Those passing by Fred Meyer on Highway 303 might
not notice that a $10.2 million overhaul is wrapping up.
The store’s exterior hides a transformation on the inside that
includes new departments and products, has made the 204,000
square-foot location much greener and gives the grocer a
Since March, construction crews have been gutting the
store section by section. Aside from some finishing touches to the
jewelry department and children’s play area, the work is done.
Kroger, which owns the store,
wanted a renovation that revolved around the customer experience,
and store manager Axel Strakeljahn is confident they succeeded.
“We believe that this community is committed to
growing,” he said. “And we’re committed to being part of that.”
One need only look up or down upon entering to find
the most obvious changes. The store now has 63 skylights and new
lighting, to go with brighter color schemes. On the ground, all the
original tiles were stripped off, exposing a concrete floor. It was
ground down, sealed and polished, giving the floor a darker, more
The goal was sustainability, Strakeljahn said.
Natural light will lower the building’s carbon footprint and its
new floor needs none of the chemicals — just water — that the
old one required.
Also near the northern entrance is a floral
department and, for the first time, the store has hired a full-time
Near that is a brand new sushi bar. (Your Bremerton
Beat correspondent, who is quite fond of sushi, sampled a
California roll and found it delectable.)
The wine section doubled in size, and is now more
than 100 feet longer than it was before (And the store already has
a full-time wine steward). For local beer connoisseurs, there’s
also more room for microbrews, too.
For the first time, there’s a dedicated section for
Washington sports teams.
A new, larger pharmacy replaces the electronics
department, which moved east to the back of the store and is also
The nutritional food section, which includes
organics and bulk foods, is also about twice the size it used to
The store is celebrating its “Grand Re-opening”
starting at 7 a.m. Friday. Doughnuts and coffee will be served,
specials will run through the end of the month and the first 2,000
customers will get Fred Meyer reusable grocery bags.
Check back to the Bremerton Beat Tuesday for a video
of the remodeled store and an interview with Strakeljahn.
Don’t expect the musical chairs of grocery stores at
2900 Wheaton Way to continue, Kyle Saar says. The general
manager of Saars Super Saver Foods believes the family-owned chain
of stores will be a permanent fixture in the Bremerton
“We look at our stores as long term locations,” said Saar, whose
father, Greg, established their first in Oak Harbor in 1988. “We’re
fully stocked in Bremerton and ready to go.”
The East Bremerton
location, which Albertson’s began, Haggen floundered at and now,
is fully owned by the Saars, is once again buzzing with retail
life. On Wednesday, it will open for the first time. On Saturday,
it will hold a grand opening celebration.
The Bremerton location is the seventh store for the family-owned
business. Saars said their formula is simple: keep the prices low
and appeal to a diverse cross-section of consumers. There are large
sections of the store devoted to Asian and Hispanic foods; but
don’t count on an abundant selection of organics.
The store’s hours will be from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
In celebration of their opening, the first 200 customers will
receive free paper towels at 8 a.m. Wednesday, a tradition that
will continue through the first weekend. And they’ll do the same
promotion next week, also Wednesday to Sunday.
“We’re looking forward to being a a part of this community,”
Fresh croissants, brioches and quiche were going fast on the
first day. The opening is a milestone for Matt Tinder — a baker at
California Michelin-starred restaurants who came north looking for
new opportunity — and Kate Giuggio, his business partner, as they
continue to build a local bakery empire.
Giuggio said there’s more to come, too. An espresso machine and
additional baking equipment will come online in the coming days.
They were able to purchase baking equipment, including ovens and
mixers, from Whidbey Island’s Tree-Top Baking, whose owners
They moved to Seattle last October, then came to
Bremerton — and they liked what they saw. An initial plan for the
Quonset Hut near Evergreen-Rotary Park fell through, but
the Manette location offered a quicker chance to get up and
running. Meanwhile, Tinder baked at Evergreen Kitchen on Fourth
Street to keep their location up the street running.
Outside the E. 11th bakery, a picnic table full of
people was enjoying Stumptown Coffee and goods Thursday morning.
I’m going to guess that the table will become a popular community
spot from here on out, on each sunny day.
Saboteur is open Wednesday to Sunday until 1 p.m.,
and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. But beware: they do sell out
Here’s a question I’ve been hearing a lot
lately. “I am not a member of the Bremerton YMCA, but I’ve
heard you can still swim there for free periodically.”
There have been doubts cast about whether this is
true, so I went to the source: Bremerton Parks Director Jeff
Elevado and YMCA Director Jane Erlandsen. Both confirmed that once
every quarter, local residents can use the pool for free, as part
of their operating agreement (the YMCA runs the pool but the city
In fact, it’s not just the pool. Elevado told me.
“The Bremerton YMCA provides voucher
for one visit per quarter,” he said. “The visit provides full
access to the Y, including the pool.”
Felicienne Griffin-Matheson asked me recently on
Facebook why there are so many manhole covers on Trenton
Avenue. “If anyone has driven Trenton they know what the difference
between a drunk driver and a man hole avoider is. Why is there 50+
man hole covers between 11th and Stone on Trenton? I have been wondering why for so
Others commented that Lower Wheaton Way has a whole bunch of
For the answer, I consulted Wayne Hamilton, the city’s utility
operations manager. He printed maps showing the city’s network of
water, sewer and stormwater pipes that snake under the road.
The short answer, Felicienne, is that the street is old and has
seen a lot in its lifetime. The more elaborate answer is that,
as time and development of the street has gone on, more underground
utilities have been needed, and added.
Anytime one of the pipes under Trenton has needed a new branch,
a manhole cover has to be added, Hamilton said. Also, anytime a
pipe turns at a 45 degree angle or higher, a manhole cover must be
added. The reason is that clogs in those pipes are most likely to
be found at the corners, so they have to be easily accessed by
crews to get them unclogged.
“If things get plugged, you want to have access to it,” he told
Also, the city embarked on a utility project there about 25
that separated sewer flows from runoff — or stormwater — ones.
The reason: each time we have a big storm and lots of rain, it
overflows the city’s sewer treatment plant, causing sewage to be
spilled into Puget Sound. By creating a new system for the runoff,
you keep it from going to the sewer system, but you also get more
utility covers on the street above.
“That all adds up to a lot of man holes,” he
Several people have asked about the
foundation on a plateau off Kitsap Way near Westbay Auto Parts (see
For the answer, I asked the city’s community
development department. The foundation is actually a part of the
construction of a private home with a large garage. Larry Taylor, a
local resident who fixes bikes as a hobby, is the applicant.
Got a question for the Bremerton Beat’s Mailbag?
Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s not often
you hear about the theft of a three-wheeled bike. But on
Monday, such a trike was taken in front of the Fred Meyer in East
Bremerton — one belonging to a popular store employee who depends
on it for getting to and from work.
For now, Pablo Lozano will have to take the bus to
“Disappointing,” is how he described the theft.
Others — and he has quite the following at the Fred
Meyer and beyond — describe the theft more harshly, and are hoping
to see justice in this case.
He was working his shift Monday when another employee
informed him someone might be “messing” with his trike. He went out
front to find it was gone.
This wasn’t just any trike. Lozano had it customized
with a speaker, motor and lights. He suffered a stroke and
meningitis when he was just five years old, so the bike’s brakes
work through his left hand. He didn’t lock it up Monday — he rarely
does, noting a community of good people who’ve never touched it
since he started working there — and someone wandered off with
Since the theft, many tips have rolled in about its
whereabouts. It may have been painted and taken to Port Orchard. In
any event, if you have any information about the bike’s
whereabouts, call 911. The county sheriffs’ case number is
Several efforts to get Lozano a new trike are
underway. I’m keeping an eye on them, and will keep you posted if
anyone is able come to Lozano’s aid.
UPDATE #1: Seattle E-Bike is outfitting Pablo with a
new bike and are delivering it to him soon, Lozano told me. Here’s
the story of
how the delivery happened.
UPDATE #2: Strangely, another trike was stolen from a
Bremerton home this week in the North Wycoff area (pictured). But
it was found a few days later.
Ideas abound for the future of the campus, once a
series of flat-roofed, California school-style structures is gone.
Bremerton School District Supt. Aaron Leavell admits it’s hard to
even think that far ahead.
“It still feels like a dream,” he said of the real
One thing he’s sure of for the future: “We’re going
to do something that benefits kids and this community,” he
But first things first: there’s still a lot that
needs to happen to ensure destruction of 125,000 square feet of
school carcass. The federal EPA is contributing $50,000 worth
of technical assistance that will determine what needs to be done
on the property.
While the district penciled in $1 million for the
teardown, it’s unclear just how much it will actually cost. Plus,
as Leavell notes, if higher priorities emerge — the superintendent
mentioned the Crownhill Elementary School roof will need work in
the years ahead — those may take precedence.
The money from the levy begins to roll in for the district on
April 1, 2017. Even then, the district’s plan is to sandwich the
East High School teardown between other upgrades, slotting it for
sometime in 2018. Part of the motivation for waiting is because the
EPA might have ideas for other funding sources.
The district also must figure out how to “shore up”
the gym complex once the rest of the school is demolished. They’ll
have to add new walls so the gym will be an entirely self-contained
Leavell’s excited about the future prospects. He said
the district had been approached about selling the property as is,
but that school officials want to keep it for the community. It may
be awhile, but there’s no doubt that the demolition of the old
school has moved up the district’s priorities list.
Many ideas have been floated for the property, owned by the
Bremerton School District. I also do not want to undervalue the
amazing things that are already happening there, primarily a teen
center, soon-to-be renovated gymnasium and a number of sports
fields already teeming with practicing youth.
But first things first.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get those buildings
down,” Aaron Leavell, Bremerton School District
superintendent, told me.
Leavell said a survey in 2013 found it would cost about $1.5
million to tear down the building. The district doesn’t have the
money to complete the job right now but would like to take care of
it “sooner rather than later,” Leavell
acknowledged at our Story Walk last week.
“As time goes on, things don’t get cheaper,” he said.
The hard part isn’t the demolition work itself. It’s the
abatement of asbestos, a once commonly used construction material
now known to be carcinogenic. And there’s a lot of it in the
building: in the ceiling tiles, the floor tiles, the downspouts on
the gutters and even in putty used in the window seals.
With those environmental concerns in mind, Leavell has been
meeting with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent to find a solution. They’ve
even held a meeting with officials from the federal Environmental
Protection Agency in an effort to identify possible grants
available. While the property’s not a Superfund site, Leavell
believes applying for federal grant assistance is worth a shot.
They’ve completed the first phase of the grant process, he
“You never know until you try,” Leavell said.
The superintendent said he and the school board are open to
discussions for local funding, to include the possibility of a new
capital levy when the existing one expires. Notwithstanding
community support for myriad possibilities there, Leavell added
that nearby View Ridge and Armin Jahr elementary schools aren’t
getting any younger. Perhaps a new school could be built there,
“Everybody recognizes the potential for this property
to really be the eastside hub for great things,” he said. “But
we’ve got to get through the first hurdle first.”
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
On Tuesday at 6 p.m., we will meet inside that gym (3102 Wheaton
Way) to discuss the campus’ past, present and future and we’ll tour
the area. Special guests for our latest Kitsap Sun Story Walk
Walker, East High School class of 1974 graduate and one of the
greatest basketball players to come out of Bremerton.