Car lot goes retail, adds seafood

Three new businesses are being built in a vacant lot along Highway 20 in Oak Harbor, across from the Safeway plaza.

The site of the former Car Depot has been empty and derelict for several years, according to Steve Waldron of Waldron Construction, who owns the site.

Work crews from Island Construction have been attracting attention for several weeks, tearing down part of the former car showroom, digging large holes in the car lot and shoving around lots of dirt.

When the dust settles, the site will house a warehouse for Les Schwab Tires, a new home for Oak Harbor Custom Floor Covering, a brand new retail seafood market, and new quarters for Waldron Construction.

“All the businesses going in will improve the looks of the city,” Waldron said. “The site has been an eyesore for a long time.”

The seafood market will be owned and operated by Waldron’s brother, Vinton Waldron, who currently owns Seabolt Smokehouse near Deception Pass. He hasn’t decided on a name for the business yet, but said “Seabolt” will probably be in there somewhere, as it is practically synonymous with quality seafood on the island.

A commercial fisherman, Vinton Waldron is excited about offering “super fresh seafood” in Oak Harbor, something he feels has been sorely lacking in the seaside community.

“I don’t know why there hasn’t been a fresh seafood shop,” he said. “You would think that on the island there would be great seafood all over the place.”

He plans to offer a variety of seafood, including salmon, lobster, shrimp, mussels, oysters and Dungeness crab. Until now, the most visible place to get fresh crab has been from vendors with coolers in convenience store parking lots.

Waldron plans to move the Seabolt smokehouse operation to the Oak Harbor store, and give tours of the process from filleting to packing. He feels this will appeal to locals as well as tourists.

“It’s a pretty interesting process,” Waldron said. “There’s lots of stainless steel. It’s a really clean environment.”

The store will also feature a deli-type cafe, where patrons can sit at picnic tables while dining al fresco on fresh crab. He also envisions live seafood tanks — it doesn’t come any fresher than that — and a small gift shop. The smokehouse will employ three people, with at least one additional hire expected for the retail shop and cafe.

The 8,000-square-foot building housing the retail fish market has not yet broken ground, but Waldron expects to have the facility finished by early next year. While moving in before Christmas would be nice, that is the busiest time of year at the Seabolt Smokehouse, he said.

The building will also house new offices for Waldron Construction, and 1,000 square feet of additional retail space. Steve Waldron said while the site development has been in the works for about a year, other buildings on the site should be ready for occupancy by December.

Oak Harbor Custom Flooring manager Cyndi Neville is hoping for a Dec. 1 opening date of the 3,600 square foot space, with a grand opening in January.

“The new store will double our business,” she predicted. “There will be much greater visibility.”

The move will also triple the business’ warehouse space, allowing them to offer a larger selection of in stock carpet, vinyl, laminate counter tops and flooring such as Pergo. They will also be able to stock ceramic tiles, which they currently offer only by special order.

“It’s going to be more profitable in the long run,” she said.

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