woman realizes 'banana' dream with a little help from friends
By Diane Urbani de la Paz, Peninsula Daily News, August 19, 2009
-- Kelly Yarnes has worked a lot of jobs, baked a lot of banana
bread and sold abundant fresh eggs -- but she never quite found
her niche in the working world.
She wanted to run her own business, but faced tougher-than-average challenges on that front.
Yarnes, 31, has suffered from seizure disorder since she was a baby. She was a special education student at Helen Haller Elementary School, where teacher Mary Borland befriended her and, years later, invited Yarnes out to her lavender field in Dungeness.
Yarnes -- in her signature long dresses, sun hats and long auburn hair -- volunteered at Olympic Lavender Farm, learned to make sachets and other herb-scented gifts, and became known as "the lavender lady."
On Wednesday morning, she opened her store, Banana Belt Kelly, after two years of dreaming, planning and remodeling of the barn in her family's home.
Yarnes' mother, Laurie, and her grandmother, Helen Gilchrist, beamed as the ribbon was cut, and then a small flock of supporters went shopping.
Banana Belt Kelly, named for Yarnes' favorite bread and for Sequim's nickname as the banana belt of the North Olympic Peninsula, is filled with home and garden decor, lavender goods and gifts and greeting cards handmade by the owner.
Marcia Farrell, a counselor with the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, recalled talking with Yarnes about this place long before it took shape.
"She tried different jobs, and she was a good worker," Farrell said.
But she wasn't happy. So "we sat down and talked about what her ideal life would be," and began building a support network.
Network of help
That network included Clallam County planner Willie Burer, who works with people with developmental disabilities; Karen Pierce, a self-employment consultant with Pierce, Jones and Associates in Port Angeles; Farrell and Yarnes' family.
Together they helped with the myriad aspects of making a retail shop happen: writing a business plan, bookkeeping, taxes, pricing, making the atmosphere appealing.
Yarnes' father, Todd Yarnes, pulled some wood off of their house, planed it and paneled the shop's interior; her mother did the stonework around the family's old wood stove.
The three also converted an attic into Yarnes' workshop, where she sews and works with lavender; they call it the North Pole, since it's upstairs above the store.
"The family has been amazing," Farrell said, though "they haven't done it for her. These are Kelly's ideas and Kelly's design."
As Yarnes stocked her store, added Farrell, "she just started sparking."
Laurie Yarnes, watching her daughter ring up a shopper's purchases, could only say, "It's awesome."
The store, with its baskets of sachets, pillows, wood roses, "southern summer" lotion and "Bee Sunny" lip balm, used to be where Todd Yarnes kept his tools and machinery. His wife and daughter wondered whether he'd ever get everything moved out.
Today, this space is her daughter's source of joy. Laurie sometimes finds her working early mornings in her pajamas. And since Yarnes' disorder sometimes requires her to rest, the shop is ideally located adjacent to the family's home.
Yarnes' motto, inspired by her time in Sequim's lavender fields, evokes the busy life of an optimist. It's "Bee sunny," written in color on a sign near the cash register.
"To have my own business," Yarnes said, "feels really good."