Howard Mose of Hessmer, Louisiana, with waitress Michelle Henderson, is in town visiting his son. “A person from just about anywhere can walk in and it feels like home,” he said. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Lulu’s Homeport is officially for sale. Lulu Smith has owned and operated the restaurant and bar for over 25 years.

The Homeport has a nostalgic feel, with wood paneling and comfortable booths, complete with a classic counter and high stools reminiscent of family diners from another age. The menu delivers classic American-style food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Our country-fried steak is a hands-down favorite,” Smith said.

There is a bar in the back, with its own side entrance. One glance at the parking lot in the evening testifies to its popularity with locals.

Behind the counter, underneath the order window, hangs a row of handmade, monogrammed coffee mugs for regulars. Ken Brown sports one that reads “Sugar Daddy” on one side and “Ken” on the other.

Ken and Mavis Brown, both retired, live on Taylor Bay in Longbranch and consider themselves experts on breakfast dining. “I can tell you for sure, these are the best pancakes around,” Ken Brown said. “The waitresses are always friendly. That’s exactly what I need in the morning—a nice smile and a good cup of coffee.”

Mavis Brown agreed. “I hope whoever buys it keeps it the same,” she said.

Grey Short regularly drives down from Mullenix Road in Port Orchard to meet for breakfast with an old Key Peninsula buddy. A regular for 10 years, Short said, “We love the down-to-earth feeling of the place and the people. It feels like home here. Everybody knows your name.”

It’s the go-to meeting place for community endeavors large and small, and groups such as the Key Peninsula Business Association meet monthly for breakfast in the bar, reserved specially for the occasion.

Smith has a reputation for helping the community with Christmas present giveaways, Easter egg hunts and fundraisers to support local schools. During the infamous ice storm of 1996, much of the KP was without electricity for many weeks but the Homeport had power and the kitchen staff worked around the clock to help feed a cold and hungry community. “Peninsula Light had so many workers to feed, they set up a running tab,” Smith said.

Smith owned and operated a restaurant on McKinley Hill in Tacoma for 10 years prior to buying the Lakebay restaurant in 1991. There was a string of owners before Smith, but none with her tenacity. While many favorite waitresses, bartenders and cooks have come and gone over the years, the Homeport continues to employ around 16 local workers.

“Just last week, somebody came in and told me about the lumber for the building having come from trees harvested directly from the lot and how they personally helped mill the lumber on the property as well,” Smith said.

While she is eager to travel and visit distant family, Smith is realistic about the market.

“Who knows how long it might be before it sells,” she said. “Despite the fact that all kinds of people are moving down here with the housing market going great guns, the reality is that even thriving businesses on the Key Peninsula can still take quite a while to move.”

Until then, steady customers like Ray Flowers of Longbranch will continue to stroll in and say, “I’ll have my usual.”

 

 

 

 

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