Three cats to replace dearly departed Smilin’ Dog

Three cats will take the place of a smiling dog.

The new tenants for the cafe space at the Bayview Cash Store are Tamar and Gene Felton, owners of the Star Store in Langley.

The cafe will be called the 3CATS CAFÉ, Tamar Felton said.

The Feltons hope to preserve the same atmosphere as the Smilin’ Dog, the popular cafe that was in the location until it unexpectedly closed last Friday.

No date for the opening of the 3CATS CAFÉ has been set, but the Feltons will try to reopen as soon as possible, she said.

Currently the Felton’s are still working out details.

“It all happened so fast,” Felton said.

Felton said they were approached about a week and a half ago by Goosefoot Community Fund, the landlord of the cafe, and were told that the space was available. The family discussed the possibility to open a cafe and jumped on it.

“When Goosefoot offered the space, I thought this could be a great opportunity,” she said.

Goosefoot said the organization approached the Feltons the evening of March 15. It had become clear that the Smilin’ Dog and Goosefoot “were pretty far apart,” said Linda Moore, Goosefoot CEO.

In a final attempt to close the gap in the financial negotiations, another meeting with the owners of the Smilin’ Dog was held on March 21. Those talks were unsuccessful, she said.

Goosefoot formulated a transition plan, Moore said and the negotiations with the Feltons were then finalized. Under the transition agreement Goosefoot purchased all of the assets of the Smilin’ Dog except the name. The Smilin’ Dog closed its doors Friday, March 24.

Felton said she was shocked by the negative public reaction and hopes that customers will give them a chance.

“I hope people will give us a try,” she said. “It’s very hard. We love this community.”

“We are community oriented business people,” Gene Felton said. “We need some time to evolve and find out what the community likes. We are still developing the plan. We hope the community will be open-minded.”

The family is currently developing a new operation plan for the cafe. They are busy making minor renovations and interviewing new employees.

They are interested in hiring former employees of the Smilin’ Dog if they should decide to apply for a job, Tamar Felton said.

The 3CATS CAFÉ will carry on the informal, comfortable café tradition, serving breakfast, lunch and specialty coffee, Felton said. Wine and tappas evenings are also an idea the new owners are considering. The Feltons want to continue evening events such as the monthly readings by Whidbey writers and the weekly Thursday night jam sessions.

The cafe may reopen with a limited menu at first.

“We want to keep it a gathering place for artists and writers,” she said.

Pulling double duty at the Star Store and the 3CATS CAFÉ will be challenging, Tamar Felton said. But the Felton’s plan to be hands-on and visible in the cafe and will be there as often as possible. However, they will probably hire a manager for the cafe as well, she said.

The Star Bistro, upstairs at the Star Store, will also have a new tenant

“We have renters for the Star Bistro coming this summer,” Felton said.

The Feltons have lived on South Whidbey for more than 25 years. They purchased the Star Store in downtown Langley in 1984, which has flourished into a favorite shopping destination for locals and visitors.

In 2004, they joined the merchants at Bayview Corner and opened The Star Store at Bayview in the historic location of Harold Johnston’s general store.

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