Tara Anderson and Sarah Shaefer.

Tara Anderson of The Barnacle Tea and Spirits shares her story

  • Wed Oct 28th, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

by Tara Anderson

It’s Oct. 22 and Michael and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. We did a vow renewal ceremony in Sara’s Garden at The Outlook Inn where we stood with our children and a few members of our pandemic hive to commit to each other as we are today.

Michael and I renew our vows when we feel inspired to do so. This was our fifth time. Years go by and we change. I am no longer the person I was when I met him 20 years ago. I’m grateful to have such a loyal and loving partner both in business and in life. The saying goes behind every great man is a great woman. At The Barnacle, the saying is true. Michael is out in front with guests mixing cocktails and bartending and I’m in the back office handling the business of the business. My job is all about culture and viability.

We bought The Barnacle at the start of 2017. We had celebrated our anniversary with a date night at The Barnacle in 2016 when our friend and prior owner Jared Lovejoy confided that he was looking to sell. This was my favorite spot to go out, I didn’t want our community to lose this precious little establishment. My husband convinced me it would be a fun place to own. It was a “hold hands and jump” moment.

On day one I dug into our finances to figure out where we could find efficiencies so we could pay higher wages. At the first staff meeting, everyone got a raise, and it felt good to start things off with this clear message that we care about the team. It is important for me to run The Barnacle as a values-driven business. In fact, I refuse to own a business or live my life any other way. That often means prioritizing values over profits. Working with local producers isn’t usually the most affordable way to source our goods, but it is a better way to support our island economy and make friends with our neighbors. The same goes for buying organic ingredients or running the charitable cocktails program.

Restaurants operate on such small margins that it is essential to constantly make improvements to remain viable and relevant. That is how we’ve survived so far, and since COVID-19 it has only become more challenging. I started a “rapid-continual-improvement” approach back in April. That basically means if we spot something that could be done better it gets addressed immediately. That could be anything from completely changing our point of sale system to accommodate online ordering to moving the staging area for plates, so they are easier to reach.

My gal Sarah Shaefer is behind the scenes with me helping make those swift changes. We’ve had to constantly adapt since the pandemic started. I rely on Sarah to help get new systems online, keep the accounts current, and update communications on the website. It’s a never-ending dance.

If our staff is taken care of, they can take care of The Barnacle, and The Barnacle takes care of our patrons, and our patrons provide us with connection and the ability to give back to the community through nonprofit donations and volunteerism. It’s a little part of our living local economy. The Barnacle is in alignment with my values. The Barnacle is about so much more than profits. It’s about providing a place of culture and enjoyment for our community. It’s been much harder to provide stability for our team in these uncertain times. The business was forced to close and then to scale back significantly for the safety of our community because of COVID-19. We lost 75 percent of our revenue compared to last year. I’m not independently wealthy, so we’ve had to get creative with our operations, and lean on support from fundraisers and small business programs. I know this percentage may sound shocking to some, but it is probably not so shocking to other small businesses that depend on summer revenues.

A bit about Tara

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I opened my first business at the age of 22 years old doing bookkeeping for small businesses. I’m an Army Veteran and most of my active duty time was spent in Japan. I have a degree in economics with a business minor. I currently have a full-time job as the San Juan County Senior Budget Analyst. I’ve been doing extra duty since March as the Emergency Operations Center Finance and Admin Section Chief for the COVID-19 response. I serve on the board of directors for The Funhouse. I have two school-age children who attend the public school (remotely these days). I love snowboarding and cultivating shellfish in my spare time.

The Barnacle is located at 249 Prune Alley and can be reached at 360-622-2675.