Grocery gourmet: freezer section secrets at CJ’s

Richard Kost and Cynthia Jeffries in the freezer section.
Richard Kost and Cynthia Jeffries in the freezer section.

You hear a lot these days about the desire to have a grocery store in downtown Bremerton. Whenever that should occur, the new proprietors will be hard pressed to compete with the freezer section of CJ’s Evergreen General Store on Park Avenue.

Prime rib. Chicken Piccata. Corned beef and cabbage. All there, all freshly made and most with local ingredients. And just about everything costs around $10.

Last time I was in there, I picked up a cup of chili. Might have been some of the best I’ve ever had.  But don’t take my word for it — the chili was among the best at this year’s Empty Bowl fundraiser for Bremerton Foodline.

“You might not expect that at the corner grocery store,” said Cynthia Jeffries, owner of the store since it opened in 2007.

Jeffries expanded the general store in 2009 to include a catering business. She brought on the talents of Richard Kost, a chef with more than two decades’ experience who has headed the kitchens of numerous Seattle restaurants.

With catering, the duo was able to diversify the business but also experiment with some other ideas, including the gourmet freezer section. They’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it has done, helping to even build a personal chef service.

“For me, it’s a chance to do some higher end foods, right here, with locally sourced products,” Kost said.

Jeffries said a side benefit has been seeing customers of all different income levels come to enjoy the section. For families, it can even compete with fast food in terms of value, but the quality of ingredients is much better. Pints of soup are $5 and other items can even be purchased for less.

“You can’t buy a happy meal for $4,” she points out.

CJ’s is located at 1417 Park Avenue

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