TAKING A BREAK FROM SHOPPING – Rick Dole sat down outside The Stall Friday evening with Jaci Chamness, center, and Pauline Server. Dole helped to organize this first “Shop Local, Shop Late.” Kay Trelstad’s shop was a local magnet for residents shopping locally. Out of towners were also walking First Street through the evening. 	                                                                                   – Photo by Ken Stern
TAKING A BREAK FROM SHOPPING – Rick Dole sat down outside The Stall Friday evening with Jaci Chamness, center, and Pauline Server. Dole helped to organize this first “Shop Local, Shop Late.” Kay Trelstad’s shop was a local magnet for residents shopping locally. Out of towners were also walking First Street through the evening. – Photo by Ken Stern

La Conner’s first Shop Local, Shop Late last Friday ahead of the Labor Day weekend bought some locals downtown. The largest congregation seen by this reporter was at The Stall, locally owned by Kay Trelstad. About 7 p.m. Jim Airy came out with a bag containing a pair of earrings for his wife Anne. Mary Wohleb was in the store, too, and moments later Barbara Brunisholz emerged from the back with a blue blouse. Trelstad pronounced the evening worthwhile.

Bruce Bradburn was staffing FORUM Arts, his wife, Meg Holgate’s art gallery at the end of First Street. Holgate had a small exhibit of several of her paintings. Bradburn said the gallery world be open for the weekend. He also reported that the Edmond Yacht Club was in town and would generate traffic.

A half dozen merchants, some who wanted to be anonymous, offered both support and suggestions. Two Moons’ Alan Darcy, long a First Street anchor, recognized both the long build up needed to create a critical mass and success and noted that over the years one art walk evening after another petered out after two or three years.

A store manager who did not want to be named noted that La Conner needs rebranding. Earlier, at Trumpeter Gallery, owner and Mayor Ramon Hayes shared his view that a concerted advertising campaign, not rebranding, was needed.

The merchants were generally positive of the month long effort by Town Councilmember John Leaver, Rick Dole, Marna Hanneman `and merchants Tamara Loucks, J. Lonnae and the Channel Lodge’s Audrey Burrell. The issue now becomes how to involve more merchants in planning and how to sustain the promotion, including the necessary outreach funding.

Earthenworks co-owner Don Hoskins reflected that his generation had their 30 year run and younger people needed to come in and remake the town, as his cohort had in the late 1980s.

The 40 year old Rachael Sobczak, who sold out her 36 loaves of Skagit wheat sourdough from her table on Gilkey Square might be a hot spark of the future.

A small cadre of newcomer residents, including Rick Dole and Jerry and Linda Shaull were supportive, with at least one woman carrying her shopping bag of purchases toward home.

And Mark Carrier, owner of the Wood Merchant, one of First Street’s stalwart shops, said that sales Friday made staying open worth his time.

There was considerable foot traffic on First Street till 7:30 p.m., an unusual evening phenomenon. Most pedestrians seemed to be from out of town. It is likely they emerged from dinner at La Conner restaurants. Instead of getting in their cars and driving home they made an additional stroll, looked in store windows and stopped in shops that, yes, were open late.

One gallery manager noted a young couple across the street, and said they were from Seattle and had made good-sized purchase at her store.
Co-organizer Dole’s comment Monday: “I felt that Friday night was a huge success. I was pleased to see so many people out later than normal and having a good time. Our hope is to have this happen at least once a month.”

In his summary (page 3) Leaver wrote “The one night non-event won’t solve all problems. We knew that going in.” He pledges his group’s continued effort.