Vision for landmark downtown Port Angeles department store building takes shape
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Rendering by Gentry Architecture Collaborative shows how the former Gottschalks department store building at First and Oak streets in Port Angeles might look once Country Aire moves in.

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

How the land trust helped

PORT ANGELES — Funds from a conservation agreement with the North Olympic Land Trust helped the owners of Country Aire Natural Food Store make a down payment on the former Gottschalks building.

“Money received from the conservation easement grant contributed to our ability to expand,” said Robyn Miletich, who owns the grocery store with her husband, John Miletich.

The land trust agreement was completed in January, she said.

“It was a big help.”

The land trust, which is based in Port Angeles, purchased the development rights to 19 acres of property on Siebert Creek using funds provided by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, thanks to the assistance of the North Olympic Peninsula Lead Entity.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement to maintain a property in a particular state.

The land trust supervises more than 60 conservation easements in Clallam County with a focus on conserving important wildlife habitat and working lands.

“Conservation of the Miletich farm was part of a 10-year effort to help preserve and revitalize a two- mile corridor along Siebert Creek, which is an important creek for salmon and other wildlife,” said land trust conservation director Michele d’Hemecourt.

“We are extremely pleased to see the Miletich family reinvest the dividends of our collaboration with them back into the community.

“They are real community leaders, and we are honored to work with them.”
PORT ANGELES — They have the vision and the building, and now Robyn and John Miletich are working to transform a former department store into a large country-style grocery.

And, as Robyn Miletich acknowledges, they have plenty of work to do.

“We are deconstructing before we are reconstructing,” she said.

The couple bought the former Gottschalks location at 200 W. E. First St. on July 1 for $650,000 from K.O. Erickson Charity Trust so they could move their Country Aire Natural Foods store at 117 E. First St. out of its cramped quarters a few blocks away.

Robyn Miletich, 62, hopes to open the expanded store in its new location before the holidays, though she said the opening may be delayed until spring.

But by the time doors open, she assured, the building, which offers 10 times the space of their present location, will not look the same.

On the outside, an awning will stretch across the street side of the building, and windows, long covered, will be exposed.

But it’s the inside of the store that Robyn Miletich said will provide the “wow” factor.

Wooden beams, also hidden, are being exposed, skylights will be added, and other additions big and small will be made to keep the store’s country-style feel intact.

A propane fireplace will be added, and a restored 1951 tractor and 1952 Chevrolet Bel Air will be on display.

“I see there’s going to be a big surprise when everyone walks in,” Robyn Miletich said, adding that she expects to hear some “ohs and ahs” from customers.

Architect Mike Gentry, who is helping the Miletichs design the new store, said he sees it as being a “real anchor” and “impetus for other things around that area as well.”

“They’ll put some touches in there that will really be quality,” he said, and described the store as having a more “Northwest feel” than its predecessor.

“It will be a lot brighter and welcoming.”

Robyn Miletich said a “big transition” should be noticeable in another month.

That’s when the awning is expected go up; the outside of the building will also receive a new coat of paint.

The grocery will be limited to the top floor of the 34,900-square-foot building — about 17,000 square feet.

The lower floor will be leased, likely to businesses centered around holistic medicine, she said.

For shoppers, the bigger space will mean more “wholesome” and organic food, she said, including a larger selection of locally grown produce.

A deli and a small cafe featuring the store’s fair-trade-certified coffee also are in the works.

The Miletichs opened their natural food grocery in downtown Port Angeles 36 years ago.

Their purchase of the former Gottshcalks building — which had housed department stores since its original tenant, Peoples department store, 65 years ago — ended two years of searching for the trust.

Gottschalks closed May 30, 2009, leaving the site vacant.

The building was initially listed for sale at $1.5 million.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 14. 2011 12:37AM
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