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Community Spotlight: Businesswoman sounds off

Sunny Housen - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Sunny Housen
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

For anyone whose sound system has ever needed that little extra push over the cliff, Sunny Housen is a familiar name. The Kitsap County native has co-owned Gordon Sound with her husband, Gus, for more than 10 years now and is a veritable encyclopedia of all things audible.

But while many know her from the quaint, hidden sound shop on Silverdale Way, others may know her as the coordinator for Soroptimist International of Greater North Kitsap’s now annual Bras for a Cause event or as a fixture at Whaling Days or the Kitsap County Fair.

Housen recently dished on her many projects and responsibilities and let husband Gus chip in the occasional comment, for what could be the CK Reporter’s first tag-team Community Spotlight.

Question: How did you come up with Bras for a Cause?

Sunny: I get a Soroptimist newsletter every month that goes out to all the clubs in the U.S. and in it was this tiny little blurb about a club in Glendale, Ariz. that put on a Bras for a Cause event. It was really cool and they had raised 30 grand and they had been doing it for a couple years, so I contacted them and got some more information ... and that was it.

Q: Is “Northwest Superstar” ever going to make a return to Whaling Days?

S: It’s undecided.

Gus: It’s undecided and the reason is, somebody left a bad taste in my mouth about it one year.

S: Not only that, it is a huge time commitment on my part and it was an overwhelming task to put that portion on. With our business growing so much and with a kid now, but really with the business growing so much, I just didn’t have the time anymore to put into it. It may come back one day — I still own the Web site, www.northwestsuperstar.com — we just have to wait and see. It won’t be back this year.

Q: Is the sound business pretty competitive in Silverdale and Kitsap County?

S: Yeah, there are other companies out there and in this area that do this for a living, do sound production for a living. There is not, though, an organization out there that offers as many different aspects to it as we offer. There’s guys out there that do sound and lighting, but we do rentals and sales — a lot of them don’t do that — as well as the DJ and entertainment. As a huge umbrella of Gordon Sound, there’s really no one on this side that offers as much as we do.

Q: How did Gordon Sound come to be? Was it always known as Gordon Sound?

S: It was Gordon TV and Radio Service.

G: “Gordon Sound Service” is what it was known as. Allan Gordon was the guy who started it. He had done radio and television repair for a long time. In 1975 he started providing sound systems for the destruction derby and then in 1976 for the Kitsap County Fair. Along the way he just started accumulating more and more equipment. I started working for him when I was 17, took it over when I was 20.

S: Which was in 1992. Gus just took out the TV repair and decided to go with it, “Gordon Sound.” Allan had a wonderful reputation in the area and it seemed to be working and so why change it?

Q: How do you decide what entertainment acts to book at Whaling Days?

S: A lot of things go into it. People submit their promo. We listen to it, we take a look at it, look at their set list and kind of evaluate from there. We try to keep it as local as possible, have local entertainment up there for the most part. We try to bring in, the last few years, a big national act. We look within the community (to see) who’s playing a lot, we look at “who do people like to go see?” “what are they enjoying?” and go from there. We do want a draw at Whaling Days; that’s the goal.

Q: Have you ever been able or tried to bring in big national acts that originated locally like MxPx or Death Cab for Cutie?

S: One year we did have Green 13 on and a couple of guys from MxPx jumped on stage, but no, we haven’t just because the budget doesn’t really allow for that. We have an entertainment budget and what we try and do is spread it around to all the local entertainers. We try to switch it up every year, try to have different people back every year with a couple of exceptions.

G: The other thing is, with Whaling Days, with having MxPx or Death Cab for Cutie, they’re great bands, but (they’re) not necessarily gonna fit in with the family genre of it, either.

Q: What’s the biggest event Gordon Sound provides sound for?

S: Probably right now, the Kitsap County Fair is the biggest event. We don’t do the rodeo, but (we do) pretty much every other aspect of sound at Kitsap County Fair.

Q: Do you have any serious hearing damage from working around speakers and sound equipment so often?

S: We’re actually really careful about that. That’s something we absolutely address. Everyone wears earplugs at bigger gigs. They all wear earplugs, all of our staff. We’re pretty diligent about children because Gus is very concerned sometimes about putting them right next to a speaker or something. We try to watch quite a bit to see who’s standing where and make sure it’s real safe.

Q: What’s your favorite sound?

S: My daughter laughing.

Q: What’s your first memory of Silverdale?

S: Going to the mall. I think I was 10, 12 maybe when it opened. That was a big deal, having a mall. I grew up in Bremerton so I didn’t go to Silverdale a lot. There wasn’t much out here when I was little. But I definitely remember when that mall opened. It was a pretty big deal. I didn’t have to shop at J.C. Penney in downtown Bremerton anymore.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Silverdale?

S: The huge commercial growth of the area. It’s just expanding so much. Surprisingly a lot of small businesses (have cropped up) in Silverdale. It’s great to see that there are still small businesses in Silverdale.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge of operating a small business in an area where so many big businesses are?

S: It’s just time and staying motivated. It’s an incredible time commitment. As far as everything else we really don’t have any problems, no real challenges within the community. There’s not a lot of us out there, over here, and it’s really just about marketing, getting the word out, being able to provide all kinds of things that people are needing and finding new niches everyday.

G: This (sound production) isn’t something somebody needs, like a burger. This is something that somebody may only need once or twice in their lifetime, so it’s just trying to make that work and to find the people that need it regularly.

Q: What’s your favorite part of Silverdale?

S: Silverdale Waterfront Park.

Q: If you could change one thing about Silverdale what would it be?

S: The traffic. Even in the last year, it’s been crazy. Lunchtime, it takes me 20 minutes to get from here to the post office. The other thing is, I would like to see more local restaurants open.

Q: Are you for or against Silverdale Incorporation?

S: I’m undecided. I’m leaning toward yes, but my major concern would be — as a small business — taxation and services.

Q: Who would play you in a movie and why?

G: Jessica Simpson ’cause you’re so beautiful, honey.

S: (Laughs) She’s dumb. Drew Barrymore.

Q: What’s your favorite type of music?

S: It’s hard, but we like funk music, old school R&B. That’s probably our favorite. It’s interesting; we listen to music all day, all weekend, all summer and so we don’t listen to much music for pleasure. It’s what we do for a living, so the radio is not on much in my house. You kind of need a break sometimes.

Q: If you could have any magical power, what would it be and why?

G: I know what it would be. You would want to have the ability to move in and out of time, so you’d have more time to do things.

S: Yeah, definitely.

G: That would be it: adding two hours to (her) day and feeling like you want to be there for those two hours. The motivation special power.

Q: What one person made the biggest impression on your life?

S: I would say Gus and his family. Gus is from a family of entrepeneurs. Gus’s parents own Silverdale Antiques and he grew up in a family business. When I came here, I had no experience with that and that was a huge learning experience because it’s so different. Personally, I mean, Gus is a great motivator for me. It’s great to be able to work with my husband, who can give me some real feedback and be able to bring my daughter to work and my dog. I think we are a great team because I have skills that are different from his and he knows things that I don’t know, so he is a huge factor.

Q: Is it tough to separate work from family in a family-owned business?

S: There is no separation. It’s almost impossible. We’re here, it’s business and personal all day, we’re home, it’s the same way. It’s hard to just turn it off. Because of what we do for a living, we work all day, our staff works at night, so we’re getting phone calls at two in the morning, midnight.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?

S: I love to read. I don’t have much time for it, but I love reading mystery novels.

Q: What’s your favorite book?

S: They’re too cheesy to say. ... James Patterson (novels).

Q: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

S: Bagging groceries at Thrift Way on Kitsap Way. It’s now QVC. At that job, I had to clean the meat department. It was bad.

Q: What’s one thing you want to try in your life that you haven’t done already?

S: I just really want to travel, and that’s not trying any specific thing, but I really want to travel Europe and Asia.

Q: If you could choose between having an airline ticket that could take you anywhere in the world, anytime, and never expired, or having a one-time, round-trip ticket to the moon, which would you choose?

S: Anywhere in the world, anytime I want.

Q: Family, kids?

S: I have a 1-year-old named Lucy. (And Gus.)

Q: Do you have any desire to bring her into the business once she’s old enough?

S: Absolutely not.

G: She’s gonna be a doctor or lawyer or something.

S: She’ll be working, we’ll put her to work, but she’s going to school to be something else. This is a lot of hard work here. If you’re not into it, it’s even harder.

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