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Cover Story
Bremerton entrepreneurs expand portfolio with Harvey’s purchase

Cover Story: Bremerton entrepreneurs expand portfolio with Harvey's purchaseScott and Stacy Ryan are the type of entrepreneurs who are hard pressed to turn down a new idea. The couple, who own six Hallmark stores including three in Kitsap County, always have their ear to the ground for new opportunities.

Their latest one was too good to pass up. After all, it involved a well-known local business located just a few miles away from where both of them grew up.

Last December, the Ryans became the new owners of Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter, a business started in Bremerton in the early 1960s by the late Harvey Hudson. The renowned brand is a common sight at area grocery stores during the winter holiday season and is also shipped all around the country.

“My folks used to have it in their refrigerator,” Scott said. “I grew up just a few miles from the company.”

Stacy, too, has a bit of a personal connection — her grandmother and uncle once worked with Hudson at a local Darigold dairy plant where he originally produced the batter after hours, using the cottage cheese topper for filling the tubs. In 1972, he moved production to the current factory, which he built.

“We still use the old Darigold topper to fill the containers,” Stacy said.

Hudson developed the recipe for making hot butter rum drinks when he was a bartender, and it became so popular that a few years later he turned it into a full-time business. He was involved with the factory until about a month before his death in January 2011 at age 94.

The Ryans were among several people who made an offer to buy the business from Hudson’s children.

“It’s a great brand that can be expanded. The family we bought it from was great,” Scott said. “They had multiple offers for the business — we feel fortunate we were selected.”

While keeping Hudson’s legacy alive and planning to be involved hands-on with the factory, the Ryans are already looking at ways to expand. Some of the equipment will be upgraded to make production more efficient, but their biggest dream is to move the business beyond a seasonal affair.

One step toward that goal is creating a cookbook with year-round recipes. Stacy is developing the recipes, which use Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter for everything from glazed salmon and cookies to lattes. The cookbook, along with T-shirts and other brand memorabilia, will be available on the company’s website, www.harveysbrb.com, this summer.

Another step will be the creation of other product lines such as chocolate spoons, candy or caramel. “We love the flavor of the product but we’re looking at developing other products to extend the season,” said Stacy, who will recruit her sister, a pastry chef, to help come up with ideas.

Serial entrepreneurs

The Ryans have been working to-gether for several decades, but they’ve known each other their entire lives. Their families lived within a couple of miles of each other and their parents saw each other socially.

Scott, who has a business degree, grew up in an entrepreneurial environment — his parents opened their first Hallmark card store in 1968. He went to work for them after college, with no intention to stay long, and ended up helping them expand the business to five stores.

Scott and Stacy bought the company from his parents more than a decade ago, and McBride’s Hallmark had eight locations during its peak. The six they own today include stores in Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Silverdale, which is the company’s headquarters.

“The opportunities (to grow) organically presented themselves,” Scott said. “It’s a fun business to be in.”

Stacy serves as the buyer and merchandiser, among other things, which compelled her to venture onto another path. Using her experience to design collections for the store as well as source products, she pursued an idea that’s been in the making for several years: launching a jewelry business. She founded Stacy McBride Collections using a direct-sale model, after presenting her idea to Scott about eight years ago. She tested it in the Kitsap market, tweaked the model to make it scalable, and last year took it nationwide. She currently has 20 women distributing it as far as Florida.

The jewelry and accessory pieces are mostly priced in the $9-$79 range, and Stacy designs many of them herself as well as sourcing some. She provides business support and mentoring to the women who sell the products through home parties and events.

She said the reason she’s able to extend her time to several businesses is the staff at McBride’s Hallmark. “I tend to be a perfectionist and I want things to be right. There’s no way I could have done it without them,” she said.

Many of the staff are long-timers — the officer manager, for example, has been with McBride’s Hallmark for 25 years, and for her anniversary the Ryans treated her to a cruise.

“Our staff is unbelievable. That’s probably the No. 1 reason we’re still in business,” Scott said.

Another reason they’re still in business is perhaps the couple’s creativity. Not only do they like working with each other, they like exploring new ideas to keep things fresh.

“We have the joy of making decisions, and sometimes it’s as quick as you want,” Stacy said. “And we get to work together, which is nice.”

Growing Harvey’s while running the other businesses will keep the Ryans plenty busy, but they’re not discounting the idea of adding a new venture to their portfolio in the future.

“I’m always looking for something, like businesses that are for sale,” Scott said. “You never know. It’s fun to see what you can do with things.”

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