LYNNWOOD — On the most springlike of spring days, shoppers stood in line with carts full of Christmas decorations, wreaths and a thinning array of gardening supplies.
Wight’s Home & Garden was selling off inventory as it prepared to close for good.
Owners Jim and Dorothy Anderson had nurtured the business with their children for 34 years. Now in their 80s, they decided it was time to step away. By some time in June, they expect to greet their final customers.
“This decision, while appropriate for the family at this time, is still bittersweet,” the family wrote in a goodbye message. “The Andersons have always counted their employees, as well as their customers, as part of the family. And as such, all will be sorely missed.”
It was a tough choice to sell. They’re comforted by the good deeds they expect under the future owner, the largest nonprofit in Snohomish County focused on senior services.
Customers grew to love Wight’s over generations. They cherished the store for its holiday spirit and sage gardening advice. The end of a local institution left many heartbroken.
“I got all teary-eyed when I found out they were closing,” said Tami McKinley of Mountlake Terrace, as she waited in line Friday.
Now in her mid-50s, McKinley said she had come to Wight’s as a child with her mother. “I can’t remember not coming here,” she said.
Angela Hoffman, of Smokey Point, has been a regular for about 15 years. She would take a day off work every year for the Christmas Charity Gala, a fundraiser for Seattle Children’s Hospital, where hundreds of people would enjoy champagne, hors d’oeuvres and holiday cheer. The store also catered to Hoffman’s love of miniature gardening.
“This is going to be a very missed place,” she said. “Lots of familiar faces when you come here.”
Jim Anderson bought Wight’s from its founder in 1983. In his farewell message, Anderson described how, with the help of creative staff, he turned it from a floundering nursery into a destination unlike anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest.
Anderson at the time had no experience in retail. For years, he and his wife had run Jimbo’s Family Restaurant on the southwest corner of 196th Street SW and Highway 99 in Lynnwood. The restaurant wasn’t doing well at the time he bought it and re-branded it with a version of his name.
By dint of “determination, hard work and down-to-Earth business philosophies,” the couple said they turned the restaurant’s fortunes around. They sold the restaurant in 2000. It closed in 2007 under different ownership.
Anderson recalled the day Wight’s original owner, Chauncey Wight, walked into his restaurant looking “down in the dumps.”
Wight had started his gardening store at 5026 196th St. SW in the early 1960s, then rebuilt it in the 1970s. He later sold the business, hoping to move on, but bought it back after the other owner had financial problems.
As they spoke at Jimbo’s, Anderson told Wight he might be interested. Wight asked what he knew about running a nursery.
“I said, ‘Nothing,’ ” Anderson remembered.
In the years that followed, he said the same values that made Jimbo’s prosper would serve them well at Wight’s. He hired his sister, Karen Block, as general manager. His son, Russ Anderson, came on board to help rebuild the business. Many employees have been with them for more than 20 years.
“That’s been our success — hiring the right people, knowledgeable people,” Jim Anderson said.
Together, they steered the store toward new lines of merchandise, including gifts, home decor and seasonal goods.
Wight’s Wonderland of Christmas was a hit. It featured 35 trees each decorated with a different theme. So many buses of customers and sightseers flocked there from around the region, they had to make a schedule.
“That’s when people are going to miss it, I think,” Dorothy Anderson said.
The Christmas gala has been going for more than 30 years. The store hosted benefits for breast cancer awareness and donated thousands of dollars to local causes.
Wight’s founder, Chauncey Wight, died in 2004 and his wife, Enid, in 2011.
Daughter-in-law Penny Wight married into the Wight family 40 years ago. She owns Espresso Buono next to the home and garden store. Her business isn’t part of the sale.
She recalled her father-in-law’s stories about buying the future nursery site from a farmer. Part of the deal was looking after cows on the property until the previous owner found space for them.
Homage Senior Services, which recently changed its name from Senior Services of Snohomish County, purchased the Wight’s property for $5.8 million, said Steve McGraw, CEO for the nonprofit. The property is on 3 acres with a building of about 30,000 square feet.
The building will need to be remodeled. The nonprofit is in the process of selecting an architect and expects to move in by the end of this year.
Homage, which has been in operation for 43 years, was based in a single building in Mukilteo until the recession. The nonprofit — like many businesses and governments — saw a decline in revenue and, to save money, moved its operations to three locations, two in Everett and one in Lynnwood.
McGraw said staff told him communication became a problem among the locations. The nonprofit has 185 full- and part-time staff and 360 to 370 volunteers.
The senior services agency has several functions, including running the county’s Meals on Wheels program. It helps low- and moderate-income seniors with minor home repairs such as grab bars in the shower. It provides depression screening and caregiver support. Homage also contracts with Community Transit for the transportation programs that could put Wight’s plentiful parking to use.
“We were really fortunate to find a buyer like that,” Dorothy Anderson said.
Homage will borrow the money to buy the building. The monthly mortgage payments will cost less than rent for the three current properties, McGraw said.
The nonprofit has until now always been based closer to Everett. McGraw didn’t think consolidating operations in Lynnwood would hinder services.
“Most of our programs are delivered to the home,” McGraw said. “We go to the house or apartment or senior center.”
‘Full of gratitude’
On Friday, Patti Grubb, of Lynnwood, stood in line at Wight’s for two hours with her 3-year-old grandson Ryan and a shopping cart full of discounted Christmas items. Wight’s and the Andersons played important roles in the 58-year-old’s life. Her first job in high school was at Jimbo’s. Wight’s did the floral arrangement at her wedding 20 years ago, a cascading display of 100 purple roses.
“They did everything we could ask,” she said. “It was just beautiful.”
The Anderson family was full of gratitude as they contemplated life after Wight’s.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you,” they said in their goodbye message. “Thank you for over three decades of letting us into your homes and gardens. This store is as iconic for us and our family’s lives as it is for this community. We would not have been successful this long without each and every one of you.”