Lynwood Center, surviving and thriving

Ice cream bar regular Zoe Ransom

From its humble beginnings as a small coffee shop, through multiple expansions that bred a bar, performance stage and a billiard area, one phrase has shaped the development of the Treehouse Cafe: the customer is always right.

“We were always listening to what our clientele’s requests were,” said Treehouse owner Arnie Sturham.

When customers wanted the restaurant to stay open later, Treehouse extended its hours; people wanted more entertainment options, Treehouse added pool tables, other bar games and a stage for live music.

Over its seven years of operation, Treehouse has evolved from the 1,000-square foot coffee shop that closed at 3 p.m., to a 4,800-square-foot restaurant, gathering place and nightlife hotspot.

Treehouse’s rise corresponds with the rebirth of Lynwood Center. The historic complex with its Bavarian influences was suffering from a lack of maintenance and in need of a renovation.

Architect Steve Romein and his wife Ty Cramer saw the need to fix up the area and purchased the center in 2007, fully aware of its significance to Bainbridge Island.

“We felt it was important for the community to save that icon,” Romein said.

The improvements on the center came over the last two years, during an economic climate tough on business.

Romein made the best of a difficult situation to do some long over-due renovations at a number of Lynwood businesses.

“The advantage of the economic downtown was construction prices were were less,” he said. “Last year at this time, construction was really slow.”

In recent years the renovated Treehouse has evolved into a prominent draw in the revitalized Lynwood Center. Previously, patrons would come for The Historic Lynwood Theatre. Now, they often visit the Treehouse before or after their movie experience.

“For so many years, the anchor was the theatre… that’s what brought people to Lynwood” Romein said. “The real anchor of Lynwood I feel now has shifted to the Treehouse.”

The welcoming, all-ages environment of Treehouse brings in a variety of people, Sturham said. The recent addition of live music has only bolstered the diversity of customers.

“I’ve had some great experiences where we’re doing music and the clientele varies from 22 to 72 [years old],” Sturham said.

With recent expansions to the Treehouse completed, Lynwood itself will soon get a new member. Pane ‘d Amore, a Port Townsend-based bakery, will open its Bainbridge arm in the next couple weeks, Romein said.

New businesses are opening, others expanding, but the theatre endures as one of the cornerstones of Lynwood.

“The theatre is still near and dear to everyone’s hearts,” Romein said. “The theatre is something that has fond memories from everyone in the community.”

The theatre has seen a few improvements in recent years, and a reinforced wall has led to a better sound system, Romein said.

And if the theatre, new-and-improved Treehouse and fresh bakery don’t bring people down to one of Bainbridge’s Neighborhood Service Centers, the newly renovated apartments will. Romein said of the nine units available on the second floor of the complex, four or five are taken. The majority are one-bedroom units, but a couple two-bedrooms and larger one three-bedroom and one four-bedroom unit are available.

Construction on the apartments and expansion on the buildings has been occurring for more than a year and a half.

Bay Massage and Skin Care was also able to expand. It employed an entirely new floor plan and added a new massage room.

The only downside to consistent expansion and cheap construction is that there is always construction going on.

“It’s a challenge,” said Sturham. “You have your day-to-day business to run, and you’ve got a construction crew either working on top of you or adjacent to you.”

But the gradual construction didn’t chase away customers or create problems for Treehouse or the other businesses.

With additions to some of Lynwood’s most prominent tenants complete, Romein is looking to integrate a replacement to fill a void left by an old facility that was part of Lynwood for decades: Serenity House.

The century-old building that housed the assisted living facility was demolished last summer after a time of uncertainty as to how to best care for the 18 developmentally disabled adults housed there. Romein said Serenity House’s services should remain a prominent part of Lynwood.

He bought the property on which the building rested and is in the process of having community meetings about a new Serenity House. Romein feels that Serenity House has been as much a part of Lynwood as the theatre, or one of the new icons, Treehouse.

“The people from the house were integral to the community,” Romein said. “I feel it’s important to have a healthy community, and we look forward to a time when we can incorporate them again into Lynwood Center and they become part of our everyday lives.”


Lynwood Center businesses

Bay Massage and Skin Care

Ian Turner Gallery

Lottie’s Hair Salon

Pane d’Amore

Historic Lynwood Theatre

Treehouse Cafe

Village Music

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