With patience and persistence, a few Clinton businesses are hoping to get a head start in making the once seemingly vacant commercial area into a destination town.
Make Whidbey, Cadée Distillery and Cozy’s Roadhouse are banding together and working on a concept they’ve dubbed “Port Clinton.” Essentially it would visually create a sense of place with some nautical-themed decorations — ship lines, dolphins/pilings, an anchor — to tie together their disparate-yet-neighboring businesses. Think of it like how people will refer to Ken’s Korner as its own location, rather than the onerous “intersection of Langley/Cultus Bay Road and Highway 525.”
“It’s a sense of pride and a sense of connection,” said Cadée owner Colin Campbell on Monday afternoon as he watched the ebb and tide of ferry traffic zip by his storefront.
“We can talk about something or we can take the Nike slogan and just do it,” he added.
Cozy’s is the longtime restaurant owned and operated by Stephanie and Troy Cook. Owned and operated by Janae Cameron, Make Whidbey is a wood goods, children’s arts and crafts shop, and cafe. Cadée is a liquor distillery owned and operated by Campbell. Covering the commercial corner of Frost Avenue and Highway 525. Both Cadée and Make Whidbey have been open about one year, and their owners are hoping the gloom-and-doom talk of Clinton’s floundering commercial clout can be made a distant memory.
“I definitely don’t want anyone to get the idea that we’re trying to rebrand Clinton itself,” Cameron said.
“It’s not like we expect anyone else to identify that they live in Port Clinton,” she added.
The name is an attempt at rebranding the commercial area from the Clinton Ferry Terminal to Forgotten Lane, just northwest of Hong Kong Gardens. But their effort will start small with just their corner of Clinton, and they hope it will expand as it catches on and begins to identify the business hub that lines the highway from the ferry terminal up to Dalton Realty.
That very idea for the need to identify Clinton was discussed by the volunteer, non-elected Clinton Community Council this week. During the group’s regular monthly meeting Monday night, member Christina Swan representing the Friends of the Clinton Library said something as simple as “Entering Clinton” and “Leaving Clinton” signs could help begin to stamp out boundaries and a sense of place at least along the highway.
“Clinton is a spiderweb, where Highway 525 is the heart,” Swan said.
Creating a sense of place was identified as an important need for the highway-bifurcated commercial area in Clinton by a consulting group hired by the Port of South Whidbey. Clinton is an unincorporated area of Island County, which means that its zoning is governed by the county. It has some of the density of what may look like a city, but doesn’t have the municipality or infrastructure: street lights, sewers, sidewalks.
Without a historic downtown or central building, and facing a perceived obstacle in the never-ending flow of motorists driving on and off the ferry, the port district’s consultants recommended a “dream” idea of adding some traffic mitigation on the highway to make it a more pedestrian-friendly area. That would require the input and OK of at least one state agency, the Washington Department of Transportation, as well as the county.
The unaffiliated folks hoping to promote the brand, Port Clinton, said their marketing idea helps create a sense of place with neighboring, related businesses all on the same side of the highway. Sip on some gin or whiskey at Cadée, shop for a spell at Make Whidbey, then eat at Cozy’s. Basically, they are trying to recreate the shopping centers that dominate retail commerce in their own small way.
“This is about local people enjoying where they live,” Campbell said.