Shortly after moving to the Key Peninsula six years ago, Denise and Michael Hays saw the old Long Branch Mercantile, across from the Filucy Bay Marina. Denise said she knew immediately that there was something special about the building and site. Four years ago, the building was offered for sale, and the couple purchased it.

“I’ve always wanted to buy the mercantile,” Denise said. “It’s got great karma. Sometimes I just go sit on the steps after work if I’ve had a trying day.”

Rendering courtesy of the Hays Family

The Hayses hired a local designer, Sheri Simpson (SLS Design), to draw plans for a new building; they plan to begin demolition of the existing structure this summer and hope to begin construction the following spring. They wanted a new building that didn’t look modern, or new, something that appeared as though it had stood the test of time, and something a pioneer would appreciate — so they arrived at a farmhouse design. The rustic building will have a little under 5,000 square feet, and house a general store, small café, commercial kitchen, and two meeting rooms. Denise Hays says they envision the new mercantile as a destination both for boaters mooring at the marina, and for local residents. She says the building is just the beginning of her plan to hatch a bed and breakfast on the site eventually; her philosophy is that all things are subject to change, even zoning.

Shortly after beginning to work through county requirements for the new building, septic and water systems, parking and required setbacks, the couple realized they’d need more land to make the project everything they dreamed it could be. Almost on cue, first the 3 acres behind it, and then an acre next to the mercantile became available at a time when they could add those acquisitions to the original 3 acres. They now have a total of 5 contiguous acres, and enough square footage to provide customers with a large outdoor seating area in front of the building, with an unobstructed view of Filucy Bay.

When the Pierce County Planning Commission meets in April to review the Key Peninsula Comprehensive Plan, and entertain requests for zoning modifications, the Hayses will be among those residents seeking a change. So far, they report, local organizations and individuals with whom they have shared their plans for the historic site have responded enthusiastically. They are encouraged by the positive support. “We want to complement existing services and business on the Key Peninsula, not be competitors,” Denise said. “We really enjoy this community, and want to give something back.”

From Pioneer Stock: Kerry Jamieson
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