A beloved Oak Harbor business is changing hands next month.
Popsies, an old-timey candy shop on Pioneer Way, has been owned and operated by Kay Coolidge since 2006. Now, after 15 years of selling sweets, serving up ice cream and making her specialty popcorn, the soon-to-be 89-year-old is ready to retire.
Coolidge said she and her daughter-in-law founded the business together. They named the former bike shop in honor of Coolidge’s homemade, flavored popcorn, the store’s premiere attraction and the reason for its inception.
Popsies patrons were not the first to taste Coolidge’s popcorn; she said she has been making the caramel corn for as long as she can remember. She made it for her children when they were growing up and eventually developed other flavors, such as cinnamon and cheese.
For Coolidge, business ownership was only the latest in an eclectic agglomeration of personal and professional ventures. Over the years, she has flown as an airline hostess, worked on an ostrich ranch and raised three kids.
“I have busy hands,” she said. “They have to be doing something.”
When she and her daughter-in-law started Popsies shortly after Coolidge moved to Whidbey Island from Arizona, the creative exercise was part of the draw for Coolidge. They installed a new ceiling, put up wallpaper and set up displays of old-fashioned candy on antique furniture from their own homes. The set-up and decor give the sweet shop the vintage charm for which it is known in town, and Coolidge describes it as “a happy place.”
Even more than the sweets, making others happy is what Coolidge said she has most loved about working in the shop. Though she will miss the business that has kept her busy seven days a week since 2006, she said she is looking forward to her next chapter.
In retirement, she hopes to find increased time for gardening, taking walks, assembling jigsaw puzzles and going to church.
“I’m just going to be a lady of leisure,” she said. “I’ve heard of those. I’ve never been one.”
In February, Oak Harbor resident and new Popsies owner Andy Plumlee will assume sweet shop operations. Plumlee said when he found out Coolidge was planning to sell, he couldn’t imagine Oak Harbor without Popsies, which he called an iconic part of the city.
“We’re a small town, and there’s a lot of growth going on,” he said. “Someone needs to do something to save some of that old town charm.”
Plumlee said he and his family are excited to get started at their new business. Though he plans to introduce some new products and add his own flair to the shop, he also intends to honor Coolidge’s legacy.