Morris and First street business shufflings
Merchants' moves around town
February 8, 2023
January and February may be quiet months for La Conner, but town businesses are in the midst of big changes.
Perhaps the most prominent is the recently opened Firehall Kitchen and Taphouse at 402 Morris Street.
Owned by Pam Alvord of La Conner Brewery, Firehall is located in – natch – the former home of the La Conner Fire Department. Old-time LCFD photos on the walls honor the building's history.
"We are growing organically as the staff settle into a new kitchen and a new menu," says manager Tessa McLeod. "It's nice that our first patrons have been people who live here and have given us lots of good feedback.
Firehall offers small plates, beer and wine from all over the Pacific Northwest, and cocktails with a fire theme. Out back are tables for people who want to dine with their pets. As the weather improves, expect some cornhole matches.
While this new town landmark is in "soft launch" mode (McLeod recommends checking Facebook for current hours) three long-time landmarks are on the market.
At the south end of town, the Hotel Planter and shops at 713-719 First Street were first listed for sale in 2020. Earthenworks Gallery and other retail businesses are not included.
Owner Don Hoskins had some offers, but took the building off the market to get some foundation work done. Soon it will be listed again.
Owning the Hotel for over 40 years makes him "picky" about prospective buyers. He turned down an offer from someone who wanted to turn the hotel into apartments.
"The Planter Hotel is an historic part of La Conner," he said. "I want someone to keep it the same or make it better."
The Go Outside store and building at 111 E. Morris is also for sale. Owner Mark Epstein purchased the store in 1990 from Jane Chesnut.
"She was a very visionary retailer who had an eye for finding things nobody else had," he remembered. "It was eclectic, and it has stayed that way. People want the experience of being in a smaller store that has been thought through."
Epstein says sales have been very good since the 2020 lockdown, when demand for cookbooks and lifestyle books featuring cabins leaped as customers hunkered down at home.
While 2021 was his best year ever, he feels that it's time to do something else. Like Hoskins, he has also turned down some offers on the search for the right successor.
The Ginger Grater building at 602-604 S. First, on the market for $1.25 million, has two new tenants.
Last fall Mo's Eclectic Gifts and Apparel moved from Morris Street to the space previously occupied by Yalta's Custom and Sewing Shop. Owner Marjie Jensen is glad that when Yalta Mager closed her business, "she thought of me."
Jensen has rented six locations in her seven years in La Conner, and while she has no lease yet, she hopes to get one and stay awhile. "I'm really getting tired of having to move!" she said.
Jensen's new space is tucked behind the former La Conner Coffee.
In August 2022, Pam Fields sold that business to Shaylen Anderson, who now operates Lulu's Espresso and Ice Cream – named for her dog.
Anderson has been working in coffee for a few years, most recently operating the coffee stand at Skagit Speedway.
"I wanted something more fulltime and year round, so I started looking around," she said. "Right then, La Conner Coffee came up. It felt so right."
Family connections were one reason the purchase felt right. Anderson's grandma is La Conner elementary kindergarten teacher Judy Zimmerman.
Her plans for the future? "Pam had a great business going, and I want to keep it growing."