Business of the Year awarded

It was Oak Harbor’s version of the Academy Awards. Who, the audience wondered, would win the coveted title of Business of the Year?

When the envelope was opened, Becky King admits, “I screamed — we were very surprised.”

No, it wasn’t an Oscar, but it was proof that years of hard work had been recognized. And as owners of any small business can attest, they work a lot harder than an actor making a movie.

Whidbey Printers, located on Barlow Street near Dairy Queen, has a long history in Oak Harbor. For years it was located in the Whidbey News-Times building, part of the company owned by long-time co-publishers Wallie Funk and the late John Webber.

Funk and Webber sold their newspapers and part of Whidbey Printing to Sound Publishing in 1989, after which the business was moved to its present location. Webber continued to be a familiar figure around the shop until it was sold in 1995. “We bought it July 10, 1995 at noon,” Becky King said. From that second forward, they were on their own.

Both Becky and Eric had some experience in the business. Becky had started working for Whidbey Printers a year prior, while Eric started as a graphic artist in February 1995, after retiring from a 23-year Navy career. He was a crew member aboard P-1 submarine trackers.

Erick King said had it not been for that experience, they wouldn’t have thought of buying a printing business. But they wanted to remain in Oak Harbor and the rest is history.

The couple were surprised to be honored with the top award at the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Feb. 1. “We were honored just to be listed” among the nominees, Becky King said. “Just look at the caliber of the people.”

The winning selection was made by a vote of the chamber, which has 396 members, from among the dozen businesses of the month in 2001.

Sue Sebens, chamber president, said the Kings were honored because businesses appreciate their approach. “Customer service and the quality of their work is key,” she said.

Whidbey Printing offers letterheads, business cards, pamphlets, post cards, coupon books and other staples of the printing trade. The company employs two production workers and one outside sales person.

The Kings have steadily improved their business, and recently upgraded their equipment to the point where Becky King can describe it as “state of the art, top of the line.”

The Kings know another secret about running a successful small business. “Each year we get better,” she said. And that’s what won them Oak Harbor’s version of the Oscar.

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