Although today is the official start of Spring, on Orcas Island we’ve been basking in the new season for a few weeks now. Locals are downright giddy with the longer sunny days, birdsongs fill the air and trees are bursting with buds and new life. I’m reminded how no matter what the season, the spirit of Orcas feels like it’s in a state of Eternal Spring — birthing new ideas and ventures, growing a vibrant and healthy community, evolving and inspiring, especially in the face of tragedy or setbacks. Here are a few recent examples that come to mind.
Orcas Island Food Co-op
This is one of the most exciting changes on Orcas, and it’s coming to fruition in a few weeks. Sprouting up at the location of the former Homegrown Market which closed its doors in 2013, the Orcas Island Food Co-op is a member-owned entity focused on providing local and organically grown food to islanders. It will also foster education about local agriculture and provide a strong link between farmers and the community. Already 500 members strong, the Co-op has assembled a great team at the helm, and with the help of numerous volunteers, doors will be opening soon. Kudos to all those making this a reality!
Random Howse was conceived last fall by Clyde and April Duke after they purchased an underutilized building in Eastsound. The building, complete with a stage and interior balcony, had been home to a series of restaurant ventures. Now, thanks to the Dukes, Random Howse is filling the stage with local talent — from musicians to comedy acts — and serving it up with top-notch food. It’s a fun casual gathering spot that’s enhanced life on Orcas.
Score! Nifty Thrifty
In early 2013, we lost the island’s popular re-use center — the Exchange — in an accidental fire. Plans are underway to rebuild it, but in the meantime two islanders sprung into action and opened Score! Nifty Thrifty in June. Filling a much needed void, owners Susan Malins and Tina Roye say that once they start turning a profit, they’ll donate 25 percent of proceeds towards local nonprofits. Their mission is “community sharing” and they plan to keep Score! available to islanders until the Exhange reopens. Thank you Susan and Tina for your community spirit and filling this need!
The Artworks and Café Olga
While we don’t want to be known as the island of fires, we had more than one last year. In July a suspicious fire ravaged the historic building in Olga which houses the Artworks (one of the oldest artist cooperatives in the U.S.), James Hardman Gallery and Café Olga. This happened at the height of tourist season, devastating the artists, café workers and owners. In nature, fire breeds new life, and it seems to have the same effect on the Orcas community. Less than a month after the fire and with a huge volunteer effort, the Artworks and James Hardman Gallery re-opened in a temporary location in Eastsound. Later in the fall, Café Olga reopened in a temporary Eastsound location. Public donations and support have poured in to help the Olga Strawberry Council renovate and reopen the historic building in Olga. It’s just not possible to dampen the Orcas spirit.
Like spring bulbs that pop up to bring color to a small area, pop-up businesses and ventures bring an unused building to life for a short time. There were three pop-ups in Eastound last year, and I visited all of them. Locals Andrew and Emily Youngren opened Pop-up Print Shop for the summer summer – a very cool T-shirt store with unique local designs and ability to print while you wait. The Garret was a pop-up gallery for one weekend during Art Walk, with poetry readings, live poetry compositions and art by Susan Slapin. Orcas Island Originals was a pop up gift shop for the holidays in the Shearwater Kayaks shop, during the non-kayak season. I think the pop-up is a neat synergistic concept and here to stay.
Finally, fittingly, March 20th is now also designated as the International Day of Happiness. I think this recent video captures the spirit of eternal spring on Orcas Island – playful and vibrant at all ages. Enjoy!
Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
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