Though much has changed in the 43 years since original owner Myrtle Allgire opened the doors of Casual House in 1963, a distinctly familial feel remains intact.
As customers peruse the racks and shelves of modern women’s attire, they discuss style suggestions with new owner Chris Johnson as much as they do personal matters.
Like many of her regular customers, Johnson grew up patronizing Casual House. In fact, Allgire bestowed upon Johnson her first store credit card at age 17, and, after many years as a loyal customer, she was hired eight years ago as an employee.
When previous Casual House owner Jill Schacht, Myrtle’s daughter, decided to retire after running the shop for more than 30 years, the decision to sell to Johnson was an easy one.
“I tell her she’s part of the family,” Schacht said of Johnson, to whom she turned over the keys in July.
Schacht had worked in the shop for several years as a teenager, moving away for a time before returning to take over the business from her mother, Myrtle, in the early 1980s.
Myrtle Allgire had purchased an existing dress shop on Oak Harbor’s Pioneer Way to open Casual House in the location now inhabited by UnsizeMe Hot Yoga Studio. The business later moved to the location that’s now home to CrossFit, and subsequently settled into its current space at 690 SE Pioneer Way #101.
During her years as employee and owner, Schacht said she has gotten to know generations of local families who regularly patronized the shop, as did Johnson.
When the store first opened, Schacht recalled, Pioneer Way was truly the core of the community. It was the only place to go for retail goods. Although that’s no longer the case, Schacht said downtown merchants remained cohesive and collaborative throughout the changing times and leadership.
Schacht said she enjoyed getting to know fellow shop owners throughout the decades.
“We’ve always tried to be involved in the community,” Schacht said, noting that Casual House has consistently had a hand in various committees and planning commissions invested in the strengthening of Oak Harbor and its historic downtown.
It’s involvement in the community that Johnson said she and her husband, Kevin, plan to continue.
Schacht said of her decision to retire that it was simply a matter of wanting more time to enjoy life. She’s looking forward to traveling more and said she’s ecstatic to soon welcome her first grandchild.
In celebration of acquiring the downtown Oak Harbor business, the Johnsonswill be hosting a “grand opening” Nov. 12.
“Thanks to the Oak Harbor community for all their support,” Schacht said. “I encourage everybody to come and congratulate Chris and Kevin.”