Businesses come and go in Coupeville

By the end of February, the Stray Dog Co. and Penn Cove Antique Mall will close.

These are just two of the several businesses that have closed on historic Front Street in downtown Coupeville in the past few months.

In addition to the Stray Dog, Brenda’s Gift Gallery closed last December and Woodwork from a Simpler Time closed last week.

Nautical and Nice and Uncommon European Market, locate behind the Windjammer Gallery, closed last October and New Beginnings moved last November from its location on Coveland to an empty store on North Main Street.

Owners cited a variety of reasons for shutting down.

“My sales have been down for the past two years,” said Carrie McGraw, owner of The Stray Dog and Penn Cove Antique Mall. She has operated her business since 2002. There were several factors contributing to slower business, she said.

Last year’s construction to replace North Main Street contributed to slower business during the summer. Construction workers replaced North Main Street from Third Street to Front Street, resulting in detours and bumpy roads.

But McGraw said it wasn’t just the road project. Other retail businesses have struggled in recent years.

“It’s not just here, it’s all over,” McGraw said. “People are being more careful with how they spend their money.”

She doesn’t know what she will do after her store closes but plans to continue living in the area.

The Penn Cove Antique Mall was home to eight dealers. Those dealers are either retiring, looking for another location or selling at antique shows, McGraw said.

Brenda Marti, owner of Brenda’s Gift Gallery, said she closed her business Christmas Eve. She operates a second location, Brenda’s Front Porch, in downtown Oak Harbor.

“It just didn’t survive,” Marti said of her Coupeville store. “I’m sure there were a lot of factors.”

Located on Front Street overlooking North Main Street, the Gallery was also affected by the construction taking place outside the front door. However, Marti said business didn’t pick up last fall after construction ended.

She also said it was a lot of work to keep two stores open and she found herself stretched too thin. By closing the Coupeville store she can concentrate on her Oak Harbor location and have time for family.

Woodwork from a Simpler Time closed this month. Its owners, Tom and Gerri Strang, wanted more time for travel and family. Tom still plans to produce custom woodwork, he said, he just doesn’t want to operate a retail store.

Even though several stores closed, town boosters are confident the buildings will fill by summer and the start of the busy tourist season.

“There’s a lot of apprehension and that is a reasonable reaction,” said Carol Moliter, president of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, adding that she’s confident the store fronts will fill in two months.

Some of the empty spots are already starting to fill.

Workers are busy renovating the Brenda’s Gift Gallery location. That will be home to Aqua, which should open early next month. The business features seaside and nature inspired gifts.

Aqua used to be called Seaside Garden Shed located downstairs from the Gift Gallery.

Cindy Olson, who co-owns the business with her husband Dana, wanted to move to take advantage of a larger and more visible location.

“I’m really excited to have more room for gift wear,” Olson said.

One thing that won’t accompany Olson when she moves upstairs is her coffee products. She decided to discontinue coffee because she no longer has a deck for seating.

Olson’s old spot will return to its original use as an apartment.

Molitor said she has heard rumors that someone might occupy the Stay Dog location.

As for the empty space behind the Windjammer, building owner Chuck Poust said Atelier Michele Studio and Gallery, which was located upstairs, will move into part of the empty spot. The upstairs will become an office.

While the future of the Stray Dog space is uncertain, the coffee shop located downstairs isn’t.

Great Times Espresso and Pizza has new owners. Shelby Eckroth and Kim Noel recently purchased the shop and renamed it Coupeville Coffeehouse. Eckroth said. They are open but are planning a grand opening event in about a month. By then, other people with dreams of their own business will no doubt announce their plans for Coupeville.

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