LANGLEY — Only a few businesses on South Whidbey are manufacturing products on the island. The majority provide services or retail. But among the few is the North Star Trading Company.
Most know the company’s retail store on First Street in Langley, but they have been selling their sheepskin products at Pike Place Market in Seattle since 1978. In recent years, they added a successful retail Website at www.sheepskingoods.com.
The company’s factory is in Clinton near Lumbermens and all products are designed, cut and sewn there.
Owner Liz Van Dyke operates the Langley shop, and business partner Pat Van Dyke has designed all the patterns to make a better fitting slipper with more room in the toe.
The Van Dykes started out in the 1970s selling sheepskin by the side of the road.
“Then we sowed a flap on and called it a car seat,” Liz Van Dyke said with a laugh. “That’s how we got in the market.”
Eventually, they bought a heavy duty sewing machine and created a four-piece triangle hat.
They began selling their products at Pike Place Market. The company is still there seven days a week.
“We’re still a family business. In fact, our son Nick is one of our favorite sales people at the market,” she said.
The North Star Trading Company team has been handcrafting sheepskin slippers and hats and selling them for nearly 30 years.
Most products are made in a light-brown suede with beige wool. Slippers come with and without soles and range in sizes from newborn slippers to adult male outdoor shoes.
They have four signature styles; Snuggs, Scoots, Scuffs and the outdoor/indoor Trackers.
Van Dyke said the company has been working on a new prototype. It is a solid shoe with a sole, but it wraps around the foot loosely held together by Velcro. She said it’s perfect for people with foot injuries or chronic problems because the shoe adjusts to everyone’s specific need.
At the Langley store and online, the North Star Trading Company has much more to offer than just sheepskin products.
They carry comfort shoes and sandals by Minnetonka, Acorn and other companies. They have easy to wear, leisure-type outfits and a wide variety of accessories.
“We do more than slippers,” Van Dyke said. “We branched out a little.”
Currently, the North Star Trading Company also sells lots of capris and summer tops perfect for warm weather.
Another highlight is wooden handcrafted jewelry boxes and the business offers lots of inexpensive silver jewelry to put inside.
“We have lots of quality gifty things,” Van Dyke said. A great example are the beaded jewelry holders that stand up like a mannequin, fine art prints or illustrated books by artist Brian Andreas.
Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.