Eddy’s mixes optimism with a business model for a global world

Harriet Behncke holds the living “Eddy” who inspired the name for the seven-month-old shop that sells T-shirts designed by local artists. The shop’s new sign

When the world gets chaotic, stay positive and remain creative.

That’s the tactic used by one business in Langley that created a new model to mold itself around these hard economic times.

Eddy’s on First Street in downtown Langley is where “art meets apparel” — and where customers can get a taste of the cool artistic community ubiquitous to Whidbey Island.

The store, opened this past September, has about 40 artists and 44 designs on organic cotton T-shirts that might make any art lover drool.

Eddy’s owners Harriet Behncke, Peggy Juve and Ronni Levin have translated a glass-is-half-full perspective into a thriving storefront and online shop even during a slow season.

Eddy’s is a positive place full of art, color and a lightness that comes from selling a simple, well-done product.

“We’re so clear and optimistic about what we’re doing,” Juve said.

“The fact that people walk into the shop is enthralling; to know that they will treasure the thing and value it as art.”

But you can’t sell T-shirts in a vacuum, even if they are the most unique, super-soft and eco-friendly wearable art around. That’s why the owners are doing everything they can to get people into Eddy’s and to get Eddy’s out into the world.

A beautifully designed site by Web artist Ann Welch reflects the simple artsy spunk of Eddy’s, akin to the personality of the shop’s cuter-than-cute Jack Russell terrier mascot featured on Eddy’s trademark tee and on the site’s home page where he continually wags his tail. (You can see for yourself, Click here.)

Eddy’s has done everything to make shopping for cool T-shirts easy.

Online sales are super easy from the clean, unfettered look of the site to the uniform prices and free shipping.

Welch said she wanted the site to reflect the artistic sense of the owners.

“The main goal for the site was to give the same feeling that you get when you walk into the shop,” she said.

“It’s clean, has a strong color sense, is fun and easy and quick to use.”

Welch said she wanted to reflect Eddy’s mission of being the place “where art meets apparel” and its commitment to quality.

“As they say on the site, ‘The image doesn’t feel rubbery like my old Aerosmith tee.’ They are very special women and I wanted the site to have the same feel.”

Also important to the owners is selling products that won’t break the bank, are designed by local artists and printed with environmentally-friendly methods on organic fabrics by a local company.

Eddy’s knows, too, that cyberspace is the new marketplace for the taking.

The shop is getting exposure on ecobly.com, a Web site listing local, green goods, and has been getting reviews by fans at www.yelp.com.

It’s also been in the “Best of Washington” contest hosted by Seattle’s KING 5 TV.

Eddy’s has also released its first monthly newsletter online.

“These are all attempts to get our name and story out there,” Juve said. “We are still on a major learning curve, but believe that in order to sustain our business, the model has to include a dedication to quality and all manner of promotion.”

Eddy’s has also used advertising dollars to promote altruistic and nonprofit causes such as Orphanride, Whidbey Children’s Theater and the Whidbey Island Arts Council’s annual Whidbey Open Studio Tour.

Eddy’s also happily joined in on the looney fun during Langley’s Mystery Weekend.

“Our feeling is that we want our dollars to do double duty because they are so precious right now. But, that will soon change,” Juve said.

Ultimately, for these owners, optimism and malleability to the times is crucial to a good business model. But it’s the faith in the product that sends it all home.

“An Eddy’s tee is the perfect token to take away from this enclave of artists,” Juve said. “And none of it would happen without the artists.”