News

Sweet success

Banana Belt Kelly, a tiny shop at the corner of Riverside Drive and Secor Road in Sequim, is a dream come true for Kelly Yarnes. After a series of successful but unsatisfying jobs, Yarnes, 31, found her niche when she opened her own retail business in a remodeled barn attached to the home she shares with her parents.

Self-employment is especially sweet for Yarnes, whose developmental delays and uncontrolled seizure disorder are daily realities unfamiliar to most business owners.

Yarnes carries lotions and soaps under her own Banana Belt Kelly label, as well as gift items, home décor and antiques. She buys her merchandise from a variety of places and likes to purchase locally when she can. Her most popular item has been a rose soap with tiny rosebuds in it.

"I'm sold out of it," Yarnes said.

As a volunteer at the Open Aire Market, Yarnes became a familiar face in Sequim. Her image, wearing an old-fashioned dress and broad-brimmed hat in a field of lavender, appears on postcards, magnets, watercolors and even a throw blanket featuring Olympic Peninsula themes.

Yarnes spent about two years planning with Marcia Farrell, a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Farrell had helped Yarnes in job situations but while sharing her dreams for a shop, Farrell said, Yarnes came alive and the "real Kelly" came out.

The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation helped with business planning and funding, and the Department of Social and Health Services provides support as well.

Farrell said it is a huge challenge for someone with developmental delays to be self-employed.

Yarnes' family is behind her all the way. Because her epilepsy is not controlled, working out of the home is a godsend, according to Laurie Yarnes, her mother. Kelly's grandfather sends her small antique items from the Midwest for her shop.

Anna and Katie Potter moved to the Yarnes' neighborhood with their family this July, and Kelly befriended them right away.

"We just help her out in her shop," said Katie Potter, 8, who is entering third grade at Greywolf Elementary. "We bake sometimes."

The trio came up with the idea of a fundraising bake sale to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation to find a cure. Yarnes has a donation jar on the shop counter.

"Kelly will keep donating part of her sales," Laurie Yarnes said. "She is serious about this goal."

Although the Potter girls had not known someone with a seizure disorder before, they have enjoyed spending time with Kelly. When they first met, Anna Potter, 10, said, "She told us she would show us how to get the lavender and make up bundles."

Brian Potter, Anna and Katie's dad, said Anna wanted to have a stall at the Lavender Festival but found it out of her price range. Kelly's friendship and encouragement has allowed Anna's lavender dreams to live on.

Self-employment has made Kelly a role model for others who struggle to overcome disabilities. On Sept. 3, Kelly and Laurie Yarnes spoke before the Clallam County Development Disabilities Advisory Committee, sharing with them and the public her success story.

"If she can be an inspiration to other people with disabilities," said Laurie Yarnes, "that would be amazing."

Banana Belt Kelly is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Reach Sandra Frykholm at sfrykholm@sequimgazette.com.

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