Main Street staple in new hands

Klaas Hesselink and Alyse McConnell took over last week as owners of Paper Products. - JESSE BEALS photo
Klaas Hesselink and Alyse McConnell took over last week as owners of Paper Products.
— image credit: JESSE BEALS photo

Saying simply that “we’re tired,” Winslow Way mainstays Janie and Stuart Walton have sold Paper Products to islanders Alyse McConnell and Klaas Hesselink, who they believe will continue the tradition of community involvement.

“We’ve had several other offers, but we never felt that they would do for the community what the community needed,” Stuart Walton said.

The Waltons bought the store in 1992 from Andy and Karen Driscoll, who sold when their youngest child graduated from high school. A decade-plus later, the Waltons find themselves in the same position.

“After 25 years of having kids in the Bainbridge schools, our youngest graduates in June,” Janie said. “This has nothing to do with health or with moving, but it’s just a chance to slow down.”

The sale came about “serendipitously, through mutual friends,” Janie said, and became final last Friday. The Waltons will continue to consult through March, then will phase out.

For McConnell, buying the store is a chance to settle into Bainbridge Island and stop commuting.

“We came to the area for a job opportunity, found Bainbridge Island and bought the first house we saw,” she said. “I spent five years in corporate America, but was in small business before that and really wanted to get back to it.”

Last fall, she left her job as an internal network manager in Seattle, and began looking for an opportunity on the island. Paper Products was a good fit, she said.

“I had rep’ed paper as a salesperson, and had helped a friend start a greeting-card business, so I had been on all sides of the table at trade shows,” she said. “I felt like it suited me.”

While McConnell had been commuting, Hesselink, a native of The Netherlands, had been staying home with their two young children and teaching swimming part-time. He also made Dutch cookies that he sold at the Farmers Market.

“His doing that really resonated with me that I was missing a piece out of my life,” McConnell said. “I had always been involved in the community where I had lived, but it’s really hard when you’re getting on the boat every morning.”

Hesselink, who has a background in the hospitality business, says physical changes to the store are likely, but won’t happen immediately.

“We really need to figure out the business, and what we need,” he said. “Once we do that, we’ll close for a couple of days, make the changes, then have a formal grand opening.”

The sale included not only Paper Products, but also West Sound Business Supply, an office-products operation, where McConnell and Hesselink see a certain learning curve. Their objective is to make sure that no one has to leave the island for either school- or hobby-related paper supplies or office products.

“We learned that 18 percent of the people on the island are self-employed,” McConnell said. “And they save up lists of things they need and go to Office Depot. There’s no reason for that, because we can offer competitive prices, and if people come in before 4, we can have the order here the next day.”

The new owners’ relative youthfulness may be an advantage to the community.

“They will deal on-line with people with maybe greater confidence,” Janie Walton said. “They are representative of the younger families on the island, and will have insights into different things.”

McConnell likes the idea of a job that she can not only bring her children to, but that she can explain to them.

“I like something that they can understand before they get into junior high school,” she said.


The Paper Products sale is only one of several recent changes in downtown Winslow. Others include:

* Long-time employee Loral Ann Jorza bought Island Ice Cream and Coffee at the corner of Winslow Way and Highway 305 from Renita Duggan in the latter part of 2002.

“Business has been good through the winter, but the lion’s share comes in the summer, when we sell a lot of ice cream,” she said.

* Island Chat House, and Indian restaurant, will open next to That’s A Some Pizza in the space formerly occupied by Teddy Bear Express.

* Jeannie Alexis Wood has sold La Belle Saison restaurant in the Winslow Mall. The space will reopen as a Russian restaurant, according to information posted on the door.

* Alexandra’s closed in the Winslow Mall, consolidating with its Poulsbo operation. A new store is in the works at the site, but no further information has been released.

* The Winslow Way Cafe is in the process of changing hands, with details and a formal announcement expected in a couple of weeks.

* New Morning has left the Pavilion and will re-open in Poulsbo, owner Bernie Reynolds said. The Gym at the Pavilion will expand into that space.

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