Walt's making his move

‘Twas the last week before the big move at Walt’s Lynwood Market, and Murphy’s Law was holding court.

The sign that was supposed to show up last week is still promised – maybe Thursday or Friday. The computer software that operates the new scanner technology speaks a different language than the bar codes. And the displays at the front of the store are still in disarray.

And Walt Hannon hasn’t had a good night’s sleep all month.

“I started working on the new store at the end of October, and right now, I’m working from 6 a.m. until midnight,” he said. “But I think it will be worth the wait.”

If the situation doesn’t collapse altogether, Hannon will open the doors at his shiny new market on Monday morning, after spending the weekend moving. And although the distance involved is modest – from the old Lynwood Center, across Point White Drive to the new Lynwood Commons development – the difference in the two facilities is enormous, Hannon said.

Although the 4,400 square feet of the new store is only about a third larger than the old market, Hannon’s inventory will be a great deal larger, he says, and will better reflect the contemporary tastes of his customers, most of whom are his south-end neighbors.

He has organic products on every aisle, including ShariAnn and Ami’s organic soups. He stocks a half-dozen kinds of soy milk, three times as many salad dressings as before, non-irradiated and MSG spices – “the customers have told me those are good things” – and Starbucks and Pegasus coffees.

The store will have an array of fresh and chilled produce – salad fixings, mostly – and a large selection of frozen foods, including a whole freezer door devoted to organics.

And the deli case directly inside the entrance features a sizable selection of cheeses and sliced meats, “things that I haven’t been able to carry before,” Hannon said.

To the left of the entrance will be a greatly expanded wine selection. One island rack is dedicated only to Washington wines, including offerings from Bainbridge Island Winery.

Beer and chilled wine is found in an enormous walk-in cooler – the only one on the island. And there will be one cooler dedicated to floral products.

“I was going to use this for chilled wine,” Hannon said, “but I had so much room in the cooler that I didn’t need it for that. Now, people will be able to take champagne and flowers home for their spouses.”

The hot-food area behind the front counter is expanded, Hannon said, and will include things like rotisserie chicken and a variety of prepared foods in hot pans, as well as sandwiches.

“We want to offer more hot food for later in the day that people can pick up and take home with them,” he said.

For those who want to eat at the store, Hannon has five tables set up in the back corner, grouped around a gas fireplace.

“The floor is different, to set it apart,” he said. “This is kind of a cozy corner back here.”

He plans to decorate the area with historic photographs of the island’s south end, including photos of the Port Blakely mill where his grandfather worked.

Career grocer

An island native, Hannon has been in the grocery business all his life. He worked at the Lynwood Center store in high school, then after a few years in Hawaii, he went to work for Town & Country markets in their Poulsbo store, working directly under the late Don Nakata.

Hannon spent 13 years managing the island’s four convenience stores – including Rolling Bay, Island Center, and a Winslow location since torn down – when all were owned by Harley Unruh, then bought the Lynwood store from Unruh in 1992.

“I needed to do this to grow,” he said of the new store. “There were parking problems at the old place, particularly during the movies, and I was able to design this like a real grocery store.”

The plan is to physically move the remaining inventory out of the old store over the weekend, which may entail closing for a day.

As an indication of the store’s importance to the neighborhood, Hannon estimates that 100 people have offered to help him move.

While Hannon says a customer would be able to buy most of what they need at the store, with fresh meat being the conspicuous exception, he envisions it as a neighborhood market.

“We’ll never be able to compete with T&C or Safeway,” he said, “but I would hope that when people in this neighborhood want something, they’ll at least look here first to see if we have it.”

And despite the new staff at the store, one constant will be his mother Rhea.

“I think she’s the biggest reason people come into the store,” Hannon said. “You can’t believe how many people came in on Mother’s Day just to be sure I wasn’t making Mom work.”

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