The Key Peninsula Business Association Makes Local Strides

The KPBA is off to a strong start for 2024, expanding its membership and mission to promote the Key Peninsula.

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The four-woman executive board of the Key Peninsula Business Association is guiding the KPBA with a fresh outlook into 2024 and beyond.

Board members include Kendra Zartman president and production manager for My Haunted Forest at Grand Farms, and Rena Blalock, vice president, represents Cost Less Pharmacy. Realtor Ashley Ford from Keller West-Sound serves as secretary and Laurie Ellis of Ellis Accounting is the treasurer. They aim to promote a direction for the association that includes innovative thinking and is inclusive in practice.

“We want meetings to be enjoyable for all and a place to talk about issues; also, to present ideas on how to support each other and gain exposure,” Zartman said.

“Not only for our nonprofits but all the variety of business. We want to create a positive atmosphere where people feel free to participate and promote.”

Zartman became a KPBA member about two years ago to promote the Haunted Forest. She soon volunteered to take the secretary position that opened when Stephanie Brooks stepped down.

“I love the KPBA,” Zartman said. “I have met a ton of wonderful people. Selfishly, it worked out for me.”

In a departure from the past, the KPBA now holds its monthly meetings on a rotating basis, with a different business hosting each month, in the evening. Business owners who are working during the day can attend, where members get to know other businesses and a collegial atmosphere prevails. January’s meeting brought out more than 20 members.

The KPBA also continues to meet on the third Friday of the month at El Sombrero in Key Center for lunch. Speakers are invited, often officials from Pierce County. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th) has attended on several occasions.

Zartman’s objectives include increasing membership — currently, there are 85 — and “to be at as many community events as possible to get exposure for local businesses,” she said. She sees challenges as well.

“I don’t think people know how many local businesses are out there,” she said. KPBA will attend any event with a tent, table, swag, and business cards. “We all have to volunteer to man the tent. In-person contact is more effective for talking about business. People don’t know about the KPBA, and people don’t know what’s available on the KP.”

Joyce Tovey, a longtime realtor on the Key Peninsula, provided some perspective on the inception and growth of the KPBA.

She attended Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce meetings when she was launching her business in 1981 and thought that the Key Peninsula could benefit from a similar group. The KPBA started meeting “around 1985,” she said.

“We met at Lulu’s Homeport in the bar. There was a table of maybe 10 people. We were trying to do things that would bring the KP together.”

“The KP is different,” she said. “We operate on who we know. Establishing relationships is the main thing.”

Ellie Lechner launched her new business in Key Center, Serve, and attended her first meeting of the KPBA in January. Serve specializes in protein drinks, along with other menu items like Dude’s Doughnuts from Port Orchard.

“We like to do business with a personal touch,” she said. She enjoyed the opportunity to introduce herself and her business to the other members and looked forward to hosting one of the meetings. Meeting attendance is not an option for some business owners, but they continue to support the association.

For example, Aaron Gerer and Dan Lutz, longtime residents of the KP and owners of Home Excavating and Dozing, have renewed their membership each year, but don’t go to meetings. “It is just so much work trying to stay in business,” Gerer said. “Higher interest rates and increasing costs of goods have an effect on business. This is balanced somewhat by the population growth on the KP. I know we get business from the KPBA brochures.”

Chuck Ellis is the 2023 outgoing president of the KPBA and owner of Goin’ Postal in Key Center. He has been an active member since 2014 and recalled that the organization operated more as a social club in the past. During those earlier years, the KPBA did not have an effective website, and the brochure was only updated every five or six years. He said the association is much more beneficial for members now. “The task is complicated; everyone has different needs.”

Ellis was instrumental in revamping the organization’s website, along with Eric Morland, owner of Glen Cove Auto Repair. The website is up to date now except for listing the incoming board members for 2024. Those interested can sign up for membership on the website.

Ellis also stressed KPBA’s participation in local events. For example, the KPBA sponsored the annual tree lighting at the Key Center Corral in December. It also supported the Farm Tour, Logging Show, KP Art Walk, and Ace Hardware grand opening ribbon-cutting.

January’s meeting allowed members to suggest ideas that included listing committee names and participants on the website, and an increased presence on social media.

“We want more participation in meetings, allowing energies to expand,” Zartman said. “We want input and ideas for more exposure for all who want it. We are looking for positives.”

The association has committees to address membership, scholarships, road cleanup, its annual dinner, the lunch speakers committee, and marketing.

KPBA has a Facebook page and can also be reached at www.kpba.org.


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