Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hardware Wholesale closes

By Rachel Pritchett
NORTH KITSAP — Hardware Wholesale, 10-year-old mainstay in the construction industry, is closing, victim of the recession.
Keith Oleachea, who founded Hardware Wholesale with brother Bryan, was at the Foss Road store Wednesday. The mood in the office was one of defeat and sadness.
The dozen employees at the store in Poulsbo and a second store in Aberdeen will be out of work, joining more than 2,000 construction-related workers in Kitsap County who have lost their jobs since the 2007 height of the building boom. In the third quarter of 2007, there were 5,610 construction jobs in Kitsap County. That had shrunk to 3,405 by the third quarter of 2010, the latest quarter for which data is available, according to the Washington Department of Employment Security.
“Don’t know,” a very subdued Keith Oleachea said when asked about what he and his brother will do now.
Born in Aberdeen but spending much of their life in the Poulsbo area, the Oleachea brothers built Hardware Wholesale from the ground up. The two sites provides construction accessories — mostly related to concrete projects — to 390 contractors throughout the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. Typical accessories might by rebar or tools to install concrete projects.
At the height of the building boom, they had 26 employees.
That, too, was the time they invested to expand the business. When the housing market collapse, they were left “dragging around a lot of debt” associated with the expansion. No bank now would take them on to refinance, Keith Oleachea said.
The company prided itself on competitive prices for contractors and also for service. It even held classes in Poulsbo for contractors on how to make concrete countertops, how to make stamped concrete walkways or how to correctly stain concrete. Keith Oleachea said Hardware Wholesale was the only company of its kind on the peninsulas. The company’s website said it was the No. 1 construction accessory supply and service company in the Northwest.
The siblings also appeared to foster a brotherhood among construction workers struggling now for a long time.
In March of this year, they set up a “Construction Survivor” project to help support struggling workers and their families, according to the Hardware Wholesale website.
“We are all in the industry together and when we think as a family, stay unified and work toward a common goal, we shall survive.” a statement on the site stated.
A fire sale of unsold equipment preceded the closing of the business this week.

Hardware Wholesale

Construction Survivor

Meet Kitsap’s ‘reluctant entrepreneur’

By Rachel Pritchett

Stuart Walton calls the people he’s seeing now “reluctant entrepreneurs.”
Walton is the Kitsap program manager for Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help, which helps novices start new businesses.
This new breed is made up mostly of women ages 35 to 45.
They’ve been laid off from stable jobs they’ve had for years with big employers, thanks to the recession.
Most are single and now forced to work part-time for a fraction of the money they were earning before. They need money to finish raising their kids, and also to sustain their previous lifestyle.
Down but not out, they haven’t entirely given up on the desire to do something that actually brings a measure of contentment.
“They all want that satisfaction,” Walton said.
Take reluctant entrepreneur “Sarah.”
For years in human resources for a large company in Kitsap County, she was pulling down $20 an hour. But she lost her job as the company streamlined.
With no spouse and with two sons, she needed money. All she could find was a part-time job at $13.60 an hour. She took it because she had to.
She sought advice from Walton.
She had several choices, he told her.
She could marry. She could get a second part-time job. She could continuing looking for another full-time job.
Or she could start her own business.
“She is reluctant; it is a big, scary step for these people,” Walton said.
Chances are Sarah and the people like her that Walton is seeing so much of now will go the small-business route — reluctantly.
There’s the huge investment of time, capital and risk at life’s most vulnerable moment.
And then there’s the “tired” factor, where people who’ve been working for some time, now, find it harder to start all over again.
It’s not supposed to be like this.
Sarah sighed and signed up for Walton’s entrepreneurial-training classes.
He guesses she might choose to build a business that is sewing- or knitting-related, including teaching classes. It’s that yearning for satisfaction.
In several years, if it’s successful, she could have three or four employees and be grossing $100,000.
And maybe someday Sarah’s reluctance and fear will have given way to success in a place she’d never dreamed she’d be.
She isn’t alone.
The ranks of small businesses in Kitsap County has grown 3.6 percent over the past year. As of Aug. 1, there were 15,297 active businesses here. That time a year ago there were 14,768, says Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for the Washington Department of Revenue.

Leaders dead serious about 737 potential

Good Thursday, bloggers,

Make no mistake about it. Two county commissioners, two mayors, and some of the county’s top business and education leaders agreed this morning to go after any potential new Boeing 737 plant and more likely its suppliers.

At the moment, that means more strongly funding an upcoming state consultant’s study about keeping any new Boeing plant in Washington, and to have Kitsap’s questions and potential more fully addressed in the consultant’s report.

Backers of the study had asked the Port of Bremerton for $10,000. But by the time the meeting was over, the amount had risen to as much as $35,000 potentially from a host of local sources including government, labor and business. Nothing set in stone yet.

I am writing my story now, and it will be posted at this afternoon.

Rachel Pritchett, business reporter

Job increase fails to budge July unemployment rate

This statement from the state Employment Security office this morning.

OLYMPIA – Despite an estimated increase of 5,700 jobs last month, Washington’s unemployment rate in July remained unchanged at 9.3 percent, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.
The holding pattern occurred after June’s unemployment rate was revised upward from an original estimate of 9.2 percent. Job growth in June also was revised upward, from 3,600 to 4,700
“When the unemployment rate refuses to budget, people tend to not notice that we’ve added jobs for 11 months straight,” said Dave Wallace, the acting chief economist for Employment Security. “The job gains have been steady, but not enough to chip away at the unemployment rate.”
Industries that posted gains in July were leisure and hospitality, which added 1,700 jobs; manufacturing, up 1,600; retail trade, up 1,200; transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 1,200; professional and business services, up 1,100; financial activities, up 1,000; construction, up 800; and government, up 500.
Jobs were lost in other services, down 2,200, and information, down 1,000.
Year over year, more than 37,000 jobs have been added in Washington. This includes a gain of 46,000 private-sector jobs and a loss of 8,800 government jobs.
An estimated 311,027 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in July, and 185,358 of them received unemployment benefits. As of Aug. 6, 60,432 workers in Washington had run out of all unemployment benefits.
Employment Security is a partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which offers a variety of employment and training services for job seekers, including free help with interviewing skills, résumés and job referrals. WorkSource also can help employers recruit and screen for qualified workers, apply for employment tax breaks and qualify for subsidized employee training.
Locations of local WorkSource offices are listed online at and in the blue pages of local telephone books.
In addition, more than 22,000 job openings are posted online at

Belfair WorkSource center to reopen

BELFAIR — The WorkSource employment center in Belfair will reopen in mid-September at a new location at the North Mason County Resource Center at 23554 Highway 3.
The center, which provides help for people seeking employment, previously was housed with the North Mason Chamber of Commerce, but closed in July when the chamber moved.
“This gives us more room for job-search workshops, assistance to veterans and other vital services to put people back to work,” said Todd Dixon, the state Employment Security Department’s area director.
The Belfair center opened a year ago, serving job-seekers on Monday.
At its new location, it will share space with the state Department of Social and Health Services, the Mason County Health Department and other community agencies. Like before, it will be open just on Mondays.
Assistance is available at the WorkSource Mason County facility in Shelton, online at or by calling (360) 427-2241.

Almost 400 nail salons in Kitsap, and those are just the licensed ones

Hi Bloggers,

I received a notice from the state Department of Licensing warning consumers this summer to choose nail salons carefully. As DOL Director Liz Luce put it, “Pedicures and manicures can be a wonderful experience if salons are property cleaning and disinfecting their equipment, tools, implements and foot spas. A trip to the nail salon shouldn’t end with a trip to the doctor’s office for an infection.”
It seems like everywhere I turn lately, there’s a nail salon. I called DOL and asked how many there are in Kitsap.
Spokeswoman Christine Anthony told me there are 391 active nail salons in Kitsap County. I had no idea there were that many. Those are just the licensed ones. DOL has no way of counting the unlicensed salons.
I asked if DOL had records of violations for any Kitsap salons.
DOL gave me two.
In January 2010, Star Nails and Spa of Bainbridge Island, owned by Hung Viet Nguyen, was fined $500 for violating safety and sanitation rules.
In February 2011, Nail Art of Bremerton, owned by Trung Q. Huynh, also was fined $500 for violating safety and sanitation rules.
The statement from DOL suggests salon customers look at the shop owner’s licenses to make sure they’re current. Check the salon for overall cleanliness. Make sure there aren’t hair or nail clippings on the floor, and that work surfaces and towels are clean.
Check to see if the operator has allowed residue to accumulate on tools, and ask if the foot spa has been sanitized and disinfected before you put your feet in.
And be sure the operator washes hands between clients.
I contacted an economist at the state Department of Employment Security to see what kind of contribution all these salons are making to the local workforce. Most appear to be just one- or two-person shops, so probably not much, the economist told me.

— Rachel Pritchett, business reporter