The Barn in Northport is a destination for Christmas shoppers with 27 local vendors

By: 
RaeLynn Ricarte
Editor

Tucked into a side street of Northport is The Barn, which is home to 27 different local vendors and an organic coffee roasting business.
 
Donna-Gay Preece and her husband, Clifford Ward, have renovated the old grange hall, 221 Summit Avenue, as a destination for culture, food and art. They invite people to do their Christmas shopping in the historic building because browsing is not only going to yield unique gifts, but is a sensory experience that boosts spirits, which is important during a tough year. 

“We know that you are stir crazy, bored, needing a change of scenery,” said Preece. “Come here and grab a coffee and check out what our vendors have to offer. Who knows what you might find.”

She and Ward purchased The Barn in the spring of 2019 and immediately set about making needed repairs because the structure had sat empty and been unmaintained for years. They breathed new life into the site that was once a men’s store, grocery outlet, farmers’ association headquarters, the Lion’s Club and Northport Grange #928.

The building had been used for weddings, conferences, receptions, theater productions, dancing and more. Preece believes a ghost associated with a past enterprise stayed behind and is now living in one corner of the 3,000 square feet of floor space that is divided into artisan booths and the roasting operation of COFFEE BOSS LLC, her business. 

“We think the ghost is male because we first named him Louise and he would turn the radio off, make things jump around and scare the dog until we changed the name to Louis,” she said.  “Things have calmed down some since then.”

The impetus for the purchase of the building was the need for more space for small batch roasting of a variety of coffee beans, said Preece. She had been set up at Tony’s Market down the street but there was not enough room to expand her operation, so she and Ward began checking out other locations.

“We looked at every cool building in town and this one met our price,” said Preece. 

It was a little daunting to tackle the work needed to fulfill their plans, but Ward said Preece is nothing if not driven so she jumped right in on renovations and that put him to work.

“She has a lot of vision and drive, and I’m just the worker bee,” said Ward. 

They used salvage shiplap from the old Frasier Mill, and metal from the re-roofing of the Gallo House that is now the local history museum, to spruce up the interior and exterior of the building. The rustic theme is further enhanced by the original wooden flooring that has been left in its worn state from 1929 because it speaks to the past life of the store, said Preece. 

The electrical system had to be totally redone for safety and that work continues, with plans to add turn-of-the-century overhead lights one day. 
Meanwhile, there are lamps in almost every booth and a canoe hangs inverted from the ceiling that is festooned with strands of mini lights. The wooden vessel was carved by musicians who live in the area.

A 9-foot wooden pew from the Assembly of God Church provides seating space for people wanting to kick back with their coffee, but also showcases pet and people cushions that are for sale. The pew is surrounded by a variety of colorful and muted woven rugs and handcrafted baskets. The Barn is intended to showcase all that is wonderful about Northport, said Preece, as part of the revival that is going on in town. 

Down the street, another aging building is being renovated to one day become a performing arts center. 

“When the COVID crisis is over with, things will definitely be happening here,” said Preece. 

She envisions candle-lit dinners to jazz music, and other potential services that enhance the quality of life for a rural community at the northern edge of Stevens County. When Preece was set up at Tony’s, she also dedicated some space to local art. She said the plan for her expansion included a place where crafters could sell their wares without having to pay commission or space rent. 

“I wanted to build community,” she said.

Instead of dealing with overhead, the artists take turns helping out at the business that is open seven days a week; from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. 

“This is an amazing space, an amazing vibe,” said Preece. “I can’t imagine doing coffee without the artists next to me. And set up this way, all of the prices are as low as they can be because the artists have no overhead.”

Den Flower, who was once a chef at Tony’s new restaurant, the Squeeze Inn, is now selling his crocheted goods. He has been working to improve his skills since the age of 13 and has gotten good enough to create his own patterns. 

“Real men crochet,” he said. “This is not a hobby, it’s a post-apocalyptic survival skill.

Suzie Phillips also crochets, but has included handmade toys, mini-tents for children and other fanciful choices at her booth. Her husband, Jesse, also makes cedar chests. 

“I think everybody is just very excited by what they do,” said Suzie. 

The Barn offers mosaic pieces, such as colorful Indoor or outdoor tables that also serve as cribbage boards, botanical lotions and soaps, pottery, paintings, scenic cards, jewelry and even organic laundry soap. Social distancing guidelines and sanitation measures are being practiced during the COVID-19 crisis to make shopping a safe experience, said Preece. 

The anchor business at The Barn is COFFEE BOSS, LLC. Preece learned her craft from Stedy’s Coffee while working as a vineyard manager for China Bend Winery.
She had acquired enough skills by the spring of 2017 to buy her own propane-fired drum roaster that requires close monitoring but turns out small batches of coffee with great flavor.

COFFEE BOSS offers Peruvian, Sumatra, Guatelma, Mexican, and French roasts, among others. Her specialty is the Up & Over blend of medium and white coffee. Because it is roasted less, it is loaded with caffeine to get anyone moving, said Preece.

“I called it Up & Over because that is what is going to happen to you if you drink it, she said. 

Preece now sells batches at a time to regular customers and said her market is continually expanding. 

“Come have coffee and check us out,” she said.

For more information about the coffee business or becoming a vendor at The Barn, call Preece at 509-675-3135 or email www.coffeebossroastery.com.

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