Whidbey businesses get creative to survive

Whidbey Island Woodworks owner Mark Lucero talks to Coupeville resident Mark Skullerud during the Island County Biz Expo Saturday at the Coupeville Middle and High School gymnasium.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Whidbey Island Woodworks owner Mark Lucero talks to Coupeville resident Mark Skullerud during the Island County Biz Expo Saturday at the Coupeville Middle and High School gymnasium.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Despite economists’ reports to the contrary, Whidbey Island business owners don’t think the recession is over.

Instead, owners have shown flexibility, a willingness to take any work offered and promoted affordable deals to spark more sales in order to survive the Great Recession.

Their latest attempt to improve business occurred over the weekend when approximately 90 Whidbey businesses participated in the Island County Business Expo held at the Coupeville High School gymnasium.

The expo was filled with businesses who had to tweak their operations in order to stay afloat in recent years.

Cascade Custom Homes owner Jon Roberts said his company recently built two new homes, but that was unusual. The bulk of the work he completes these days are remodels of existing homes.

“That’s the nature of the current economic cycle,” Roberts said. Instead of building new homes, many people he’s encountering are interested in buying an inexpensive home and fixing it up or looking to stay in their current home and remodeling it.

As for recent news reports saying the lengthy recession is finally over, he laughed at the news.

“That’s one of the biggest jokes I’ve heard in the past two weeks,” Roberts said.

Oak Harbor Whidbey Island Woodworks owner Mark Lucero said business is finally starting to improve. He’s helping remodel homes and he’s booked for the next three months.

“It’s been lean for a couple of years,” Lucero, who operates a two-person business, said Saturday during the expo.

He said he’s remained in business because there isn’t a job too small for him to take. He’s even installed shelves in a client’s pantry.

“If it’s made of wood, I will do it,” Lucero said.

The Greenhouse Florist and Nursery owner Audrey Butler is still looking for signs that the recession is easing.

“I don’t think the recession is over,” Butler said.

Over the past several years, in an effort to attract new business, she has expanded the services and products offered by her business on NE Seventh Avenue in Oak Harbor. She’s pinning her hopes on an improve housing market.

“Hopefully more people will buy and sell property and it will trickle down to us,” Butler said.

Oak Bowl owner Kathy Cockerell said she rented a booth at the expo to let people know about the venerable business.

Despite being open for more than 50 years, she said she still encounters people who don’t realize that a bowling alley is operating in Oak Harbor. To keep balls rolling during the recession, Cockerell said Oak Bowl offers a number of specials throughout the week to attract visitors. She noted that bowling remains one of the more affordable forms of entertainment around.

Sharon Hart, executive director for the Island County Economic Development Council, which sponsors the event, said expo participation was good and it looked like approximately 500 people showed up throughout Saturday morning.

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