It’s rare for a business to last 50 years.
It’s rarer still for that business to have its original owner after that long.
But Jane Pomeroy quietly celebrated 50 years of owning the Berry Patch Kitchen Store on Dec. 1.
It was done quietly not only because of concerns about COVID-19, but also because she doesn’t like to draw attention to herself.
Pomeroy started her life in California, but moved to the island when she was 13. A year later she started her own catering business, which also lasted about 50 years.
After graduating from Bainbridge High School she went to the University of Washington and earned a degree in home economics. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with it, but she did have a “love of cooking.”
She said there wasn’t a store on the island that focused on kitchen items. So when an opportunity came up for a store in the commercial village where Safeway is now, she jumped at the chance.
Despite being young, Pomeroy said she wasn’t nervous at all about opening her own store.
“I never thought I could fail,” she said, adding, “My mother had to drive me to the job.”
After about eight years there she moved to the Winslow Mall after the previous building burned down. She was there for 39 years before moving to her current location the past three years.
Pomeroy said her stores have always carried nice things, like bath towels and linens.
“I like quality things that last,” she said.
The business has done well during its history with a high around 2000, “when things were really booming” to lows during the recession of 2007-09 and now COVID.
“We cut back people, everybody did,” during the recession, she said. “That was horrible.”
Over 50 years she’s developed loyal customers and that’s helped a lot during the coronavirus epidemic, along with a generous landlord, Pomeroy said.
“Some of our customers have been hysterically funny,” she said. “One threw me a fifty dollar bill and said ‘I hope this will help you.’”
Another slow time was when the city re-did Winslow Way, taking away parking spaces and streetlights, while adding planters.
“I tried to sell it a couple times,” she said of the business. “But you get in so deep you stay in.”
And then something came along that made her glad she kept it. One such item was the food processor.
“They want it, and they come in for it,” she said, adding those things give her a boost of energy.
Over the years more men have started coming to the store.
“I never thought of it” until someone mentioned it, she said. “They like the gadgets, pots and pans, tools and toys.”
Pomeroy said she has no idea when she’s going to retire, but now that she made the goal of 50, “Fifty-five sounds interesting.”
Looking back, she said Town & Country has been around a long time, but with different owners, and Bainbridge Gardens, too, but now the kids are running it. So she’s got bragging rights over those two, as well as all the other businesses in town.
Suzy Wooaeger has only been there two years, but she says it’s a great place to work. It must be as Deb Crouwthers has worked there 35 or 40 years. Customers love coming there because it’s such a happy place.
“Everybody comes in to see Jane,” Wooaeger said.
She shopped there for decades before getting the job after retiring from the corporate world. Her husband likes to cook, and she likes to bake.
“We’re surrounded by all these beautiful things,” she said. “It’s uplifting and inspiring. We always laugh and have fun.”
Even though she’s owned her own business, Pomeroy said she’s been involved in the community, too, with Helpline and the library board. She was on the downtown association’s parking committee 45 years ago, and, “It hasn’t changed.”
Customers also like that the store is pet friendly. “We’re all pet lovers,” Wooaeger said. “We love seeing our furry friends.”
Wooaeger said she wanted to have pomp and circumstance to celebrate the business’s 50th, but “primarily because of COVID Jane wanted to keep a low profile this year.”