Native Islander and Successful Entrepreneur Heather Jaynes has Transformed the Willowtree and has Added a New Store, Hidden Gem

Heather Jaynes is your classic entrepreneur. She started cleaning houses on Bainbridge Island when she was 19 years old to pay her way through college. That effort morphed into a commercial cleaning services firm that later spawned a line of natural cleaning products.

Willow TreeWhile juggling those ventures, she started Bainbridge Vacation Rentals, and at one-time managed 50 properties on the island before selling the business a decade or so go.

“I’m no stranger to hard work,” says the 56-year-old Jaynes, behind a sweet voice that could easily belie her business acumen and toughness. “My biggest problem is saying yes to everything. I get so excited about new ideas. I guess it’s the entrepreneur in me.”

lt’s that same entrepreneurial spirit that led Jaynes to purchase Willowtree Market, at 169 Winslow East, some nine years ago from original owner, Willow Follett. The nearly 40-year-old business has experienced several iterations over the years, once being known as the Natural Gourmet and located on Madrone Way, and earlier holed up in the basement of the old Town & Country Market.

When Jaynes walked away from her vacation rental business around 2015, she was “looking for something else to do,” she recalls. “The opportunity arose to really do something different (in buying Willow’s). I was curious about it. It made a lot of sense.”

In case you’ve never ventured into Willowtree, located in a small shopping center just behind Eagle Harbor Books, you’re missing out on a unique store with more than 8,000 items catering to personal health care products, from vitamins and other supplements to body care and beauty products, to a wide assortment of natural teas and organic wines, to gifts, such as candles, books and handbags, and kombucha on tap. There’s even a yoga studio on the second floor of the 2,200-square-foot space.

“We’ve seen steady growth and steady enthusiasm from customers coming here over and over again,” Jaynes says. “We’re very grateful for what we have to offer.”

WillowtreeJaynes says she “hit the ground running” when she first opened the store nearly a decade ago with a limited staff, and back then “didn’t have the resources to close the business down and reopen” like lots of new owners do in the retail trade. …“We were just guided by the community for the products and direction of the store. … We put up new walls during store hours and our customers (watched it happen),” she remembers. “They felt like they had a part of the ownership” of the place. “I want to maintain that sense of community engagement.”

As Downtown Winslow’s retail scene has changed over the past several years – especially since the Pandemic – with more tourists rubbing shoulders with locals, Willowtree has become “a destination store,” Jaynes notes, attracting repeat customers from as far away as California, or as nearby as Port Angeles.

“We let our customers (help) curate our new products and stay abreast of what the community wants,” she says. “We have things you can’t buy on Amazon. … We have a unique vibe, and we hear that over and over again.”

While Willowtree caters mostly to everyday wellness care, Jaynes’ other store – Hidden Gem – located in the Orchard shopping center, at 380 Winslow Way E., is aimed at full-filling the inner well-being of potential patrons. It sells crystals, jewelry, gifts, Taro Cards, Oracle Decks and other items related to meditation and spiritual growth.

As a small child, Jaynes has fond memories searching for garnets and rubies with her mother and Grandmother in North Carolina. She recalls always having  a fascination for rocks and crystals and even “dreamed of having a magical crystal shop” someday. That dream came true after she purchased Willowtree Market in 2015, and later decided to bring in a small selection of crystals.

As her customer’s enthusiasm for crystals grew, Jaynes decided to fill to the entire upstairs of the store with more crystals, jewelry and gifts. In the fall of 2019, The Crystal Loft opened. “We loved the Crystal Loft. It was cozy and the sun would come in and play with the crystals,” Jaynes recalls. During the summer of 2020, she moved the Crystal Loft downstairs in Willowtree and called it Wild Heather.

“Through all of its iterations, we got to know our regular locals very well,” Jaynes recalls. “In April of 2021, we moved to the Winslow Mall and expanded to five times the space we had. Here we were able to meet even more of our locals and tourists, making sweet connections. And after two years we found the space we have always wanted, at the Orchard, down the street.  “We are excited to be going into our third year of Hidden Gem in a beautifully light filled space.” We hope you will come checkout our new space and we thank you for being a part of our community through all of the change.

Customers check out jewelry at Hidden Gem

If those weren’t enough balls to juggle, along with overseeing 13 employees, Jaynes – once again putting on her entrepreneurial hat — leased the old 700-square-foot shoe repair shop on Winslow Way late last year and installed a wellness studio that features a nutritionist, a physical therapist, a massage therapist, and possibly other practitioners to follow.

“We’d love to have the opportunity for every person (on the island) to come in and see what we have,” says Jaynes, of her two shops. “I guarantee there is something for everyone.”

Learn more about Willowtree by visiting: https://www.willowtreebainbridge.com/. Willowtree Market, 169 Winslow Way East, 206-842-2759

*Images provided by Willowtree Market. Portions of this story originally appeared in the Spring Issue of Tideland Magazine: https://www.tidelandmag.com 

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