for the patience and grace our wonderful Olalla community has given us as we work to accommodate everyone with amazing pizza and memories to last a lifetime.
“Beautiful downtown Olalla is back!”