GRAYLAND — As the weather warms and visitors start planning Pacific Northwest beach excursions, there’s a place that can make such a trip more enjoyable and offer a bit of history. Grayland Beach Outfitters is one of the buildings in Grayland — on the Pacific-Grays Harbor county line — that has a rich past and a comeback story.
Erin and Terry Holerud bought the rundown facility. It started life as a general store and post office in about 1912. Then a gas pump was added in the 1930s, and it went on to become Grayland Grocery.
When the Holeruds purchased the property it still had a title with Prohibition-era stipulations. Basically, these stated that any consuming, selling or distributing of intoxicating beverages would revert ownership to E.B. Benn, the original title holder in the early 1900s.
However, someone who owned the store during Prohibition built a secret room, which seems intended to be a perfect storage space — for something…. The Holeruds found the secret door to the room while they were renovating.
It took the couple nine months to refurbish the ailing property. After the Holeruds finished, the store opened to the public the July 4th weekend of 2016.
Erin Holerud has been careful to not stock products that other businesses in the area carry, as she has a deep respect for other business owners and the commerce of the community. She’s specific in saying the store won’t compete with neighbors by offering general groceries, as it did when owned by Jane and Al Miles as Grayland Grocery. It’s now a specialty store for people to come and buy items for a day at the beach.
“It’s a happy place,” she said.
It’s located on scenic State Route 105, which was created as a part of the state highway system in 1937, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The highway winds along the north shore of Willapa Bay west from Raymond, sweeps through the communities of Tokeland and Grayland, extends north into Westport, and then rounds the corner of Grays Harbor before ending in Aberdeen.
The store’s products are carefully curated from vendors in the area. Items come from places including Everett, South Bend, Cosmopolis, Raymond and Seattle — and because Oregon is so close, it’s also considered local. Visitors to the store will find smoked cheese, salmon, wine, cranberry products, tuna and the Holeruds’ own items from Willapa Beach Products.
“One of my goals is to have only local stuff. That is one thing I’ve tried to do,” Holerud said.
Many beach-themed items in the store aim to enhance any trip to the seashore, which includes nearby Grayland Beach State Park. There’s a selection of kites for some colorful beach-time fun. Beautiful beach-themed items like opal glass jellyfish adorn the store. Instead of security bars, there are metal waves and metal cutouts including crab, seahorses, etc. Even gifts that you may not think you need are there, like a wine purse or tote.
As a board member of the Grayland/Westport Chamber of Commerce, Erin Holerud believes in being an active member of the community.
“You have to be a part of the community that you live in if you want to see it be a better place,” she said.
Holerud contributes to various fundraisers and donates baskets to these fundraising events. As she talks of fundraising causes, she uses the names of the individuals coordinating each event and its purpose. Holerud is aware of not only who makes up the community, but what those people are striving to achieve.
Holerud was a career banker and her husband, Terry, a career contractor, but they have put their time and talents into creating a place with unique food and merchandise that captures the essence of the beach.
The Holeruds do the work themselves — building the store and the community. Grayland Beach Outfitters is not a grocery store, but a store where beach-goers can find everything needed for a day watching the surf, nibbling on distinctive treats and possibly buying a kite. It’s a place waiting to be discovered and appreciated for its history and current “comeback” at life.