Walk into The Loft and see the future of Oak Harbor.
At least that’s the hope of Annabelle Rockwood, the woman behind the transformation of the old Feed & Seed Store, a sprawling three-story building at the corner of Fidalgo and Dock streets just up from Pioneer Way.
“I want this to be a thriving place for people to spend an hour with lots of different shops and experiences,” said Rockwood who has two of eight rooms leased, with a third tenant on the line. “I’m hopeful that things are changing in Oak Harbor. The streets kind of roll up here around 5 p.m.”
A popular bagel shop located at Langley’s Ken’s Korner Shopping Plaza took Rockwood up on her suggestion to expand into Oak Harbor. Whidbey Island’s Bagel Factory could be in The Loft by spring, Rockwood said.
When the news of bagels billowed across the street to Lotus Tea Bar and Studio, customers cheered. One proclaimed, “No more driving all the way almost to Clinton for decent bagels!”
Lotus Tea owner Maria McGee is equally as excited. She views any new eateries opening nearby not as competition but affirmation of Oak Harbor’s positive changes.
An Edward Jones investment franchise is also planning to relocate and turn a first-floor room of The Loft into a suite of offices. “That’s the only company like that that will be here,” Rockwood said. “We want a good mix of artists and eateries and we don’t want it to be cost prohibitive.”
Rent is going for about $1 to $1.50 per square foot. A prime 756-square foot space in the front is $1,000 a month, plus utilities. Other rooms are priced between $500 to $800 a month; the building is not coded for residences.
Built in 1937, the structure takes up half a block. It’s been many things over many years following its demise as the go-to store for agricultural needs. Among the many former tenants: nail salons, martial arts studio, massage parlor, illegal apartments, even the Whidbey News-Times perched there years ago.
Rockwood purchased the 10,000-square foot building for $400,000 in July. How many millions it would go for if plopped in Seattle is hard to fathom given the average price of a Seattle home is $730,000, double from five years ago.
Called The Loft on Fidalgo & Dock, the building may not have sold for an urban price, but it’s come to resemble an upscale urbane Next Big Thing.
In just two months, Rockwood, husband, Patrick Bateman and son, Christopher Bateman, turned the rough exterior into an attractive sleek two-toned design with sky-blue window trim. Creamy white paint on the front’s triangular face brightens up not only the building but the entire block.
On its backside, which extends down a slope, Rockwood decided to make it as classy as the front. Birdhouses in different primary colors with long extended threads of wood provide an exclamation point and focal point.
“I wanted to be able to catch attention of people on Pioneer Way,” Rockwood said. “And I thought birdhouses were fitting for a Feed & Seed store.”
Rockwood is a 1981 graduate of Oak Harbor High School and now lives in Mount Vernon. She is a Realtor with 25 years experience and a flair for envisioning potential in rundown properties.
On the Loft’s top floor, she sees a retro lounge serving craft cocktails to customers taking in the panoramic view. Next to it, a micro-brewery would fit in nicely, she said, and both could share a small kitchen.
Currently, The Loft is filled with a diverse collection of artwork from artists Whidbey-wide. The pop-up gallery, Skulpt Too, is the sequel to Skulpt, which filled an empty Pioneer Way storefront with art work in the spring.
Therese Kingsbury, founder of the quirky Rogue One Guerrilla Arts Network, approached Rockwood with the idea to fill The Loft with beautiful artwork while tenants were being sought. So far, 35 artists have work on display. Oak Harbor artist Tina Christiansen also set up a temporary studio in a spacious, sun-dappled room where her colorful paintings and silk scarves pop against the wood beams and high ceiling.
“We have woodworkers, metal artists, ceramic, large paintings,” Kingsbury said. “So many have their work stored away. Why do people not have their eyes on this stuff? It gives a chance for artists to display and the public to see it.”
On the building’s exterior, a metal sculpture “The Heart of a Soldier” contains locks with engravings from family and friends of military members. So far, Rockwood has given away 60 of 100 locks that include the cost of engraving.
“I wanted a way to honor veterans that was special and lasting,” she said.
• Skulpt Too art galleries are open 2-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2-4 p.m. Sunday or by appointment. Call 360-969-5621. Saturday, Oct. 28, free public events include mask-making for kids from 2-5 p.m., gallery reception from 5-9 p.m. followed by a masquerade party. The Loft is located at 715 SE Fidalgo Avenue, Oak Harbor. Call 206-372-0374 for more information.