Photos by Meegan M. Reid, Kitsap Sun
KINGSTON — If people had told Tami Bowen a dozen years ago that
she could make a living selling peanuts, she’d have told them they
Crazier still might have been the notion that not only could she
make living but be on the verge of greatly expanding a nut
That was before Tami met Clark Bowen, the CB in CB’s Nuts.
It was 2003 and Clark was both running a family outdoor
advertising business and selling roasted peanuts from a tent on
Occidental Avenue in front of Qwest Field.
He’d been hooked on peanuts since munching on them during
Mariners games, and decided to make a business out of them after
falling in love with a bag of fresh-roasted North Carolina peanuts
at Camden Yards in Baltimore. From there, he traveled through the
South and convinced family peanut businesses to share close-held
Tami described her husband as a student, intense in his
“If I get interested in something, I’m going for it,” Clark
Clark Bowen fills the hopper with
peanuts to be ground into peanut butter.
After they married, they prepared the nuts together in a roaster
that screamed like a jet engine from a steel outbuilding at a
friend’s house in Kingston. When neighbors couldn’t take it
anymore, they moved the operation to their own home in
By then, they were working with several grocery stores. Clark
would go out and sell nuts and Tami would take care of deliveries
in between their first child’s naps.
As sales grew, Clark sold off the sign business and in 2007 they
bought a 1,000 square-foot building off Highway 104.
There, they expanded to other nuts and offered shelled nuts to
stores with grinders for peanut butter.
Along the way, they developed a relationship with Whole Foods, which got them
buying organic peanuts from New Mexico.
After a distributer accidentally delivered 10,000 pounds of
shelled nuts, they found themselves in the peanut butter business
Much of the early peanut butter work was done in small batches
with a lot of hand work.
Protective wraps of plastic on the peanut butter jars were
shrunk with a hair dryer and labels were pasted on by hand.
Clark at first utilized an old Hobart industrial baking mixer to
rub off the papery skin from the nuts. Batches were then shaken by
hand on a screen to let the skins fall out.
Eventually, Clark got a lead on an old industrial skinner form
the South that he had rebuilt and shipped to Kingston.
To make the butter, peanuts were ground in small batches in a
grinder about the size of a microwave with a two-inch in diameter
“It’s been really fun to figure out how to grow within our
means,” Tami said. As one part of the business grows, they’ve built
up around it.
The peanut butter has been selling well as customers grow
comfortable with a fresh product with a suggested four-month
Add to that a growing desire for fresher and locally produced
foods, and the company hit its peanut butter processing limit.
They applied for a business loan to buy a larger grinder, but
were turned down.
That’s when Whole Foods suggested they apply for one of its
local producer loans.
Still smarting from the costs involved with the other loan and
the current state of the economy, “I thought maybe we shouldn’t do
it at all,” Tami said.
But apply they did, and in mid-April they had their new,
refurbished grinder up and running.
“This will really allow us to expand,” Clark said.
At full capacity, the machine, which has an 18-inch girding
wheel, can process 16,000 pounds of nuts an hour, 20 times the
peanut butter they were making before.
“It’ll take us awhile to get to full production,” Tami said.
Peanuts don’t grow overnight.
Clark will soon set out to visit their peanut growing partners
in to see how much more they can supply CB’s going into 2012.
For now, they’re adjusting the grinder, seeing how much
production they can manage. One of them goes in early in the
morning, the other joins in the work in the afternoon.
“I consider this (business) the third kid … something we’ve
grown from an idea,” Tami said.
And they’re planning for July, when they’ll take their first
vacation in four years.
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