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Merchants looking to recover from the storm

The last two weeks before the new year were a disaster for South End merchants, what with ice-choked roads and snow-bound customers.

Rather than simply bemoan the loss of revenue, Freeland business owner Leanne Finlay decided to take action.

She organized more than 50 business owners to offer a special New Year’s weekend event in the hope that those who stayed away will return.

And spend some money.

“Call it an emergency action,” Findlay said. “So many places were closed or open shorter hours that something had to be done. We’re trying to bring visitors back to the island.”

Findlay said several businesses would be open on New Year’s Day, offer extra hours or provide unusual pricing designed to bring in shoppers.

“If folks want to re-invite their family and friends, we’ll be ready for them,” she added. “I think lots of people are suffering cabin fever and want to get out and have fun.”

Findlay, owner of the Beach Cabin in Freeland, had to stay closed several days herself because she couldn’t drive to her business. Even when she did make it in, things were bleak.

“Freeland is not a walking community anyway,” she said. “When you add the ice and freezing cold, lots of small businesses were affected.”

She created her own Web site blog to let folks know all there is to do on South Whidbey, both outside and in, at www.newyearsweekend

onwhidbey.blogspot.com. On it are posted brief highlights of activities all over the island.

“The response has been wonderful,” she said.

Lynae Slinden heard about the idea from the Clinton Chamber of Commerce. She’s offering special deals on framing of any art by local artists — including kids and home photos — through

Jan. 6 at her Clinton shop.

“The three chambers are linking up to recover some of that missed holiday,” Slinden said. “It’s a brilliant idea, and I hope we can do more of it down the road.”

Restaurants, art studios, bed-and-breakfasts, wine outlets, the Clyde Theater, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts and lots of shops in Freeland, Langley, Clinton, Greenbank, Coupeville and Oak Harbor are participating.

In Bayview, the Clover Patch Café is offering a big New Year’s Eve dinner menu, and will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. the following day.

“Last weekend was devastating for us, the third downer of a trifecta,” said owner Neil Colburn. “It isn’t a great time for us normally, the economy is tanking and then the worst snowstorm in anyone’s memory hit. Leanne’s always been a cheerleader for island business, and I was happy to sign up. And it was free; can’t beat that.”

Merchants wanting to join the fun can contact Findlay at info@thebeachcabin.com.

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