Charlotte Gray recently opened Whimsies in downtown Oak Harbor as a gift store and place for local artists to sell their products. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

New Oak Harbor store filled with touchable treasures

An eclectic collection of local art for hands-on shopping

Charlotte Gray had an ulterior motive for recently opening Whimsies Treasures.

In the age of Amazon, she wanted to return “going shopping” into a community outing instead of the isolated, faceless, online transaction.

So she opened the small gift shop in downtown Oak Harbor, giving herself and other local artists a place to sell their small creative wares.

“I think people want to handle things and touch things,” says Gray, who specializes in covering household items and musical instruments into mosaic collages.

“I really love to watch people say, ‘Martha, look at this guitar. Isn’t that fun?’

“People are going back to shops, I really believe that,” says Gray, who retired recently from a career in human services education and family support.

While her store in the back of Oak Harbor Harborview Mall may be small, some 200-square feet, it’s packed with homemade products ranging from small dolls to driftwood boats, greeting cards to glass beads, handwoven hook rugs to handbags, totes to teas and tea cups.

“Oh, I still have a lot of places to put things,” she says, peering in and around displays she rearranges constantly.

Her biggest seller? Raspberry &Chocolate Jam from Chocolate Flower Farm in Langley. “People come in just for that,” she says.

Currently, a dozen artists are represented in her shop. She doesn’t require their work be juried like art galleries do, so the work ranges from finely-honed jewelry and glass work to more free-spirited paintings of pets and animals.

“Women have been making beautiful things forever and you don’t call it art,” she said. “But they are beautiful and they still take a lot of skill. I make things and look for things that are a bit different, a little odd.”

Making art out of recycled objects, known as up-cycling or re-purposing, is particularly popular, Gray said. One of the most colorful examples is her own. She collects empty metal boxes of Altoid breath mints, covers them in mosaic glass, beads and other bits and pieces and sells them as tiny treasure boxes for $12.

The shop gets 35 percent of sales and the artists 65 percent. She owns the art shop with her husband, Darrell, who also learned the art of mosaic. Prices range from $1 (for her own colorful magnets) to $250 for pieces of antique furniture.

The couple started out online at Etsy, selling their mosaic pieces under the name West Beach Mosaics.

In their garage-turned-studio, Charlotte and Darrell Gray top all kinds of pieces with colorful kaleidoscopes of mosaic glass cullet. The pieces she cuts from large sheets of art glass are sized into various shapes, arranged and fastened using adhesive and grout.

Stiletto high heels, wooden boxes, antique tables and small guitars become topped with a gleaming layer of glass.

Light switch plates are her biggest mosaic sellers, so she assumed the popularity would be similar at her store. But, it turns out, that’s the kind of item that sells better online, Gray said.

“I finally figured people walking around the store would be saying, ‘You know, I can’t remember what kind of light switch I have in what room.’ Whereas, when they’re home, they can walk around and see their walls and figure out what style to order.”

A display of teas and teas cups is courtesy of her daughter, who represents a company and provided a tea tasting at Whimsies’ grand opening in early March.

While talking to a customer, a teenager pops in his head, asking, “Do you know where Gizmo’s is?”

Gizmo’s is the skateboard shop that Gray replaced with Whimsies. Not only is her merchandise different, so is the decor.

“The walls had been painted black,” she said. “The painter said it took four coats of white to cover.”

With a gallery and other stores on SE Pioneer Way selling unusual and unique art, Gray hopes Whimsies Treasures is part of a growing trend, one that brings visitors to explore the old and new of Oak Harbor.

“I don’t think Old Town Oak Harbor is a destination but I think it will become one,” she said. “It would be really exciting if it does.”

n Whimsies Treasures, 830 SE Pioneer Way, Suite 105, Oak Harbor. 360-682-2468. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Drift wood boats with canvas sails painted by artist Bobbi Bradley are among the items for sale at Whimsies Treasures. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Art created by Whimsies shop owner Charlotte Gray includes bottles made into wall vases and mosaic mirror creations. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

More in Business

Noe Jose Cafe: Where friends and family eat

Mom’s the secret sauce at brothers’ Oak Harbor restaurant

Posh Puppies takes home top dog grooming salon for Best of Whidbey

Oak Harbor’s grooming salon Posh Puppies has grown since it first opened… Continue reading

Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News Group
                                Island County Sheriff Mark Brown stands in front of the law and justice center.
Sheriff Brown will walk off into sunset

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown’s career in law enforcement will come to… Continue reading

South Whidbey’s Island Herb focuses on community, employees

In a blooming market of recreational cannabis retailers, Island Herb continues to… Continue reading

Whidbey Island Bagel Company voted the best

When John Auburn opened a second Whidbey Island Bagel Factory in Oak… Continue reading

Heaping slices of awesome

Whidbey Pies Cafe named as best pie in Washington

Nonprofit opens doors at new, larger location

Garage of Blessings now has more space than it ever has before,… Continue reading

Vester
Oak Harbor High School grad starts career at bank

Peoples Bank announced the appointment of JAHLEEL VESTER as real estate loan… Continue reading

County clarifies winery, brewery, distillery code

After decades without clear definitions in its code, Island County has adopted… Continue reading

Town makes changes to 2 percent funds process

The Town of Coupeville voted Tuesday to make a few minor changes… Continue reading

SaviBank breaks ground for branch on Midway

SaviBank has broken ground for a new branch on Midway Boulevard in… Continue reading

Island Transit honors maintenance team

Island Transit is recognizing its maintenance team with a Wall of Fame… Continue reading