Oh yeah by the way we opened a honey shop. At Pike Place. For Real.

Posted on January 15, 2015 by Anne Smith | 0 Comments

Across from Throw The Fish.  Under the clock. Next to Rachel the Pig. Above the Gumwall.  Basically in Time Square.  And we did it, or ok let me just break narrative for a second and say I DID IT in just over 48 hours from Wednesday night historic commission approval to Saturday morning 9am opening.  Or actually, the whole process started back in September and it's been more work than I've ever known.  Well, if you want to get specific, I guess this is something I've always wanted and have been driven to see succeed through incredible amounts of sacrifice and hope and a reliance on flexibility and cooperation from others for at least the last 7 years.  yeah, it hasn't been easy, but we finally arrived!!!!!!!!!

ok, I'll slow down and do a more abridged version of how we got here: 

back in September I was casually delivering a special order of honey straws to Scott Davies of the Pike Place Market PDA (Preservation and Development Authority) down in the main office.  I was allowed to walk back to Scott's desk in the commercial area, and was telling him my rather animated version of the Beepocalype that had just occurred, when I literally got tapped on the shoulder by a commercial tenant manager who politely asked me if I had a moment of time to speak with him.  He said there was going to be an opening upstairs for a specialty food store and that I was who they had in mind for the spot (actually, I found out later that they said the same thing to at least one other business, but ultimately the other passed on the spot and it went to me!)  I couldn't believe I had been considered, vetted, and hand selected for the spot. What was I going to say, no?  There's no way I could say no, even though I wasn't ready for that kind of growth or radical switch from seasonal farmer to year-round specialty honey shop.  Hell, just two days beforehand I was in TC at my cousin's wedding and had such a great time with family and friends that I was ready to pack it all in and finally move home.  Then this?  I didn't see it coming but I knew it was an opportunity that wouldn't come again, and if I actually ever wanted to make a real living off farming and handcrafted products, this was the time and place to dive in with abandon.

So I had a meeting with commercial, which led to me filling out an application for the spot along with business plan and 3 year income projections (aka the land of make-believe), and soon the ball was rolling.  I was initially hesitant about signing on to a long term lease because I had no real idea what the space would be like, or whether or not customers would find Sunny Honey to be as charming once we were off the daystalls and possibly less "farmy" than previously perceived.  Commercial was understanding of my hesitancies, and offered me a risk free trial (month-to-month) lease just to get me in the door for the holiday season.  I agreed and things kept moving forward!

One of the stipulations of joining the Pike Place Market is that you adhere to their strict guidelines for design and use of space set forth and regulated by the 15 person Historic commission.  All new business, renovation, additions or changes to the market are approved through a meeting and voting process, and Sunny Honey was no exception.  

I anticipated the Historic Committee meeting to be far more nerve wracking and invasive than it actually was. I was beyond freaked out as I drove down to Seattle for my first of two meetings (the 2nd, and more important one was actually easier).  The Market staff and committee have my best interests at heart, and wouldn't want to see a business that has no, well, business being there.  Sunny Honey Company is the perfect fit for the tiny shop located in the main arcade, previously occupied by Mt Townsend Creamery and before that for many years, Best Flowers.  Sunny Honey Company is a locally produced, farm based specialty food business and by all historic measure, that is considered priority use for the main arcade area.  Even with overwhelmingly good odds of being approved, I still  had to sit in the middle of a room and describe to a panel of judges why they should consider me and my business for the market.  It was a challenging process and ultimately I was "Strongly Approved" by a unanimous vote on both my usage and design applications!  I walked downstairs all by myself, beaming with pride and excitement, standing just outside the entrance to what would be my new shop and grabbed the first familiar face I saw just to share my news.  It was James the market master and he laughed at me because clearly I was so excited to share the news with someone and he just happened to be walking by!

I had always thought that a permanent honey stand would do well, no, would do exceedingly well at Pike.  It's like everyone, every age, from everywhere in the world like honey (besides the 5 of you that I've met in the last decade that mysteriously don'T).  everyone likes honey, it's a local food, it doesn't go bad, and tourists like it.  So really, I thought it was a no brainer to put up walls and make a go of it.  There were, surprisingly, a number of naysayers and pessimists who either didn't think the spot would work, or who didn't think honey could stand on it's own as a formidable retail force.  Many suggested that I had to branch out immediately into honey related foods and drinks, or have a gimmicky thing right off the bat.  Honestly, I wondered the same.  

So there I was, with tentative design plans and strong approval to go forth, at 6:30 pm on wednesday night, when I got the email that the two artists that I had hoped would help me construct the shop couldn't make it the next day.  My beaming smile of success about having made it through the hoops of the approval process was quickly eclipsed by a whole new set of stressors and worry.  Who in the hell was going to help me now?  Both my dad and my older brother are tremendously talented woodworkers and either could put the shop together in half a days time, except they both live 2000 miles away.  I literally had no idea who to ask or what to do, and I had rapidly dwindling funds because I hadn't been to a market in almost 2 weeks by then.  I needed that shop to open because I needed to make money to pay for it!

I started by googling construction in seattle, which wasn't what I needed, then carpenters and woodworkers and handyman services, and none were quite right.  Then I called all my friends that own their own homes and asked if any of them had repairs done and could they recommend someone.  Come to find out, the word I needed was "builder", and I got the name of a fine one indeed!  

Ken Olofson (highly recommended) answered my call that desperate evening and agreed to come see the shop by 9am thursday.  I didn't sleep well that night, and showed up at Pike early and frazzled by traffic, without any confidence.  The shop was a sad and empty place:

The challenge here was to fill this up in a comfortable, well lit, and inviting way.  My two artist contractors, who made the beekeeper cutout, gave me some rudimentary but brilliant ideas for where and how to build the displays, but I know nothing of technicalities and was relying heavily on both their creative and professional capacity until they canceled.  Poor Ken had never met me before, and had no idea when he walked in the little shop, that I would be this overtired, stressed out, creatively needy, and technically ignorant woman who was openingly weeping within 15 minutes of meeting him.  Yes, I couldn't help but cry a little that thursday morning when he started firing questions at me about the set up, what to do, and how to do it.  I had to admit to him that I wasn't sure how to do what needed to be done, and that I was hoping he could have some ideas.  I'm not sure that's what Ken expected, but he switched gears immediately and proved to be both creatively reliable and self directed over the next couple of days!  So we assembled the store, hired honey helpers, and within 48 hrs we were live!!!!

Here's Ken the builder and some dudes from maintenance getting it done!              Jenny and Randy, the original contractors, in the shop giving their ideas for the beehive lid wall partition.  They had so many awesome visions for the shop, and I hope to work with them again! laying out lid choices for the partition

 

My surplus Supers and old hives had served as a makeshift privacy wall all summer in my Main Street EVERSON FRONT YARD.  This look is a possible inspiration for coming designs!

This wooden antique shop sign from downtown Lynden inspired the base of Randy's beekeeper cutout.   Also, serious bookkeeping with markers and phone calculator;)

 

Let's back up a minute and talk about Smith and Vallee woodworkers in my dream town of Edison.  Here's Andrew Vallee helping me select kiln dried and wood planed maple slabs for the display shelves.  These guys are so cool and multitalented.  From fine furniture to rustic accents, these guys know what they are doing!  I carefully selected all the elements for the shop, as I wanted everything to be part of a cycle and the system of beekeeping.  Maple slabs were specifically used because that tree produces an important nectar and pollen source for the bees in spring time.

My museum like collection (read: hoarder) of beekeeping ephemera has sure come in handy for decorating.  A first run at setting up shop.

Mary showed up to work in a mini skirt and heels for our opening day. Bless her.  We seriously stone-souped this shop together in the first couple weeks, starting with half bare shelves but selling enough everyday to keep building bigger and better.  It's 2 months in now and we finally feel collected and caught up! Here are the shelves getting full!

Our first customers, Ms Ferne Hages and her dad, Blain!!

  More displays coming together

Bigger and better each day!

Improved lighting as well!

In the first month of business, my cousin visited, my grandma died, my truck crashed, and I moved myself and my business all by myself.  If life was trying to test me, this year has been the bar exam.

museum style decorating out front instead of product because we think it's a space otherwise prone to shoplifting.     Cutiepie Erin out sampling hard on our first weekend!!!

I'm so proud!

Almost Christmas and still smiling!

by now it's really working and I'm starting to relax! Lots of shaking hands and holding babies and talking to everyone who comes in.  So many people are rooting for me and my little business.  Enjoying visits from so many familiar faces!

Including my mom and brother for christmas week. It was so wonderful to have family show up and offer support over the holidays.  This whole thing has been such a whirlwind of time, stress, money, emotions, celebration, excitement, renewed hope, trust, and love and i couldn't have done it without my family.  also, for the first time in awhile I finally have enough money to buy an actual bed and sofa for them to sleep on.  I feel totally grown up. Now it's like the ship is up and running, and I finally have time to sit still, sip some coffee on my new sofa, and tell this tale!!!

there is much more to be invested, renovated, innovated, and added to this little shop and business, but for now it's the easy winter doldrums and I couldn't be happier.  Stay tuned for more!!!


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