If you’ve walked into this new Pioneer Way shop and found yourself wondering what it is supposed to be — that’s the point.
Delightfully eclectic, Whidbey Wonka’s Chocolate Co. has a little bit of everything. Part sweet store, part antique market and part guitar studio, downtown Oak Harbor’s newest small business functions primarily as a creative outlet for its owner, Ryan Prichard.
And Prichard’s goal is to have something for everyone.
Prichard is an Eastern Washington native who relocated to Whidbey Island around four years ago. He has long been involved in the food and business industries — he owned two restaurants in New York — and knew he wanted to embark on his next business adventure when he discovered an available space on Pioneer Way.
As evidenced by the shop’s name, a reference to Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Whidbey Wonka’s Chocolate Co. is primarily a chocolate shop.
Prichard will sell chocolate from many different brands at a variety of price points. He said he will have treats for all occasions and demographics; tourists and locals, young and old can all find something that suits their interests and their price ranges. He said he will even carry some nostalgic treats that will take older shoppers back to their childhood.
“I want it to be fun,” he said. “I want people to be able to regress and be a kid when they walk into here.”
His inventory will continue to grow over the coming weeks. Though he has a number of products already, he has even more on order and said he is constantly asking friends and customers what sorts of chocolates they would like to see in the shop.
He will also sell gifts and jewelry. His mother and business partner, Shannon, will sell antiques in the shop’s back room. She has long sold antiques at markets and malls in the area, and Prichard said one of the first things he noticed about the space when he toured it was that it had a room where she could set up shop.
Eventually, he wants to add a cooler with sandwiches and prepackaged lunch items. He said he envisions other Pioneer Way workers stopping in to grab a quick bite over lunch.
Prichard said he hopes the shop will be a place patrons want to stay and look around, and he has lots of ideas to make it fun for visitors. The shop’s aesthetic is steampunk; gears and images of steam engines adorn the walls and shelves. He said he plans to play movies on the TV screen above the counter, and he wants to host local musicians to play live music every week.
A guitarist of 20 years, Prichard has made a lot of connections in the local music scene. He said he wants his shop to be a venue where emerging artists can play with no intimidation factor, and that he intends to take to the stage himself. He also teaches guitar lessons in his office at the shop.
“Honestly, this shop is just a front for me to be able to play music,” he joked.
Prichard said he will constantly be switching up his inventory and adding new things. Shop patrons will want to return, he said, because there will be something different every time they walk in.
“I have kind of an eclectic brain, so this store’s going to be kind of eclectic in its own right,” he said.