Go (for) nuts in Kingston

By: Andrea Brown, Herald Writer - Sep 21, 2013
Source: Herald Writer
Hop a ferry and go nuts.

About five miles west of Kingston is the ultimate roadside attraction for your crunchy-zesty-salty fix.

It's a nut tasting room. For real.

At CB's Nuts, you can sample peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts and butters. Not only that, you can buy a bag, bottle or tin to take home.

First, though, you have to find the place.

It's tucked inside a former fire station and hidden from the highway by foliage. By the time you see the little "Nut Tasting" road sign and go "What the what?" it's too late to pull in.

Still, it draws 40 to 50 customers a day.

"It's busy, considering it's a peanut tasting room," co-owner Tami Bowen said.

The name CB's stands for her nutty half, her husband and founder Clark Bowen, who was unhappy with the peanuts sold at his beloved Mariners games.

So he made his own to eat and to sell.

"When I met him he was running a peanut stand outside Safeco Field," she said.

She believed in him enough to marry him. It paid off. He turned his passion for peanuts into a nutty empire.

So far this year, CB's sales are about 65,000 pounds of pumpkin seeds, 100,000 pounds of in-shell peanuts and 200,000 pounds of peanut butter. The nuts are sold at many stores around Puget Sound and beyond. The 12-ounce bags are recognizable by a giant pop-art peanut graphic on the front of tan packaging.

Before devoting his life to goobers, Clark Bowen lived in a sailboat at the Port of Everett and ran a Snohomish County outdoor advertising sales and service business. Helium balloons, banners, giant gorillas, that kind of stuff.

"I loved peanuts as a kid. It burns inside of you. I couldn't let it go," he said.

The trigger was when he went to a ballgame in Baltimore about a dozen years ago.

"There was a gentleman who sold fresh peanuts outside. I realized I needed to try to make that happen in Washington. I got on a quest," he said.

"I did apprenticing in California in primarily Hispanic flea markets where peanuts are really a big deal, that's where I learned how. I started with a table-top roaster and soon had a larger one built. One thing led to another. It snowballed. The pumpkin seeds have gone national."

Small batches of peanuts are roasted daily in the bay that once housed Kingston fire trucks. The rest of the nut production was moved a year ago to a nearby manufacturing facility to meet demand.

The tasting store also sells deli sandwiches, ice cream and local craft beer. There's a dugout bench, red stools and a long table stocked with board games.

The couple no longer sells peanuts outside the ballfield.

"We had two babies. The Mariners stopped winning. We stopped doing that," Tami Bowen said.

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