When friends Shannon Hamilton and Wendi Hilborn first met 15 years ago for their sons’ play date, they didn’t know that they would become business partners.
They are the creators of the new Whidbey Farm and Market outside of Oak Harbor, right across the street from the Blue Fox Drive-In.
Shoppers can peruse the wide selection of local products ranging from Hilborn’s farm-raised beef and pork to colorful bamboo bowls to punchy drinking vinegar.
After shopping, customers can grab a Lopez Island Ice Cream cone or an afternoon pick-me-up from JennyBean Coffee. There are plenty of places to sit outside and take in the sunshine next to growing flower fields or play games like giant Connect Four or cornhole.
The cow barn-turned-farm stand is a long time coming. Hilborn and her husband own a farm raising heifers, potatoes and more. He had been talking about a farm stand for the past five years, she said, and last year the timing was right. Hamilton had been thinking about leaving her job in a veterinarian’s office to go back to school to become a nurse. Instead, she ran with the business idea and now operates the market full time.
“I have a full-time job on the farm with the cows,” Hilborn said. “This had a lot to do with Shannon.”
The women opened a pumpkin patch and corn maze last year but needed to wait for permits to open the full market. It opened this Mother’s Day weekend.
It’s a way to create another place for other small businesses to showcase their creations.
“This really gives a face to these vendors,” Hamilton said.
Jennifer Meffert was looking for a way to expand her micro-roasting coffee business when she heard about the friends’ idea. She now operates her first coffee stand, although she’s been in the roasting business for 10 years.
“I love coffee, and I have time to do this now,” she said, now that her son is graduating high school.
The entrepreneurial pair said they have not had a hard time attracting vendors. Some have even reached out to them asking to come to the market. Hamilton recalled a wood-turner from Penn Cove who is in the very early stages of forming a business who had reached out.
“Those are the type of people I want to give opportunities to,” she said.
Hamilton said she hopes to have a revolving door of new and seasonal items so customers can find something new. They currently have close to 100 different products, Hilborn added.
They foresee bouquet-making classes, weddings, holiday market, and other events in the future as the market grows.
“The vision is much bigger now,” Hilborn said.
The two women met when their sons were both young. The two boys went to the same daycare and “were inseparable,” Hamilton said.
When Hilborn pulled her son out of the program for the summer, the two moms knew the boys still wanted to see each other and organized a play date. They became fast friends and have known each other for 15 years.
They hope the market will become a place where vendors can meet customers and grow their following, and people can come to support small businesses.
“We’re all here for the same purpose — to support the local people,” Hamilton said.