Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building Communications and Development Coordinator Christina Cogan, left, and Executive Director Betsy Davis stand in front of Ajax Cafe, which the boat school hopes to purchase thanks to a matching fund provided by anonymous donors. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building Communications and Development Coordinator Christina Cogan, left, and Executive Director Betsy Davis stand in front of Ajax Cafe, which the boat school hopes to purchase thanks to a matching fund provided by anonymous donors. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Matching challenge aims to speed fundraising for bid to buy former Ajax Cafe land, building

PORT HADLOCK — Anonymous donors have created a challenge that will match all donations made to the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building to fund the purchase of the land and building that housed the now closed Ajax Cafe.

The matching fund will match every donation made to the Save the Ajax, Grow the Boat School campaign since Sept. 8, up to $100,0000.

The campaign began in July and has since raised $199,000 from 188 donors.

The purchase of the property will cost the boat school $375,000, but with the matching fund, which was gifted to the school Sept. 8, the school only needs to raise another $88,000 from donors.

With the matching fund, that $88,000 would double to $176,000, which would add enough for the purchase of the small piece of property in Port Hadlock.

The school plans to purchase the property in order to expand its campus and connect the upper and lower campuses, located along Lower Hadlock Road.

As part of that project, the school will update the outdated septic system, which caused Ajax Cafe to close permanently last fall.

“The county is currently completing review of the new septic system design, which plans for pre-treating the wastewater at the Ajax then pumping it up the hill to new drain fields that will be installed on the Boat School’s upper campus,” said Betsy Davis, executive director of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building.

“The project received a boost last week as county staff helped the boat school navigate the permitting process for the repairs to the existing septic system and subsequent expansion of the system, to enable the Ajax Cafe to serve meals additional to dinner in the future,” Davis said.

Davis said they don’t have a timeline for Ajax Cafe’s reopening but hope to get things up and running in a matter of months.

Ajax Cafe, which had been a staple in Port Hadlock for almost 40 years, was forced to close in October after staff couldn’t raise the $100,000 needed to fix the failing septic system.

The boat school would fix the septic system as part of its campus expansion and would offer Ajax Cafe a long-term lease that would allow the restaurant to reopen in its original location.

School staff has been working with Ajax employee-owners to finalize a long-term lease. The most recent proposal was a 30-year lease with the option to renew.

Once the property is purchased, the school plans to raise more money for the $100,000 septic project.

Donations for the land purchase are still being accepted at www.nwswb.edu/savetheajax. All donations are tax deductible.

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

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