Want to “shop for a cause” and get a dose of serenity this holiday season? Then head to the wondrous scenery of Whidbey Island, where views of peaks, pastures and placid seas roll around every turn.
Almost every town features a store, gallery or artist cooperative offering a variety of handcrafted, locally sourced items, with sales that support individual makers and nonprofit organizations.
Here are a few places to shop with an impact on Whidbey Island, from highbrow to down-home products and prices.
You don’t have to travel far from the ferry to check out one of Whidbey’s unique shops. “Think of us as Your Welcome to Whidbey Store” is the logo of Madrona Supply Co. The shop specializes in homemade screen-printed apparel and high-quality wooden kitchen and home items made by its sister company, Turnco Wood Products.
Located in an iconic midcentury building that once served as the local hardware store, Madrona Supply Co. features a beautiful, stylish showroom full of gleaming glass bottles and carafes for spices and teas and displays of carved kitchen aids — butter spatulas, walnut muddler, French rolling pin, even a sturdy cutting board designed specifically for the round sinks of Airstream trailers. Soft T-shirts are screen printed in retro images of ferries while Whidbey’s famous blue mussels adorn tea towels.
There’s plenty of kid stuff, too, including a row of colorful candy jars, sold by the pound, that exude the store’s overall aesthetic of simple modern design mixed with warm nostalgia.
Madrona Supply Co., 8754 Highway 525, Clinton. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 360-630-0520. www.madronasupplyco.com/shop
Langley has many places to wine, dine and wander around in search of a unique gift, including the Langley Whale Center. The education center is packed with information on local gray whales, orca pods and other marine wildlife. As volunteers point to wall maps that track movements of whales, they can also suggest educational gifts for kids.
Or even stuffies for your favorite pooch: Furry visitors on leashes are often seen poking their snouts into piles of plush stuffed toys — puffins, pelicans, sharks, salmon — to find the perfect pet of their own. Shelves of Salish Sea guidebooks, maps, coloring books and cards abound, along with whale art boxes and orca playing cards. Don’t miss the tiny-tyke shoes adorned with a black and white whale on display among T-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, magnets and other items.
All sales benefit the Orca Network, a local nonprofit that has been raising awareness of Pacific Northwest whales for 20 years. Items for sale are a mix of commercially produced and handcrafted items; gift memberships cost $30.
“We try and have as many items by local artists, crafts people as we can,” said volunteer Don Meyer as he stood near a display of a huge elephant seal skull.
Be advised: The skull is not for sale.
Langley Whale Center, 115 Anthes Ave., Langley. Free admission. Open Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.orcanetwork.org/webshop
Every year, a festive tree sprouts in the center of the old Bayview Cash Store, the hub of a commercial corner three miles from downtown Langley. Tiny handmade decorations — angels made of ribbons, little felt dogs and cats, dainty ballet slippers — hang from branches and line boxes under the towering tree. Goosefoot Community Fund, a nonprofit that provides grants to help South Whidbey people and places, started the annual tradition 20 years ago.
Numerous nonprofit organizations make and price each ornament. Veterans groups, animal shelters, hospice care center and farming schools are among the benefactors. Two Girl Scout troops also pitch in and help make decorations for a specific charity they choose every year.
The ornaments, priced from $5 to $25, make great stocking stuffers.
“They are also perfect items for clients, employees, or gift exchange events,” said Marian Myszkowski, Goosefoot Community Fund program director. “We love the big smiles on people’s faces when they see the Giving Tree.”
Beginning in early December, the Giving Tree will be on display through the end of the year in the lobby of Bayview Cash Store, 5603 Bayview Road, Langley. A smaller tree is also set up at the Island Athletic Club, 5522 Freeland Avenue, Freeland. Any Shakespeare lovers on your list? Check out Bard’s Boutique, also in the lobby, a fun store benefitting Island Shakespeare Festival.
Six years ago, Charlotte Gray set out to help locals sell their homemade art while also taking a stand against online shopping. Instead, Gray wants people to “go shopping,” a quaint pre-Internet activity that forces human interaction.
Named “Whimsies,” her space keeps expanding as do her artistic offerings. The store recently moved and is now front and center in Oak Harbor’s historic downtown district. It offers a plethora of choices, including ceramics, finely woven bracelets, hot pads lined with recycled bottle caps, gift cards and a sprinkling of driftwood and seashell-inspired art. Colorful natural fiber baskets woven by Whidbey’s Reggie Kastler sit under a collection of wall mirrors lined in mosaic patterns.
Business picks up considerably in December, Gray said, as holiday shoppers look over the hundreds of items made by 30 artists. The store also features vintage retro pieces and a delicate collection of tea pots, cups and saucers.
Prices range from $2 (gummy rings and tiny fighter jets for kids) to $350 for a violin covered in a colorful kaleidoscope of recycled mosaic glass and other bits and bobs. Gray doesn’t charge makers a fee, nor does she require the work be judged or juried as galleries usually do. “It gives artists a chance to show their work,” she said, “especially when they’re just starting out.”
Whimsies, 810 SE Pioneer Way, Oak Harbor. Closed Monday and Sunday. Hours may change during the holidays. Call 360-682-2468. Also check out nearby Hive Jive, 715 SE Fidalgo Ave., a new store boasting local honey products and homemade gifts; and PNW Vibes, 729B 715 Fidalgo Ave., a retail store packed with all things Northwest, including locally sourced art, soap, jewelry and home decor.
Sound & Summit
This article is featured in the winter issue of Sound & Summit, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to soundsummitmagazine.com for more information.