Business Community News
“I came down the hill and saw the harbor and I was sold on the idea,” says Kandice Claybaker of her decision to move cross-country and purchase Waterfront Natural Market in January 2020.
A transplant from St. Petersburg, Florida, Claybaker was drawn to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. He experienced that beauty during visits to his brother, who was attending school in Oregon.
After years of working in the construction industry, Claybaker traded shores and moved more than 3,000 miles away to try her luck as a first-time small-town business owner.
While growing his career in Florida, Claybaker rooted himself in community work with the Claybaker Dustoff Foundation. The nonprofit organization supported combat veterans with transition assistance during difficult times.
“It was fun helping the community,” says Claybaker. The foundation helped supply backpacks with essentials like toiletries and food for homeless veterans.
More than buying a business
Claybaker bought the market from Bruce Winfrey, who founded the store in 1975. She believes one of the selling points was his promise to keep the store a local market.
Claybaker instinctively knew he wasn’t just buying a business. He was embracing a community with the goal of increasing the presence of more locally sourced products.
Waterfront Natural Markets continues the tradition of selling natural foods and supplements. 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 community story.
On the shelves
Among the items for sale at the Waterfront Natural Market:
- The Nut Butter and Scone Mix, included in the Do Good Breakfast Pack, supports empowerment for women overcoming adversity in Portland, Oregon.
- Unpaper Towels, a reusable paper towel made by Marley Monsters in Eugene, Oregon, empower sustainable living.
- yesHerpa Chai is a tea brewed in small batches from Boulder, Colorado. It is inspired by a son’s love for his mother’s tea, which he sipped as a child growing up in a small village 10,000 feet up in the Himalayas.
- Edmonds Umchew Bars are one of many products that support the gluten and dairy free community. Biff’s Blue Ribbon BBQ is made locally in Puyallup and Barlean’s Organic Oils are created in the Whatcom County town of Ferndale.
- A belief in prayer and giving back to the community is the message behind Sugar Little Prayer Tea, a family business in Normandy Park in King County.
This little market encompasses all the senses. From the San Juan Islands comes My Fav Sweater Eau de Toilette, a perfume created by her mother for a daughter. The perfume promises to “transport you to a quintessentially warm setting, with tea, books and a fireplace in super cold weather.”
No Man’s Land, a Pacific Northwest handmade jewelry line, uses responsibly sourced North American hardwoods and natural mineral pigments combined with vintage paper.
The reorganization of retail space has also allowed Claybaker to open space for local artists and events. Veteran artworks are currently displayed in the “Artist’s Corner”, with plans to rotate artist exhibits. Upcoming events include pop-up stores with vendor partners and participation in local events like Sip and Stroll on October 8 and Girls Night Out in November.
part of a community
Connecting with 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 chicken and duck eggs, and deliveries of raw milk 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.
“We have a lot of special requests,” says Claybaker, “that’s a lot of what we do.”
Quality supplements are a significant part of the business at Waterfront Natural Market, and special orders are accepted for all products. Customers receive personal shopping assistance to help them navigate people’s needs, whether it’s diet restrictions, snack suggestions, or even the perfect PNW gift idea.
Small Town Benefits
Leaving the city to live in a small town has also brought some unexpected and rewarding benefits for Claybaker. Store calls extend beyond typical questions or product requests.
“Some will call to chat and just say hello and see how we’re doing,” says Claybaker.
With large windows opening onto the sidewalk on Harborview Drive, staff see typical dog walkers, but sometimes something truly unusual shows up, like a costumed pig on a leash.
It’s just a day in the life as a small business owner in Gig Harbor.
Natural market facing the sea
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: (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