North End business brings the party

This Whidbey couple is in the business of celebrating.

This Whidbey couple is in the business of celebrating.

Oak Harbor residents Leah and Aaron Meschke never expected to be business owners, but when the pandemic revealed a gap in Whidbey Island’s party market, the pair stepped in to become the area’s first supplier of enormous custom yard signs.

The Meschkes first had the idea to create Whidbey Yard Cards shortly after Aaron’s Navy career brought the family to Whidbey Island in February of 2020. Leah, after spending years as a stay-at-home mom with her and Aaron’s four children, was thinking about rejoining the workforce.

After she sent out a number of applications, however, COVID-19 arrived in Washington. Hiring ground to a standstill, and Leah and her family found themselves isolating in a new city, unable to embed themselves in the community.

“I really wanted to get out there,” she said.

The opportunity presented itself in the form of a Facebook post. Leah said she saw a Whidbey resident post on a community page asking whether there was a company in the area that provided large yard signs for birthday parties and other events.

Leah saw the post and thought, “You know what, I could do that,” she recalled.

She pitched the idea to Aaron, who was immediately on board, and the couple got to work ordering supplies and designing graphics.

The Meschkes put up their first sign in their own yard on July 4, 2020, Leah’s birthday. Their business license came through a few days later, and within a week, they had their first official order.

Whidbey Yard Cards provides customized rental signs celebrating birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings and military homecomings.

It didn’t take long for the yard cards to become popular. Distanced events such as drive-by, parade-style parties were common that summer because of the pandemic, and the Meschkes’ signs were the perfect outdoor decor for the occasion.

But the return of in-person gatherings hasn’t hindered the business; after wrapping up a busy graduation season, Whidbey Yard Cards will move right into summer events such as barbecues, pool parties and family reunions.

“COVID or not, this is a thing,” Aaron said.

Running the new business hasn’t been without its challenges. Leah said Whidbey’s rocky terrain made it hard to drive stakes into lawns. Some military housing neighborhoods also don’t allow the business to stake the lawns to protect their underground sprinkler system.

“That was kind of our biggest hurdle we had to get over, because we wanted to make sure that we could serve our military community here, especially homecomings,” Leah said. “It’s so near and dear to our hearts.”

Aaron developed a special stand for the yard cards that allow the various sign components to be staked in a freestanding platform so that signs can be placed in any yard, or even in indoor settings. Leah said Aaron’s design is being implemented by similar companies around the world.

For the Meschkes, the best part of their business is getting to participate in other peoples’ joy and take part in the special occasions they will cherish for years to come.

The couple recalled one sign they made for a family whose child was coming home after spending seven months in the hospital. The kid’s neighbors had ordered the sign and picked out a superhero theme.

“It’s all joy. It’s all people being excited and happy, and they’re celebrating a special day to them,” Leah said.

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