Westport Winery Garden Resort is a true family business, with Kim, Blain and their daughter Carrie owning and running the show.
And while they’ve been known on the Harbor for 15 years, their commercial reach has probably gotten a little bit longer after they received good news earlier in November.
Recently, the company won the Association of Washington Business’ (AWB) Excellence in Family Owned Business honor. The association has more than 700 members, including several businesses known worldwide.
Kim, the company’s vice president, said the family felt like “country mice” when they were out in Seattle to attend the AWB event. The Roberts family did not know they were there to accept an award.
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“We had been nominated for this award a year ago and were finalists,” Kim said. “So, this year when they asked us if we would like to be considered again, we were so happy to do so. But we kind of assumed because we’re a small business in a remote part of the state that we would go to this award ceremony and be finalists again. We didn’t know we had won until they announced our name, where they opened the envelope on the stage. I was absolutely shocked and then started crying.”
This isn’t the first time the Westport Winery Garden Resort — 1 S. Arbor Rd., in Aberdeen — has received an award — not by a long-shot. In 2017, the company placed second in a competition with other top wineries in the nation. But, this is the first time the company as a whole received this kind of honor.
“It’s probably the biggest honor we’ve ever had and we’ve been fortunate to be honored a lot of different ways,” Kim said. “It was kind of cool because there were huge businesses there, like Bristol Myers Squibb, Boeing, Amazon and Primera, and when they announced our award someone way back in the corner goes ‘Go Grays Harbor!’”
Kim was truly shocked because last year when the company was nominated for the award, people who won had pre-written remarks prepared for when they won. She assumed the winners were called ahead.
“I did not prepare a speech because no one told me we won, and so when we won I walked up there completely ill-prepared,” Kim said. “And so all I said was ‘first, we’re incredibly surprised to receive this award, but second, although Grays Harbor is not the most prosperous county in the state it is the most beautiful and we invite everyone to come visit.’”
Kim said the “real takeaway” of the award for the Grays Harbor area was to let people in Seattle and in Eastern Washington know Grays Harbor is a travel destination.
“We’re very welcoming,” Kim said. “It’s very beautiful, people have lots of things they can do here. And just expand our visibility as a community and as a region.”
The nomination came internally, from AWB. Kim said somehow their company’s name reached AWB. Maybe it had something to do with the Seaglass Grill, another element of Westport Winery Garden Resort, winning second place of top wineries in the nation in 2017.
“It’s crazy, it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s humbling, because we’re pretty ordinary people,” Kim said. “We work seven days a week and we have a really amazing team of people. And I think that’s part of the Washington business award, is this organization really represents employers and employees. And our employees are kind of the heart of what we do here. They’re all locals and people just working hard, showing up and doing the jobs.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the work was harder. Westport Winery Garden Resort showed flexibility that allowed it to survive.
“We were pivoting as we opened and closed and shifted and maneuvered around to be whatever we had to be that day,” Kim said. “If we could be a grocery store, we were a grocery store. If we could be outdoor dining, we had outdoor dining, we were making hand sanitizer. You just have to be really agile and I think that’s one of the things they looked at in their decision to honor us with this award.”
Blain called receiving the award “a huge honor.”
“We’re really proud of the fact that we bring people from out of the area into our community,” Blain said. “Most of our customers have driven two to two-and-a-half hours to get here and that is such an asset for our whole community. I just think that adds to the value.”
Kim loves having the International Mermaid Museum, which includes many ocean-related artifacts that are decades old. Each exhibit has information so people can learn more about it.
“It didn’t hurt to have this crazy mermaid museum that we came up with. It’s proven to really be a strong attraction,” Kim said. “We get over 100,000 visitors here at the winery.”
Perhaps those visitors come for the “True Blue” Malbec wine the Roberts sell. It’s smooth, it’s sweet and it goes down with ease.
Blain called the visitor number statistic “a little crazy, considering we’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
“For a long time, only people who wanted wine would come here,” Kim said. “As we added a restaurant and the distillery, and the garden and then the museum, it really became a family destination, which was the hope all along. It was to be a place where everybody could come hang out, have fun and make memories.”
While it is in a remote area on state Route 105, in between Aberdeen and Westport, the resort has an award-winning restaurant, Ocean’s Daughter Distillery, the museum and a walkable garden.
Kim talked about one of her favorite parts of helping run the resort, which comes with two places for visitors to rent on-site.
“My favorite thing is working with my husband and my daughter,” Kim said about Blain and Carrie. “We get to be together every day. We’re a really strong team, we’re really close friends with each other and we have different strengths, so we balance each other out.”
Kim also talked about Blain’s strengths that help the business succeed.
“He lets me have crazy ideas and he pays the bills, that’s a huge strength,” Kim said. “He’s also incredibly calm and stabilizing. And as a husband and a father, he’s just a really good provider.”
Blain added how the family has drawn on its seafaring history.
“Kim was one of the first lady charter fishing captains in Westport, and she did that for 12 years,” Blain said. “I owned and operated the largest scuba-diving business in the state of Hawaii for 25 years. So that’s when we opened the mermaid museum, we were able to do that using all of our knowledge and history in the marine world. The mermaid museum doesn’t just talk about mermaids, it talks about ocean ecology.”
Blain talked about a few of Kim’s strengths.
“She is the creative genius behind everything,” Blain said. “Kim’s very creative. She was an architect in her previous life. And so she looks out well into the future and she sees opportunities and things that are going to happen.”
One of the strengths Kim has had was seeing the resort’s potential when the Roberts bought the property in 2008.
“It was covered with Himalayan blackberries and Scotch broom. You couldn’t even walk onto the property,” Blain said. “But she could imagine what we have today and that’s how we got there, because nobody has the kind of money that you just do this overnight. We have, every year, reinvested the company’s assets back in to making it a better place for the public. And she had the creative vision to imagine what it was gonna be and to continue to work daily to get there.”
Part of Kim’s strengths was the artistic talent of hers used to draw all of the labels for the mermaid spirits. Blain said some people buy the spirit for the label.
Kim then explained Carrie’s strengths.
“She’s our business partner and she too has amazing strengths,” Kim said. “She is a very detail-oriented person. She manages those important details either in customer service or in finance that keep the business strong and solid.”
Blain added to his daughter’s strengths.
“There’s a lot of various levels of taxation and rules and regulations that we need to comply with,” Blain said. “She has a mastery of all of those. She can kind of guide the company through the various things that have to happen.”
Kim said the company will celebrate at their Christmas party.
“We are just going to try to spend a good time together,” Kim said. “We all work pretty hard and there’s not often when we all just get to hang out for a minute and talk to each other, know each other as people.”
As for the customers, such an award couldn’t happen without them.
“They brought us to the dance,” Kim said. “Our rule is you always dance with the one who brings you. Our community, our club members, our supporters, our fans, they are the key to the success, and our team.”
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at [email protected].