The ingenuity and artistry of Whidbey Island residents is on display at a new store at Ken’s Korner in Clinton.
Called Whidbey Wonders, the space flows with fanciful displays of wares made by more than 60 artisans and local producers. Items range from jams to jewelry, bread to blown glass, indigo-dyed clothes to felted and feathered crowns.
Owner Carie Elder describes the 2,000-square-foot space as a place for “local art, food and finds.”
There are aprons made from old button-up shirts, food wrappers made of fabric, beeswax that can be reused again and again, and tiny holiday tree decorations made from stacks of buttons.
“The whole goal is we all make money off the products we make,” Elder said.
Many vendors represented in the store sell at summer farmers markets and holiday shows, including Elder, who also runs her own baking company, Knead Bread.
“But most of us would like to eat the rest of the year, too,” she said.
The store opened on Black Friday with music and samples of the variety of food for sale. It’s located in the large plaza near Island Drug in a former gun shop that moved a few doors down.
“Yes, it’s the polar opposite now,” said Jill Yomnick, one of 63 individuals who’ve signed on since October.
Artists are from all over the island. Steve Nowicki from Oak Harbor, for example, has a display of small metal quails, which is representative of his company, Shock-N-Awe Metal Works.
Online artists also get to show off their work to real — not virtual — customers.
“It offers me a physical location to share my stones and gives people the opportunity to feel them and see them up close,” said Renee Boyce, who sells intricately painted stones with mandala designs under the name Freeland Art Shack. “I am thrilled to be part of Whidbey Wonders.”
Elder expressed amazement the idea became reality in less than two months. Friends and artists pitched in to help paint walls and provide muscle and emotional support.
“I never thought there would be so many people represented here,” she said, walking among items artfully arranged on old televisions and radios and other vintage pieces she’s collected through the years. Those aren’t for sale but for for rent.
On one wall sits a small empty antique case with a window and two shelves.
“We still have space to rent,” Elder said. “That’s $30 a month.”
Underneath is an old upright chest full of cubbyholes and painted royal red on authentically distressed wood.
“This is for locals to sell their CDs,” she said. “I’m not charging them, I just really want to promote Whidbey’s fabulous musicians.”
All the artists rent space that’s priced based on the size of their displays. They also pay a commission on sales.
But for the store’s opening months, there’s no commission — which is a freebie rarely encountered in co-operative spaces.
“They’ll be a 10 percent commission after February,” Elder said. “Right now, it helps get people through the winter.”
Struggling for years herself as an innovator and artist, Elder’s mission seems to be to help the many, not just a few, of Whidbey’s wide range of creative folk.
She also wants locals to support locals, whether it be buying a gift or picking up a fresh-from-the-grill lunch or loaf of freshly-made bread.
“I wanted to be a place where people in the neighborhood could also stop by for a bite to eat,” she said.
Elder hopes to have on a regular basis fudge, toffee, desserts, sandwiches, veggie burgers and other fare from local farmers, ranchers and bakers.
Some of it doesn’t have far to travel as it’s made in commercial kitchens in the same complex as the store. The Big W, Wellborn Farms, Cj&Y Decadent Desserts, and Elder’s own Knead Bread are some of the food companies.
Yomnick said the store differs from Make Whidbey, also in Clinton, that represents 38 local artists, specializing in Turnco Wood Goods.
“We’re different in what we sell and I think it kind of compliments that store,” she said. “Our bread is selling really well, so is is Big W’s lasagna and the jewelry.
“And the beeswax food wraps, those are flying out of here.”