Shirley is back

"In the customer service window of her small restaurant on the Clinton ferry dock, Shirley Wilson keeps a small sign posted that explains the importance of faith.“Faith is knowing that if you must step off a cliff, either a step will appear or you will be taught how to fly.”Last week, 13 months of faith paid off for Wilson when she reopened Shirley’s Kitchen. The establishment was closed when Washington State Ferries began to rebuild the southern half of the Clinton ferry dock.For years, the kitchen -- which is little more than a large trailer outfitted with cooking and refrigeration appliances -- has been a last stop every morning for thousands of hurried commuters.When Wilson shut down her operations in October 1998 at the order of State Ferries, she was was told she would be back in business in a new location on the dock. But delay after delay kept Wilson closed for months longer than expected. As her kitchen trailer sat in her backyard, she had to take other work. For a time, she said, she wondered if she would ever again open Shirley’s Kitchen.Last month, however, patience started to pay off. A construction crew poured a new concrete pad for the kitchen trailer even as Wilson received a promise from ferry officials that she could open in November. And, although it did not fully cover her loss of business over the past year, the state sent Wilson a check for $12,835.Suddenly, that short verse posted in the kitchen window started to take on meaning.“It has never proven more true than in this past year,” Wilson said.The reopening last week was certainly grand. Although not all commuters at the dock have noticed the open sign on the kitchen, most of Shirley’s faithful did. Coffee and breakfast muffin addict Burt Mason actually ran down the hill Tuesday from the park-and-ride when he saw that Wilson was open. He had given Wilson $1,000 earlier in the month to help her get the business back on its feet, and on Wednesday morning he brought a bottle of champagne. In exchange, he walked away with a full coffee cup and scrambled eggs with melted cheese on an English muffin.“I’ve been waiting for this,” Mason said. “She has that sunny smile and always has wonderful things to say.”Wilson said she has received moral and financial support from many of her other long-time customers, without whom she might not have been able to open. Marie Storrs, a friend of Wilson’s who was helping with the kitchen work during the first week of business, said this help and interest in Wilson’s business says volumes about South Whidbey.“The spirit of community is alive and well at Shirley’s,” Storr said.The kitchen is positioned about 20 feet away from Shirley’s old site on the water-side edge of the Robertson family’s parking lot. Now sitting next to the pedestrian walkway to the southern ferry slips, the business is more accessible than ever before. Wilson said she can hardly wait until she gets her awning up and her kitchen completely organized.“When this is all done, it’ll be nice,” Wilson said.Shirley’s Kitchen opens every weekday morning at 6 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. Her weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wilson said she will expand her hours next summer."

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