Debbie and Larry Williams, center, owners of Gear Head Deli in Quilcene, celebrate joining the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting Wednesday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Small sandwich shop a sample of revitalization of Quilcene

QUILCENE — Gear Head Deli, a small sandwich shop off U.S. Highway 101 in Quilcene, is one of a few businesses that have seen the benefits of the slow revitalization of the small town along the Hood Canal.

The deli is the newest member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce after more than two years of serving smoked meats and local produce to the residents of the South County area and the tourists just passing through.

On Wednesday, members of the Jefferson County and North Hood Canal chambers of commerce celebrated the deli with a ribbon-cutting. Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler joined the chamber representatives.

Gear Head, which opened in April 2015, is housed in the Josephine Campbell Building, which was once a gas station, at 294963 U.S. Highway 101. The building now houses a coffee and gift shop and a Habitat for Humanity ReStore facility along with the deli.

Gear Head Deli co-owner Debbie Williams of Brinnon said she and her husband, Larry, took the building’s automotive past into consideration when naming their shop. The theme also carries over onto the menu, with each sandwich named after a car, such as the Prius.

The back door of the store opens onto the Pearl G. Thrasher Memorial Garden, one of a few community spaces in Quilcene that have been renovated or rehabilitated in recent years.

Debbie Williams said the garden is a bonus for her business because it’s a nice space for people with pets to enjoy their food without having to drive out of town.

“We get people from all over the world here,” she said. “It’s a great spot to get out and stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat.”

The deli also is popular with residents of Jefferson County. This summer, Williams said she’s noticed a trend of people from Port Townsend and Port Ludlow biking down to Quilcene to grab lunch at the deli.

“They get their exercise in and then they come here to get their protein,” she said.

The deli offers to-go options, which Williams said is popular with campers heading into Olympic National Forest.

The deli has become known especially for its pulled pork, which is smoked for four hours before being braised. It also serves elk burgers and cod tacos with elk and fish from Key City Fish.

“We use local grains and everything, and we make everything from scratch,” Williams said. “We cook every meal to order.”

A former Jefferson County deputy sheriff, Williams started the deli with her husband.

“He’s the smoker, and I think that’s how I fell in love in the first place,” she said. “The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach.”

However, the deli’s focus on more healthful options stems from Larry Williams, who is on kidney dialysis treatment, according to his wife.

“We have to be really careful about what we eat,” she said. “That’s why we make everything fresh.”

Quilcene sits along Highway 101 just outside of Olympic National Forest, making the deli “the front porch to the wilderness,” according to Magdalene Adenau, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce strategic director.

However, Kler said even though the speed limit through Quilcene is only 35 mph, she has high hopes for a Highway 101 streets project that would not only slow traffic through Quilcene but also make the businesses along the highway easier to access and make the entire town of Quilcene more accessible to bikers and pedestrians.

Kler said the slower speeds also would give people driving through more time to look at the businesses along the highway and perhaps be enticed to stop.

The project is in the planning phases as a joint effort between the county and the state Department of Transportation.

During a public forum in Quilcene in April 2016, members of the public reviewed design alternatives for the project.


Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at

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