Port Orchard, in Search of Self

Cautionary note: This post contains a challenge. Should you decide to accept it, you could earn eternal fame and admiration (or at least a momentary atta-boy … or girl).

I propose a contest to – drum roll here, please – “Brand Port Orchard!”

Port Orchard is sick and tired of being the “junk drawer of Kitsap County.”

That from Corrine Johnson, director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, which is enmeshed in a “branding campaign” to define, or redefine the Port Orchard/South Kitsap region. The chamber has posted a survey on its Web site, and they want to hear from you. But send your comments here, as well, so we can vet them in public.

Branding is the buzz word for promotion of a town or city through a catchy phrase (with complementary logo) that that seems to sum up all the best of a place. Seattle’s is “Metronatural,” which actually seems a little metroneutral to me. But what about, “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas,” or Sausalito’s “Why They Built the Bridge.”

We need to come up with something at least that catchy for the PO/SK area.

Alas, PO, sadly, we do need help with our image.

The “junk drawer” reference is from a 2006 committee meeting of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance’s Vision 2020 committee. According to Kathy Cocus, KEDA business development director, it was a remark made by someone half in jest. But it stuck, and it smarts.

Port Orchard it seems has been in the process of reinventing itself for as long as I’ve lived here (1979). In the 1980s it was the antique thing in downtown. Antique stores were joined by “collectibles” vendors, giving Bay Street a slightly seedy, hand-me-down look. City officials’ inability to decide on a paint scheme and whether or not to keep the Western-themed marquee added to the town’s identity crisis.

But when you think about it, Port Orchard and vicinity has a lot to offer, and, according to downtown business owner and resident, Tim Waibel, even some of Port Orchard’s apparent flaws could be seen as advantages.

Growing up in Poulsbo, Waibel thought of PO as nothing but “bars and bail bonds.” Now that he’s a resident, he says, he loves the “European” feel of being able to find a variety of entertainment all in one location. That would be Moondogs Too, Slip 45 and Myhre’s, plus the Historic Orchard Theater.

So how about, “Port Orchard, No Designated Driver Needed.” … OK, maybe not.

Bears, Bars and Bail Bonds?” … I said help, not grind us under your heel, thank you very much.

And hey, those bail businesses pay their taxes like everyone else.

How about, “The Second Hand Rose of Kitsap County?”

Or like when it rains really hard, “A River Runs Through It.”

Which reminds me of the recently repaired Bethel Sink Hole, which would make Port Orchard “Home to the Grand Canyon of Kitsap County.”

Sorry, it’s hard to resist. It would be so easy to have a field day at Port Orchard’s expense. Someone, on the story comments, has already suggested, “Laundromat by the Bay.”

But let’s take a tip from local author Debbie Macomber, whose Cedar Cove series is based on Port Orchard. Macomber said she writes about the town “warts and all.” That, she says, is what’s so endearing about Port Orchard. It’s real. C’mon folks what did you expect, Sea Haven?

Many people describe Port Orchard as quaint. I say, quaint has been done to death. What I like about Port Orchard/South Kitsap is its total lack of pretension. Like the annual Seagull Calling Festival. What other town do you know that celebrates people making complete and utter fools of themselves?

So How About, “Port Orchard, Dare to Be Quirky”

Mayor Lary Coppola said he doesn’t care if people think of Port Orchard as the “scrappy” little upstart town across Sinclair Inlet from big-old-Bremerton. Port Orchard is growing, says Coppola, its star is on the rise. So watch out, Kitsap, here we come.

I propose, “We’re Not Bremerton, and Proud of it.”

You can do better and you know it. Tell us what you like about Port Orchard. Why you choose to live here or visit. In short, what’s so great about the town, warts and all?

P.S. Speaking of quirky, there’s that pirate thing we’ve got going during the murder mystery weekend. While Bremerton’s over there being all metropolitan, we can proudly say, “Port Orchard, We Be Pirates!”

2 thoughts on “Port Orchard, in Search of Self

  1. The new paving project downtown looks very nice. There was some work done on the sidewalks this summer and some of the buildings have been painted bright colors. I think it looks nice at night with the rain on the fresh pavement and the lights shining on it. And let’s face it, night starts at about 4:15 p.m. right now and it does rain.

  2. Personally I think Port Orchard should adopt the phrase I gave it all those times.

    “Port Orchard: You’re on notice.”

    You could go with, “Port Orchard: Dead to me.”

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