PORT TOWNSEND — Aldrich’s Market, thought to have been a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, is being brought back to life as a community-centric grocery store by three siblings.
The Ligtenbergs — Rachel, 51, Christa, 52, and Yos, 49 — recently acquired the 125-year-old market at 940 Lawrence St., and they are in the process of renovating it, with the goal of bringing back the community space that was lost while also expanding the grocery selection with local, national and international goods.
The siblings have become the sixth family to own the store since it opened in 1895.
Before the purchase, Yos was furloughed from his job of managing a wine distribution company, Rachel had recently left REI to start a business consultation company, and Christa continues to work as an emergency room nurse at Jefferson Healthcare hospital.
Buying the store was not long-planned, Yos and Christa said in an interview Wednesday.
“Rachel and I were talking about me potentially going to work for her anyway at some point, and I suggested that, in lieu of doing something theoretical … the three of us were talking and one of us brought up Aldrich’s as a physical manifestation of these ideas,” Yos said. “It all just kind of clicked from there.
“We knew what this place means to the community and all of this serendipitous timing and flow of things,” Yos continued.
“It wasn’t like we set out to buy a grocery store. That was not it whatsoever.
“It was closed down, and we are always thinking about doing something else, and we all wanted to go into some sort of business.
“Aldrich’s presented itself, and we jumped off the cliff, and it all just fell into place.”
The siblings have a variety of experience in business, with Rachel working for REI for 30 years and retiring as vice president of retail, Yos working in the wine and beer industry for more than 20 years — he actually worked at Aldrich’s 22 years ago — and Christa, who has lived in the community for 22 years and has worked a variety of food service and retail positions.
The Ligtenbergs hired about half of the former Aldrich’s employees for the new store, and after renovations, stocking and other expenses, Yos estimated they will have put about $300,000 into the store.
The siblings have been renovating the space: repainting, expanding the shopping area to make it more open, moving shelving and other improvements with the help of their extended family and Mayda Refrigeration, which helped move the store’s 26 feet of freezers from the middle of the space to the walls.
They are hoping to be able to open by mid- to late September, but that isn’t a hard goal, Christa said.
“We’re not holding ourselves to that,” she said. “We want to get the space right and welcoming.”
The siblings hope to re-create the community gathering place that was known as the “heart and soul of Port Townsend,” Yos said, while adding such new amenities as a coffee bar, service kitchen and a large produce section.
“We’re going to exhaust as many local sources as possible in regard to growers, producers and purveyors of various goods,” Yos said. “But outside of that, we’re going to build out our selection mix with international and organic stuff.”
As part of celebrating 125 years of Aldrich’s and the store’s reopening, the siblings are asking for local artists to help design a poster they will sell. They’re looking for two separate pieces, one that commemorates 125 years of Aldrich’s and the second of “Aldrich’s as the Center of the Universe,” which the store had been described as previously.
All proceeds from subsequent flier sales will go toward the Port Townsend art community, they said.
Submissions can be dropped off at Aldrich’s or emailed to Yos at [email protected]
The siblings’ goal is to ground the store in community and have it be a place for people not only to shop, but also to enjoy as a community space.
“We just want to be creating a lot of joy here,” Christa said. “So even if you’re not coming in to buy something, you could come in and see your neighbor.”
The siblings have taken into account COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for social distancing, Yos said.
The siblings leased the building as is, so all the shelving, freezers and other furniture from former owners Scott and Robin Rogers, who closed the place in April, were already there for them to use.
They are re-purposing as much as they can, Yos said.
Christa said they plan profit sharing with employees and eventually to start supporting the community again as sponsors and with donations.
“The most important thing is, we just really want this to be a community gathering place,” Yos said.
“This is the heart and soul of Port Townsend, this is the center of the universe, and we want the community to feel that when they come in,” he added.
“There’s some restrictions to how friendly people can be with each other these days, but that is going to wane at some point, and until then, this will be a place where people can socially distance and see their buddies on the sidewalk.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.