Charleston district 'heartbeat' getting stronger

Amy Jablonski stands at the entrance to her new storefront at the Charleston Center located at Sixth Street and Wycoff Avenue. - Photo by Sean Janssen
Amy Jablonski stands at the entrance to her new storefront at the Charleston Center located at Sixth Street and Wycoff Avenue.
— image credit: Photo by Sean Janssen

Once a city in and of itself, the Charleston district of Bremerton is now a part of its adopted city’s continued revival.

New businesses and faces are popping up in Charleston, delighting those nearby who have seen it thrive in the past and sink to just about rock bottom several years ago.

“The area’s got a little beat of a heartbeat into it,” said Bill Hardwick, who owns Kitsap Flooring Outlet on Callow Avenue, across the street from Safeway.

Hardwick was drawn to the vast space needed for a business like his that could be found in the 11,000-square foot building. The improvements to his surroundings have been a nice extra.

“There’s a good mix of stores down here, older and newer,” he said. “There is a resurgence around (Bremerton) on the whole. The heart is downtown and it’s expanding out. There are gorgeous shorelines and it’s fairly inexpensive. People from Seattle and the other side are starting to take notice.”

Hardwick said business owners in the district are friendly with one another, and make referrals back and forth to each other when it makes good sense to do so. A new place is even opening up just across the street from Kitsap Flooring.

“It is starting to come back,” he said. “Safeway has helped. It’s a good-looking building. It’s a nice draw. The Ponderay restaurant put in some money and made their place nice. It all helps.”

Hardwick’s own shop opened in March 2005. He had looked at other potential locations such as Silverdale and the Wheaton Way strip in East Bremerton. Now, he doesn’t mind calling Charleston home.

Kitsap Flooring Outlet occupies a space which has been a grocery store, a furniture auction house, and an electrician’s shop since the 1950s. It makes a good representation of an area that is always changing.

It was a change for Amy Jablonski to go from selling her homemade chocolates out of Kate’s Subs in Manette to having her own store, Amy’s Decadent Chocolates, in another of the district’s historic buildings, the Charleston Center.

“The owner totally remodeled this building and brought it up to date, made it fresh. It’s got a lot of history and a good vibe in it,” Jablonski said of the location on the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Wycoff Avenue. “I look out the window and see all the way up to Naval Avenue, see the eagles fly around. Also, a whole lot of traffic goes by here … which is good for business.”

Like Hardwick, she did not know what to expect of her new surroundings, but has been pleasantly surprised.

“My impression of this neighborhood is that it’s very supportive of new businesses. Plenty of other business owners have come by and said hi, taken menus and just been very supportive,” Jablonski said. “I wasn’t expecting that kind of support. It was there in Manette and I was hoping, but wasn’t sure it would be here.

“Families come in, parents bring their kids and just watch me make chocolate. I love it. I like to watch kids’ faces because they love to see somebody playing with chocolate. They didn’t know anybody can do that.”

Amy’s Decadent Chocolates opened Feb. 3 and will make its grand opening Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 12.

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