Old firehouse may light fire under Kingston downtown

Left to right, Rick Lanning, James Wetter and Dave Wetter are renovating the old Kingston firehouse. - Kendall Hanson/Staff photo
Left to right, Rick Lanning, James Wetter and Dave Wetter are renovating the old Kingston firehouse.
— image credit: Kendall Hanson/Staff photo

By Kendall Hanson

For years the old North Kitsap fire station has been the object of dreams and hopes for many Kingston residents. Since the North Kitsap Fire and Rescue moved into its newest quarters on Miller Bay Road, many proposals have been floated for re-use of the old fire station on Hwy 104—everything from a retrofitted Boys and Girls Club to a refurbished community center to boat repair facility to a, well, you name it. But just a few months ago, a trio that came together through the Kingston Stakeholders Committee and developed a plan that truly “fired” them up.

“The time was just right,” according to Rick Lanning of Homeland Construction, who has partnered with Dave Wetter and his son James to form the Rirehouse Partners LLC.

The trio purchased the building as it was put out to bid and set out an ambitious plan to make “a downtown destination spot that could be used in a variety of ways,” said Wetter. Through his networking and volunteerism in the community, Wetter approached Craig Smith of Peninsula Video to see if he was interested in having a movie theater, a notion he had once mentioned. “Since then, things have just fallen into place,” Wetter said.

In fact, the new facility, which should open in May, will contain not one but two small theater spaces with stadium seating. The largest, 126 seats, also holds a small balcony and a “crying room” in an upper space. The smaller, 48 seats, also has an upper tier so wide it can hold couches instead of installed seating. Both rooms will be equipped to use Boxlight projectors as well as cinematic projectors.

“These spaces are truly multi-functional, depending on what Craig wants to do,” Wetter explained. “The smaller theater can double as presentation space or meeting space or even 'party space' at need and depending on how Craig wants to schedule events. The larger space will do that and easily accommodate performances as well.”

Smith said he plans to have a theater open seven days a week. “We'll also have weekend matinees, perhaps try a Wednesday matinee, and probably try a late-night showing on Friday, perhaps for some of the cult classics that are available.”

Part of the challenge, he said, was moving the Peninsula Video from its 2,500 square feet of space at Kingston Crossing into the 400 square feet of space available at the Firehouse. “We'll have a bulk archive, though, and a database so that customers can still choose from our wide selection. I've been collecting films and videos for 28 years, so there is still a great variety to choose from.”

Additionally the area between the two will hold both ticket sales and concessions as well as the video store and lobby.

But there's more.

On the other side of the building, Oak Table Café, owned by Ross and Nicole McCurdy, is opening a breakfast and lunch cafe that will seat 56 in the main room, but also has a patio for outdoor seating in good weather. Adjacent to the main room is a meeting and banquet room that should seat 32 guests comfortably. Both the main dining room and the banquet room have a fireplace. “It should be a cozy place,” Wetter said.

The restaurant will focus on “high-quality service and high-quality ingredients because we want to build our business through repeat customers” said Ross McCurdy. Breakfast offerings in particular will feature such gourmet items as three-inch high apple pancakes, a dazzling variety of crepes, omelettes and scrambles, fresh fruit “and a few surprises,” he said. “We want to guarantee that everyone will leave with a smile, both from the service and from the food.”

The building totals just 6,200 square feet, but an additional 1,348 square feet were added as a second level in the renovated truck bays. “It's amazing what that additional space allowed us to do,” Wetter said. The upper level holds office space for the theater, two projection booths, a balcony and crying room, plus additional storage space for everything from stage props to videos to facility equipment.

Although the site has room for only 48 parking stalls, several nearby areas have public parking. But Lanning points out that any parking situations will be ameliorated by the planned use of the building. “When you think about it, the two businesses in here will complement each other. One is a morning and afternoon business, while the other will be primarily evening. We think it will be a terrific mix and a destination for visitors and residents to enjoy for a long time to come.”

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