The Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building has bought the property of the now-closed Ajax Cafe. The school is currently working with the cafe’s owners to work out a long term lease that would allow Ajax to reopen. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Boat-building school aims to save Port Hadlock’s Ajax Cafe

PORT HADLOCK — The Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building plans to purchase a small piece of property in Port Hadlock that includes the now closed Ajax Cafe and is negotiating a long-term lease with the Ajax Cafe owner that would allow the business to reopen.

“The Boat School and Ajax are working together to do something we couldn’t do separately,” said Betsy Davis, executive director of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building.

The cost of the land is estimated at $375,000. The school has raised $160,000 from private donors for the purchase and plans to raise more to cover the cost, as well as raise money for the impending septic project, which is an estimated $100,000.

Ajax Cafe was a Port Hadlock landmark for 39 years but was forced to close in October because of a failing septic system.

Davis said the current system simply didn’t have the capacity needed and, despite a few community fundraisers and a GoFundMe campaign, Cafe owner Kristan McCary was forced to close.

The boat-building school has additional septic capacity on its upper campus, which is just above Ajax Cafe, Davis said, and officials with the school are working with Jefferson County Health Department to approve a plan that would allow wastewater to be pre-treated at Ajax then pumped up the hill to a planned drain field.

“The county has reviewed the soils and we’ve reached a verbal concurrence on minimal land area requirements in relation to maximum system capacity,” said Davis in a press release.

The project is awaiting final approval from the county health department.

Davis said school officials are meeting with McCary and the other Ajax employee-owners to finalize a long-term lease for Ajax Cafe.

The proposed lease specifies a time period of 30 years with the option to renew. It will help to cover some the septic project expenses but, according to Davis, the school doesn’t plan to make a profit.

“As tenets of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, we would be building on an unofficial partnership which has existed since the school moved to its present location,” McCary said in a press release.

Said Davis: “The benefit for the boat school is this lets us have a contiguous property for our campus.”

Currently the small parcel of land that Ajax sits on separates the school’s upper and lower campuses.

“It’s also a benefit for the community,” Davis said. “Between the Boat School and Ajax we can create a really interesting and unique place in lower Hadlock.”

Donations for the purchase of the Ajax property can be made online at


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

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