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Finding Riches in Niches

Celebrating Female Business Owners on Mercer Island

Stephanie King
Kitchen & Market

Kitchen & Market is a specialty food market and cafe. The business was founded in 2018 by Stephanie King, who wanted to create a space where customers could find high-quality, locally sourced food and ingredients, as well as enjoy delicious meals and coffee in a comfortable and inviting environment.

Kitchen & Market offers a wide range of products, including fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, baked goods, and specialty pantry items. The market is unique in its focus on providing customers with the freshest and highest quality products possible, with a commitment to sourcing from local and regional farmers and producers. Kitchen & Market also hosts a variety of events and workshops, including cooking classes, wine tastings, and guest chef dinners.

Stephanie told us that Kitchen & Market meal kits and recipe ideas still originate in her home kitchen. “Sure, we have commissary kitchen where ideas are refined and scaled up, but endless ideas start here.”

Stephanie is known to friends as a Salad Slayer of sorts. “I can dream up salad compositions you'll be thinking about long after you've devoured them. What's in your fridge and pantry? Let's do this! If there was a TV competition built on the premise of ‘salad superiority’ – as much as I lack the desire to see myself televised – this would be my kind of gameshow!”

Barb Hovsepian
Au Courant Salon

Au Courant Salon is a full-service hair salon. The salon was founded in 2001 by Barb Hovsepian, who wanted to create a space where customers could receive high-quality hair services in a comfortable and welcoming environment.

Au Courant Salon uses high-quality, eco-friendly hair products that are free from harmful chemicals and toxins. Additionally, the salon offers a variety of amenities, including complimentary beverages and a relaxing atmosphere, to help customers feel comfortable and pampered during their appointments.

We asked Barb why she located her business on Mercer Island. “Mercer Island is our home. It’s a wonderful community Allen and I are proud to be a part of. The fact that the right salon to fit the business model I had in mind, was in our hometown, was truly a blessing. …”

Barb says her superpower is a genuine care for others. If she weren’t running Au Courant, she would be doing more yoga and increasing her volunteer work for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Kerry Donner
The Boutique Lounge

The Boutique Lounge is a unique clothing and lifestyle store. The business was founded in 2016 by Kerry Donner, who wanted to create a space where customers could find unique and high-quality clothing, accessories, and home goods. The store offers a wide range of products, including clothing for men and women, jewelry, handbags, candles, and more.

In addition to offering a wide selection of unique and sustainable products, MI Boutique Lounge hosts a variety of events and workshops, including trunk shows, fashion shows, and DIY workshops. The store is known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, and the staff is always happy to help customers find the perfect item or offer styling advice.

Why did Kerry choose to open her business on Mercer Island? “Opening a retail shop was a goal of mine for 15 plus years. I knew the Island needed something new and when I was ready, I went for it!”

Kerry thinks her superpower is choosing and coordinating gifts for just about anyone. If she were not doing this, she thinks she’d focus on rescuing animals. In addition, Kerry is a book and information nerd. She loves to learn and absorb as much information as she can on a variety of topics, such as health and wellness, animals, human behavior, and how the world works.

Dawn Bova, DMD
Bova Family and Cosmetic Dentistry

Bova Family and Cosmetic Dentistry offers a wide range of dental services to patients of all ages. The practice was founded by Dr. Cynthia Bova, who has been practicing on Mercer Island since 1987. Dr. Bova built her practice from the ground up 17 years ago. “When I started, I only had two patients -- my husband and my infant daughter -- and only one of them had teeth!”

Dr. Bova and her team are committed to providing compassionate, personalized care to each and every patient. One unique aspect of Bova Family and Cosmetic Dentistry is their focus on patient comfort and satisfaction. The practice offers a variety of amenities, including blankets, headphones, and TVs in each treatment room, to help patients feel relaxed and comfortable during their appointments.

What is Dr. Bova’s superpower? “Combining art and science to give my patients beautiful smiles.”

Her favorite memories include those of her helping patients who have had dental injuries (like tooth fractures or teeth knocked out) regain their original smiles and seeing the sparkle come back to their faces.

Laurie Raisys
Island Books

Island Books is an independent bookstore founded in 1973 by a local couple who wanted to create a space where people could find a wide range of books and connect with the community. In 2015, the business was purchased by Laurie and Victor Raisys.

Island Books offers a vast selection of books, including fiction, non-fiction, children's books, and more. The store is unique in its focus on providing customers with personalized recommendations and a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. The staff is knowledgeable and always happy to offer advice and suggestions to customers.

In addition, Island Books also hosts a variety of events and author readings throughout the year, as well as book clubs and other community events. The store is known for its strong community focus, with a commitment to supporting local authors and connecting readers with each other.

We asked Laurie why she chose to start her own business on Mercer Island. “After working at Microsoft for 14 years I was ready for a change. I spent the second half of 2014 volunteering quite a bit in the 3 schools my 4 kids were attending. I had always participated in the Island Books nights the schools put on but now I had the opportunity to help coordinate and really get involved. This allowed me to get to know the staff and then owner, Roger Page. We struck up a friendship, talked about business here and there and then I was just in the right place at the right time. We moved back to Mercer Island because we like the small community feel. When you enter Island Books you understand this community and you feel a warmth and sense of belonging. I've always been drawn to that feeling - and feel incredibly blessed that I get to walk through those doors every day.”

Dorothy Reeck
Roanoke Inn

Roanoke Inn is a historic restaurant and bar. It was founded in 1914 and has been a beloved gathering place for the community ever since.

Roanoke Inn offers a wide range of food and drink options, including steaks, seafood, burgers, and a variety of craft cocktails and beers, and is unique in its historic charm and welcoming atmosphere. The Roanoke has been fully restored, maintaining its original architecture and decor, which includes a beautiful mahogany bar and intricate woodwork throughout the space.

In addition to its food and drink offerings, The Roanoke also hosts a variety of events and live music performances throughout the year. It has a strong community focus and is committed to supporting local artists and musicians.

Ann Peterson
Island Treats

Island Treats is a family-owned candy and ice cream shop. The business was founded in 2000 by Ann Peterson, who wanted to create a space where customers could find delicious and unique treats in a fun and welcoming environment.

Island Treats offers candies, chocolates, and gourmet snacks, as well as a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings. The store is unique in its focus on providing customers with high-quality, handmade treats that are both delicious and visually appealing. The staff is friendly and always happy to offer recommendations and suggestions to customers. Island Treats also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including candy-making workshops, ice cream socials, and other fun activities.

Joci Besecker
Premier Catch

Premier Catch specializes in providing high-quality, sustainably sourced seafood to the local community. (See the recipes in Joci's Dive into Delicious article in this edition.) The business was founded in 2017 by Joci and Ashley Besecker, who shared a passion for seafood and a desire to bring the freshest and most delicious seafood to the area.

We asked Joci the "why" question, i.e., why locate the business on Mercer Island and why seafood:

"For years, our friends and family had been urging us to launch a direct-to-consumer seafood brand, but it wasn’t until June 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, that we finally took the plunge. With access to some of the most incredible seafood in the world, we felt that this was the perfect time to share our passion with the wider community. Our goal was to make wild, sustainably caught seafood more accessible to families by providing convenient portion sizes and packaging, so they could savor high-quality, restaurant-grade cuisine while enjoying the convenience of cooking at home."

Premier Catch stands out from other seafood businesses because of its commitment to sustainability and transparency. They only source their seafood from trusted suppliers who use environmentally responsible fishing and aquaculture practices. Additionally, Premier Catch provides detailed information about the origin and quality of each of their products, enabling customers to make informed choices.

Stevie Nicole Hagen
Creation Dance Studio

Creation Dance Studio is a dance school and performing arts center. The studio was founded in 2012 by Stevie Nicole Hagen and a group of experienced dancers and choreographers who wanted to create a space where students of all ages and skill levels could receive high-quality dance training in a supportive and creative environment.

In addition to offering classes in a wide range of dance styles, Creation Dance Studio also hosts a variety of performances and events throughout the year, including recitals, showcases, and collaborations with other local arts organizations. The studio has a strong community focus, with a commitment to providing scholarships and opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds.

According to Stevie, her dance journey began at the age of two and a half with Camille Chrysler of Mercerart Dance. Camille was the first of many teachers to inspire and shape Stevie into the dancer and person she is today. “It is an amazing gift to come full circle and to now have the opportunity to spread the joy of dance to dancers of all ages with the hope that they will be impacted for a lifetime just like I was.”

Stevie says her superpower is her faith. “The journey of Creation Dance Studio has been filled with beautiful and unexpected twists and turns, countless moments of joy, and leaps into the exciting unknown. As Creation Dance Studio continues to evolve and grow, my faith continues to be the driving force behind my passion to share the joy of dance with the wonderful community where I grew up.”

Suzanne Zahr
Salon NUR| Suzanne Zahr | SZ Build

Suzanne Zahr is the owner and creator of an Architect-led, Design-Build practice on Mercer Island. Her firm takes a symbiotic approach to designing and building creative environments. The business was founded in 2010 by Suzanne Zahr. It’s unique because it offers a complete design and construction service, from initial concept design to final construction. This is a one-stop-shop for clients who want a seamless design and construction process. They also host an art gallery featuring art from around the world.

We asked Suzanne why she chose Mercer Island as the home for her business. “Soon after settling into our family home on Mercer Island 10 years ago, my entrepreneurial ambitions grew stronger. Opening my Design | Build firm in the heart of Mercer Island’s Town Center offered me central access to clientele in Seattle, the Eastside & beyond. By fronting my professional services with an art gallery off a ground level plaza, I warmly welcomed the community in. Doing so allowed me to connect socially & creatively, broadening my network both personally & professionally.”

Suzanne is highly skilled in several diverse areas. “I’m multilingual, in that I’m able to speak the many languages of Real Estate Development, Design, Art & Construction. In collaboration with my extended team of consultants and field experts, I have honed my ability to view each creative challenge from varying perspectives, reconciling potential conflicts along the way. The outcome is at times unexpected, but always rewarding.”

Finally, Suzanne recently co-founded a new venture called Salon NUR with Sharon Perez and Nikki Baidwan. In this collaboration, the women have found that their complementary skills and passions strengthen each other and their community. The goal for Salon NUR is to become a certified B corporation, offering GenX Women (and beyond) curated Salon events and experiences, promoting joy, self-care, in-depth discussions, and meaningful ways to connect, see and be seen, authentically.

Tina Kennedy
Barrels Wine Bar

Barrels Wine Bar is a popular wine bar and restaurant founded in 2015 by Tina and Joe Kennedy, who wanted to create a space where customers could enjoy a wide selection of high-quality wines and food in a comfortable and welcoming environment.

Barrels offers a vast selection of wines from around the world, including rare and hard-to-find bottles. The bar is unique in its focus on providing customers with a personalized wine experience, with a knowledgeable and friendly staff who are always happy to offer recommendations and guidance. The restaurant has a cozy and intimate atmosphere, with both indoor and outdoor seating options available. Barrels Wine Bar also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including wine tastings, live music, and special menu offerings.

Tina told us that she and her husband always wanted to open a wine bar/bottle shop since they were in the wine industry back in the late 80s and early 90s. They live on the island and have a perfect location for Barrels. Managing Barrels seems like a preferred fit for Tina. She’s highly organized and she enjoys all the interesting people that come into the bar. Also, she and Joe LOVE wine.

Ginny Pietila
IMPACT Fitness and Training

IMPACT Fitness and Training was founded in 2014 by Ginny Pietila, who wanted to create a space where people could receive high-quality and personalized fitness training. They offer a wide range of fitness services, including personal training, group fitness classes, and nutrition coaching. The studio focuses on providing customized and individualized training programs to each client.

In 1993, Ginny opened Club Emerald, her previous fitness studio, on Mercer Island. She fell in love with the Mercer Island community, and Ginny and her husband moved to the island in 1999. They have since raised their daughter here and continue to love and support tour community.

According to Ginny, her studio is unlike any of the franchised fitness studios that seem to be everywhere these days. “We have always prided ourselves on the individualized nature of the training we provide. There are no cookie cutter, pre-planned, corporate level fitness classes or sessions offered. We see YOU, the client, and your individual needs. Even in a small group class setting, modifications are welcomed and provided as needed.”

Photos from a fun time enjoying fellowship and sunshine at the Roanoke Inn.

Congratulations to these women and everyone that supports their contributions to the community.

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