Business Focus: Waterfront Natural Market Expands Culture and Connects Communities – Gig Harbor Now


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“I came down the mountain and saw the harbor and I was sold on the idea,” Candice Claybaker says of her decision to move cross-country in January 2020 and buy Waterfront Natural Market.

A move from St. Petersburg, Florida, Claybaker was drawn to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She experienced that beauty during a visit with her brother, who was attending school in Oregon.

Kandice Claybaker In 2020, Waterfront purchased Natural Market on Harborview Drive and will focus on regionally made, sustainable products. Julie Warrick Amman

After years of working in the construction industry, Claybacker moved more than 3,000 miles from the coast to try her hand as a first-time business owner in a small town.

While growing her career in Florida, Claybaker dedicated herself to community work with the Claybaker Dustoff Foundation. The nonprofit has supported veterans with transitional assistance in times of crisis.

“It was fun to present to the community,” Claybacker says. The foundation has helped provide backpacks such as toilets and restaurants to homeless veterans.

More than buying a business

Claybaker bought the market from Bruce Winfrey, who founded the store in 1975. She believes one of its selling points is its promise to maintain the storefront as a local market.

Claybacker knew instinctively that she wasn’t just buying a business. She was embracing the community with the goal of increasing the availability of more locally sourced products.

Products are on display at the Waterfront Natural Market in Gig Harbor. Julie Warrick Amman

Waterfront Natural Markets continue the tradition of selling supplements and natural foods. But Claybaker designed the interior to provide expanded real estate to showcase products from the region. Handpicked by Claybaker, each local item has its own community story.

On the shelves

Among the items sold at Waterfront Nature Market:

  • Peanut Butter and Squash Mix – Included in a Good Breakfast Package – Women’s Challenge Coaching in Portland, Oregon.
  • Unpaper Towels, a reusable paper towel made by Marley Monster in Eugene, Oregon, promotes sustainable living.
  • SHerpa Chai is a small-brewed tea from Boulder, Colorado. Growing up as a child in a small village 10,000 feet high in the Himalayas, a boy is inspired by his mother’s love for tea.
  • Umchew Bars from Edmonds is one of many products supporting the gluten- and dairy-free community. Beef Blue Ribbon Barbecue is made locally in Puyallup, and Barlin’s organic oils are made in Ferndale, Whatcom County.
  • Believing in prayer and giving back to the community is the message behind Little Prayer Tea Sugar, a family-owned business in Normandy Park, King County.

Unfiltered Towels, a reusable paper towel, is made by Marley Monster in Eugene, Oregon. Julie Warrick Amman

Northwest focus

This small market covers all the senses. From the San Juan Islands comes My Fav Sweater Eau de Toilette, a perfume created by her mother for a daughter. The fragrance promises to transport you to a “very warm, tea+books+fireplace-in-extremely-cold-weather setting.”

Handcrafted in the Pacific Northwest, Noman Earth uses responsibly sourced North American hardwoods and natural mineral pigments with vintage paper.

Candice Claybacker helps customer Paula Henzel pick produce at the Waterfront Natural Market in Gig Harbor. Henzel said she enjoys coming to the store and finds the staff helpful. Julie Warrick Amman

Reorganizing the retail space allowed Claybacker to open up space for local artists and events. Vintage artwork is currently on display in the “Artist’s Corner,” with plans for rotating artist exhibits. Upcoming events include pop-up stores with partner vendors, and participation in local events such as Sip and Stroll on October 8 and Ladies Night in November.

A part of a community

Connecting with neighboring business owners is important to Claybaker, who is a member of the Gig Harbor Downtown Alliance. Waterfront Natural Market has strong ties to neighboring communities such as Port Orchard, with locally raised duck and chicken eggs, and raw milk from Blackjack Valley Farms and wheat grains from the Palouse in Eastern Washington.

“We love feedback,” said Claybacker, who says she learned to listen to the community as a first-time business owner.

Kandice Claybaker When she acquired Waterfront Natural Market in 2020, she was sure to carve out a showcase for regionally grown and sustainable products. Julie Warrick Amman

“We have a lot of unique requests, a lot of things that we do,” Claybaker said.

Quality supplements are a big part of the business at Waterfront Natural Market, special orders are welcome for all products. Customers get personalized shopping help to navigate food restrictions, snack suggestions, or even the perfect PNW gift idea.

Small town benefits

Leaving the city for life in a small town brought some unexpected and rewarding benefits for Claybaker. Calls to the store extend beyond the usual product inquiries or questions.

“Some call to chat, and say hello and see how we’re doing,” Claybaker said.

When the large windows are opened on the sidewalk on Harborview Drive, the staff can see the usual dog walkers, but in some cases, something really unusual appears – like a pig in a suit on a leash.

It’s just a day in the life as a small business owner in Gig Harbor.

Waterside Natural Market

website: www.waterfrontnaturalmarket.com

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (253) 851-8120

Hours: Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm

Address: 3122 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor

Candice Claybacker behind the counter at Waterfront Natural Market on Harborview Drive. Julie Warrick Amman





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