While some take full advantage of their down time to kick their feet up and unwind, others are busy from dusk to dawn.
For longtime Langley resident George Springer, the desire to always be on the move has led to the constant juggle of three businesses and a public radio station operated out of his basement. Springer started all of the businesses himself, and it’s testament to his approach to life as a do-it-yourselfer.
“I’ve never wanted to be a cog in some machine,” Springer said. “I’d rather be the machine.”
Springer has been in Langley since the late 1970s after he moved from the San Fernando Valley to join up with his old high school pals and Langley residents, the LaRues. Those who aren’t familiar with Springer may be familiar with some of his work; the stained glass windows at St. Hubert Catholic Church and Langley United Methodist Church are a few of his early works. Glass art has been Springer’s longest project in Langley, under the pseudonym Hellebore Glass. He’s trained with some of the most acclaimed glass artists in the world, including “primo maestro” Lino Tagliapietra on the historical Italian glass-blowing island of Murano.
Springer built the building where Hellebore Glass Studio and his other businesses reside in on First Street in 1987. Although he’s a glass artist by trade, he built the building himself and later added the hot shop downstairs in the early 1990s. Although his hot shop is now located in his personal residence, he continues to utilize the downstairs area for Whidbey Island Moped and RC Quadcopters, his side businesses. The gallery’s next door neighbor, Soleil, is operated by Springer’s step-sister.
“My wife helps me run the glass shop because it’s also a gallery that has some other potters, painters and jewelers’ work,” Springer said. “When I’m not at the gallery I’m always doing something, helping a friend out or trying something new.”
According to Springer, he’s always wanted to give people something to do rather than limiting them to offering something they can buy. His active nature and mechanical brain spawned Whidbey Island Moped in 2005, where sells and repairs scooters to this day. It’s not a money-making venture for him, but he says it encourages people to get out and be active. His friends, however, think he may have simply wanted to get Langley residents to ride around the Sound.
“We used to take these trips all over the place and drive our little vespas onto the ferries,” Julie Hadden, a friend and South Whidbey School Board director said. “He was the catalyst and pulled everybody together, had the maps, coordinated and made sure our bikes were in running order. That’s just George.”
Springer’s latest drone-selling business venture, RC Quadcopters, was started in a similar vein. He shares the downstairs space with Whidbey Island Moped. What is left is a room full of gadgets, machinery and all sorts of things Springer is quick to tool around with. It’s an engineer’s playground.
“He’s smart and practical enough to know how to make all these businesses work,” Langley resident and friend Jean Shaw said. “He’s always thinking of something new and he’s always working on some project. I guess he sleeps sometimes and takes time to eat.”
Always looking for another task, Springer also kick-started LCR 1610-AM, or Langley Community Radio, in 2007 out of the moped shop. The way the radio station operates may surprise some; Springer has dusted off an archaic computer to run the station. It operates on what Springer calls “flea power,” or 100 milliwatts, while he says 90.7 KSER in Everett operates on 60,000. A visit to the moped-meets-drone business-meets radio station is an overload of interesting information that often goes right over the head.
“I try to live by this thing this old man told me once,” Springer said. “You and I can exchange dollars and you won’t be any richer. But you can exchange ideas and you’ll be twice as rich.”
Those who know Springer say he uses his active, hands-on nature outside of his businesses to help others who may need a handyman. After a Record reporter met with him at his shops, he quickly jetted off to help an older Langley friend fix an issue with a roof. This is a normal part of his weekend; even when he isn’t working, he’s working on something.
“He will always help people, especially older people around the neighborhood,” Shaw said. “If there’s an issue, he’ll fix it.”