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Pacific Northwest Explorers discover local products

Spouses go on adventures

PNW Explorer Stacie Pogoncheff and Brian Ingoldsvy, the volunteer piano player at the Olive Branch Cafe and Tea Room. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Explorers' February adventure focused on two local products, Johnny's Seasoning Salt and Almond Roca. "It is always an adventure with the PNW Explorers and sharing the comradery with military spouses.  Who would have thought my daughter's favorite candy is made in our own backyard of Tacoma," said club member, Tracy Harvey.

The PNW Explorers are a subclub of the Lewis Community Spouses Club which is open to all military spouses both active-duty and retired.

The Explorers began their day sampling candy at the factory store in front of the historic Brown & Haley Factory.  Founded by Harry L. Brown and J.C. Haley, the company has been making candy for over 100 years.  The company is led today by J.C.'s granddaughter, Anne Haley. The tiny kiosk which sits in front of the factory and serves as the outlet store is a part of Seattle history in its own right.  It served as a ticket booth for the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.  Stacked to the brim with Almond Roca, Mountain Bars and other Brown and Haley products it is a mecca for candy lovers.

Brown & Haley Factory Store, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, 110 E. 26th St., Tacoma, 253.620.3067

A few blocks away is Johnny's Fine Foods and factory. The company's most well-known product is Johnny's Seasoning Salt which is used locally at many restaurants. Johnny's terms their products chef-blended from the kitchens of Johnny's Dock, a famed local restaurant.  The company does not have a factory store but you can visit the office which has a display of all the company's products and place an order.  During our visit, owner Kevin Ruda joined us and regaled our group with the history of the company.  He expressed his appreciation of the military community.  "We get requests from all over the world from people who were stationed in the area and loved our products," said Ruda.

Johnny's Fine Foods, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday, 319 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.534.8081

The last stop of the day was touring the shops at Freighthouse Square and then lunch at the Olive Branch Café and Tea Room.  For the PNW Explorers this was the highlight of the day and a chance to meet two local characters.  Owner and military brat, Terry Waller has created an oasis from the busy city streets and construction at Freighthouse Square.  Stepping into the interior of her café you walk back in time to a visit at your grandmother's home.  The restaurant is divided into rooms filled with Waller's collection of antiques and vintage finds. The carpet was a craigslist find.  Waller wired and strung the numerous chandeliers hanging over each table.  "In some of the restaurants I have visited hospitality was lacking.  When I decided to open my own restaurant hospitality was something that was important to me. People ask why our food is so good and I answer that it is cooked with love.  We like to say come as a customer, leave as a friend and return as family," said Waller.

Another fixture of the café is Brian Ingoldsvy, the volunteer piano player who contributes a musical atmosphere combined with a friendly personality.  Who wouldn't be charmed when your name is Peggy and he plays ‘Peg O' my Heart' for you.  Ingoldsvy has been playing at the Olive Branch since they opened at Freighthouse Square in 2015.  You could say he came with the piano.  "There used to be a music store here and I helped a friend move the piano and it wouldn't fit in the store.  We asked Terry if we could put it at the Olive Branch but she was hesitant due to its size.  I offered to come play every day if she would let the piano stay. We have been here ever since," said Ingoldsvy.

Waller is now offering the military a 10 percent discount. "With everything going on in the world this is just a small way I can express my honor and respect for our military servicemembers," she said.

Olive Branch Café and Tea Room, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, 2501 E. D St., Tacoma (West End of Freighthouse Square), 253.330.6511

The PNW Explorers meet the third Thursday of the month. For more information on the group, visit

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