People’s livelihoods went up in flames April 7, and while some are able to work remotely, others are looking for temporary sites while the property owners rebuild.
“Based on previous fires in the downtown area it has taken two to three years [to rebuild] after multiple buildings were affected,” Compton said. “Many of these businesses will be setting up temporary locations in the interim, so the best thing community members can do to support them is by shopping there.”
Residents countywide have rallied behind the owners, and according to Victoria Compton, Executive director of the Economic Development Council of San Juan County, have so far donated nearly $20,000 to the EDC Fire Recovery Grant. To learn more, or donate visit https://sanjuansedc.org/fire-recovery/.
“It has been a cornucopia of community support,” Compton said. Individuals have not just donated financially, but have volunteered their time, offering technical assistance, for example during the recent work sessions with business owners and their employees to figure out where assistance is most needed.
“Watching people stepping up has been lovely,” Compton said.
Efforts are underway by the EDC to authorize an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, according to Compton. These loans would have very low interest for the business owners affected.
Compton is also working on a loan that would help pay for fire suppression retrofits, like sprinkler systems, in historic or other commercial buildings.
“Sprinkler systems are costly, but each of the major fires we have experienced all started in wooden buildings, and each of them have taken out buildings to the side,” Compton said. Ensuring buildings have fire prevention measures in place would be extremely beneficial and potentially life-saving.
The Friday Harbor Chamber of Commerce started a GoFundMe donation site, which according to Executive Director Becki Day, has raised approximately $15,000 as of Friday, April 15. To learn more, or donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-friday-harbor-businesses-after-the-fire?utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer.
Day also stated more fundraising events are in the works.
A couple of the individual businesses started their own GoFund Me pages. To donate to the Crows Nest visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/crowsnestcoffee.
To donate to the Anchors Away Sky Bar, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/rebuild-anchors-away-skybar-after-the-fire.
The Journal reached out to a few of the business owners. Below are their stories.
The tavern was established in 1943. It has changed hands a few times but maintained its local flair. CJ Mason and his wife bought Herbs a little over eight years ago.
“From the time we took it over 8 years til now, we have made so many new friends moving to the island and will be ready to make more in the future,” C.J. Mason said, adding that the emotional support from the community has been given has been greatly appreciated.
Depending on the season, they employ anywhere between 10 and 17 people. At least some of these workers may now need to either pick up hours at other jobs or find other means to fill the financial gap of any lost hours at Herb’s.
Meanwhile, the Masons are looking into their options for temporary locations.
“We are just glad that no one was hurt during this whole ordeal. In the end, we lost a historic building but we still have the memories to which we will continue to make more in the future,” Mason said.
According to the owner and broker Gary Franklin, there are a total of 24 brokers and staff that work in the building.
The building is unsalvagable, however, according to Franklin, the building is owned by Greg King, who has expressed the intent to rebuild.
In the meantime, thanks to the lessons of 2020, Franklin said, all of them are able to work remotely. There were a few items that the company was able to retain, including a handful of personal items, some computers, filing cabinets and artwork.
Local legend has said for years that the Windermere building is haunted. When asked if he had any general stories to share, Franklin said “We did have a ghost of a small girl, perhaps three or four, in our building. We all hope she has transitioned to a new, temporary space until we rebuild and can offer really cool new digs!”
In the meantime, he added, Windermere is still in business and can serve their real estate needs even better than before. “No other agent is as motivated as a Windermere Realtor,” Franklin said.
According to Jon and Mary Hurley, the coffee shop employed six part-time employees at the time of the fire. Like the Herbs staff, these workers likely have to pick up hours at their other jobs, or need to find other ways of supplementing their income while the Crows Nest moves into their temporary location.
“As hard as it was to see our shop burn, we have no choice now but to move forward and look to the future. We have two kids living at home and Crow’s Nest is how we’ve kept the lights on the last decade. It’s not easy making a living in this community,” Mary said, “We’ve been blessed to be able to live and raise our family in our hometown. One of the keys to our success has been that location on lower Spring Street so we have no plans to relocate permanently. We love our spot! It’s just going to take a while to get back there. In the meantime, we’ll be moving into what locals know as, “The Skinny Latte Shop”.”
Customers won’t have to wait too long to get their Crows Nest coffee fix as they hope to be up and running within the next couple of weeks.
The Crows Nest originated after Jon’s Uncle Roy, who the family tragically lost in 2020, opened a drive-thru coffee shop (the first drive-thru on the island) in the ’90s. “Mary and I met and fell in love working at Roy’s. We got married and opened up Crow’s Nest together when my family sold the Drive-Thru in 2012.”
Jon said he has always had a passion for coffee and wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and carve out a place of his own in the heart of downtown. “Every inch of our new shop was infused with our style and DNA. We both come from old island families with lots of fishermen so keeping in the nautical theme was really important to us. We hung old photos of Friday Harbor on the walls as a reminder of the old days. “ Jon said .”Our signs and menus were all hand-made and decorated with agates and beach glass. We stamped our cups with a crow—a nod to our time at Roy’s, where the ‘Crow’ image became synonymous with our coffee. The original Crow Stamp was the inspiration for the name ‘Crows Nest’”
As mentioned above, the Hurleys have set up a GoFund Me site. Besides donating, Mary said, the best thing locals can do is stop by and grab a coffee at their temporary location.
“We’d really like to thank the community. We’ve received so much love and support; it’s been overcoming—in a good way. I don’t know how we’d get through this if we were anywhere other than Friday Harbor,” Jon said. “We lost so much. It was devastating to watch our shop just crumble to the ground. But what we worked so hard to build over the last 10 years is still there—the world we created, our customer base and our reputation for serving this community damn good coffee. What’s important still remains. And we will rebuild.”