Relaxing on a comfortable couch near their living ficus tree, Bob and Jeanne Van Winkle share laughter while talking about their life in the furniture business. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Relaxing on a comfortable couch near their living ficus tree, Bob and Jeanne Van Winkle share laughter while talking about their life in the furniture business. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Sweethearts and co-workers, Van Winkles closing their store

Building is sold, but furniture is still on sale at couple’s Hewitt Avenue shop in downtown Everett.

Bob Van Winkle’s car was an eye-catcher, a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria with a pink and white two-tone paint job and a Skyliner glass roof. His high school sweetheart, he said, “she’d get mad at me if a girl was in the front seat.”

It turned out just fine.

They graduated from Everett High School June 8, 1955 — and were married the next day. Sixty-four years later, there’s a big sale going on at Van Winkle’s Interiors, the furniture store where they’ve worked together much of their lives.

“Retirement Sale” and “Final Days” say signs on the big display windows of their store at 1901 Hewitt Ave., across from Angel of the Winds Arena in downtown Everett.

“We’re getting tired,” said 84-year-old Bob Van Winkle. His wife, Jeanne, is 82. The couple had four children in about five years. They’ve lived in the same Marysville house since 1958. For more than a half-century, they’ve been co-workers.

“We worked for my father, John Van Winkle. He owned a furniture store on California and Wetmore, kitty-corner from the old Bon Marche (now Funko),” Bob said. His father’s business started in 1936.

More than ready for retirement, they’ve sold their building to Pete Sikov, an owner of other Hewitt Avenue properties. Those include the Hodges Building and the corner lot where a 2012 fatal fire destroyed the 118-year-old McCrossen Building at 1820 Hewitt.

Van Winkles Interiors, owned and operated by Bob and Jeanne Van Winkle for nearly 60 years, will soon close. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Van Winkles Interiors, owned and operated by Bob and Jeanne Van Winkle for nearly 60 years, will soon close. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Jeanne Van Winkle’s family moved to Everett from Bellingham before her junior year in high school. “I was the new girl,” she said. Her father, Robert Pollard, had an Everett locksmith business.

Before starting their own furniture store in the late 1960s on Colby Avenue, Bob worked as an Everett policeman, a county sheriff’s deputy and a longshoreman.

It was 1973 when they moved to their current location. Their building on the northeast corner of Hewitt and Oakes dates to 1923. According to Historic Everett’s self-guided history tour, it operated as the Whitehouse Public Market into the 1930s. By 1933, it was the Oakes Avenue Market. In the 1950s, Dolloff Motor Company took over, remodeled its storefronts, and had a used car business there.

An avid outdoorsman and bow hunter, for some 25 years Bob has operated Van Winkle’s Archery shop on the Oakes Avenue side of their store. The couple joked Thursday that he set up his bow-and-arrow business in a corner of the furniture store while his wife was out of town.

Amid the merchandise, the arrows and compound and recurve bows, are Bob’s many first-place plaques from state archery competitions. The archery shop will continue. It’s moving to 2816 Rockefeller Ave., he said.

The Van Winkles’ lives have not been without tragedy. Their firstborn son, Robert “Bobby” Van Winkle, died in a hiking accident when he was nearly 12. He was “with me and seven other young men,” Bob said. “We had three other children we had to pay close attention to, that was our responsibility,” said Jeanne, describing how they carried on.

Another son, John, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in adulthood. Partially paralyzed, he lives in Arizona. And in the past couple of years, Jeanne battled cancer — winning that fight, her husband said.

With no one in the family in line to take over the store, they plan to close it as soon as the end of this month. Inside, customers and browsers will find large and small pieces, mostly traditional styles.

In the archery portion of their unique store, Jeanne Van Winkle helps a customer while her husband, Bob Van Winkle, visits with a friend, Everett police Lt. James Duffy. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

In the archery portion of their unique store, Jeanne Van Winkle helps a customer while her husband, Bob Van Winkle, visits with a friend, Everett police Lt. James Duffy. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

A heavy full-length floor mirror, a china cabinet, upholstered chairs, artwork, a dining set and other items caught visitors’ eyes Thursday. Even the plants — there’s a huge ficus tree — are for sale. Jeanne let anyone coming through the door know that some prices hadn’t yet been marked down, but would be.

Van Winkle’s Interiors has 6,000 square feet on the main floor and another 6,000 on the lower level, where Bob created an indoor archery range.

On Friday, Jeanne recalled a customer from afar who brought them sky-high sales. It was a family from Kuwait associated with the airport there, she said. They were in Everett in 1978 to take delivery of a Boeing 747.

“I filled up that 747 with furniture,” she said. The jumbo jet was customized with a luxury interior — “gold faucets, the whole thing,” she said.

The family — she recalled two brothers and their wives — did a lot of shopping in Seattle during their several-week stay. She remembers spending time with them, along with her niece, and talking about family. They spoke English fluently, she said. As a gift, she received a beautiful caftan.

“It was quite an experience. A lot of the stuff was really hard to get,” she said, recalling how a gorgeous cherry wood king-size bed had to be painted because they wanted it in white. With its seats folded down, the back of the plane was filled with furniture. “My moving van was a 747,” she quipped.

More than a decade later, during Operation Desert Storm, “I thought about the people a lot, and wondered how they were all doing.”

Their early days running a business came at a time when some questioned the wisdom of husbands and wives working together, Jeanne said. Still co-workers today, they laugh about the fun they had cruising Colby in that showy ’55 Ford.

“We’re still together,” Bob said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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