New businesses and new energy will be going into the building that formerly homed Island Studios, Little Mermaid and Dukes Sporting Goods. Carrie King will be moving Second Act to the old Dukes location, while Jesse and Kelley Miller will be opening Vibes in the former Mystical Mermaid. That is just the start of the reimagining of the prominent Spring Street building.
“When I first bought the building, I put in a new roof, painted, did some maintenance,” building owner David Sennett said. There was a long-term lease in place, however, so he wanted to stay somewhat hands-off. “Now I feel like I really have an opportunity to check the pulse of the community. I know I am an outsider. I also want to make sure that [potential tenants] want to go all in as opposed to just to ‘oh, I just want to do this as a hobby, part-time.’”
Sennett grew up in Everett, and attended college at the University of Washington, after which he ended up falling in love with tennis.
“I realized I was just madly in love with tennis and the angles, learning how to win, learning how to lose and deal with those different emotions. I found much of what I learned on the tennis court applied to real life,” Sennett said. “Through my focus and excitement about tennis, the passion I put into the game, people began asking me if I would teach them.”
Sennett eventually began teaching at the club he played at. He learned Japanese. He had always been fascinated with the culture. When the club owner found out, he asked Sennett if he wanted to move to Japan. Sennett said yes, and lived there from 1986-93. That experience gave him the opportunity to manage a huge sports facility in Japan.
“They made me athletic director of the whole complex,” he said. He met his wife there as well. “So my eagerness, my dream, my visualization of where I was going to go was working very early on,” Sennett said.
He moved back to the States and bought a video store, which also taught him some lessons in business. “I was taught by a business mentor of mine at the time, who said ‘Once you own a business, if you run it really well, your next move should be to buy the land underneath it, so you can control your destiny.’” Sennett ended up doing just that. He bought a property and a building in Hawaii as well.
That building was an old historical building that needed so much renovation, that community members thought he would have to tear it down.
Instead, he cleaned it up and repainted it with a mural by local Hawaiian artist Avi Kiriaty, according to Sennett, titled “Double Trouble.” The businesses located on the first floor have been successful, and there is a waiting list for the apartments on top.
Sennett would like to see the same vibrancy brought to his Friday Harbor building. His vision includes a paint job, splitting the large area that had been Island Studios in half for two businesses, and fixing up the garden in back for special catered events, art shows, music or educational workshops. Work will likely begin in January. He has also set up a rent-paying rate structure that starts off lower, to assist the business to get started, and increases over time as the business grows and becomes successful. He used this structure in Hawaii as well.
Vibes will soon open in the Mystical Mermaid location. Owners Jesse and Kelley moved to the island approximately three years ago. Jesse is a sculptor and handyman, and Kelley is a registered nurse at PeaceHealth Peace Island. Kelley had been to the island several times previously and loved it. When Jesse proposed, he wanted to do so in a place that meant something to her. He asked her what her favorite place was, she said the San Juans. Jesse too fell in love with the island the moment he arrived, and the couple is thrilled to be opening a business.
“We moved to the island in July 2020, and have been working in this wonderful community,” the couple wrote in an announcement regarding the new venture. “We are excited to be opening a new store. The Mystical Mermaid will be transformed into a new store called Vibes. We are bringing in beautiful metal art from our family in Colorado, southwest jewelry oolong with a lot of other ‘vibes’.”
They will also be carrying a few of the Mermaid’s classics, including incense. They hope to open in April.
Carrie King has owned Second Act since the 90s. “I am a second-generation shopkeeper,” King said. “My mom started a souvenir T-shirt shop on the corner of Front and Spring, where the Cask is.” Her mom then opened what some islanders may remember as Kings Toggery across the street from Kings Market. “That’s where I got a lot of the basic merchandise and business skills,” King said. The Masons, she said, have been wonderful landlords and provided a lot of support. They have even helped her move. “I got teary-eyed leaving this place.”
She has always wanted to be located on Spring Street, due to the increased foot traffic and visibility. When the former Dukes Sporting Goods store became available, she checked it out. The space she thought would work. Her business is doing well, and she wondered if she really wanted to move. It seemed like a lot of work. “Then David Sennett came in, and he has this great energy. He introduces himself and his wife, and says ‘I think you would really like that space, I think it could really work for you.’ So he inspired me again.”
To move or not to move ping-ponged back and forth in her head until her sister said “Yeah, it’s safe to stay where you are, but it doesn’t contribute to growth.” With that in mind, she signed a lease agreement and while she will miss her old spot, she is also looking forward to the future. There will be a few changes. An increase in foot traffic means two people will be on staff at all times. There will be no rack outside, however, the windows will provide ample display opportunities.
“The logistics of mannequins with a resale business don’t really work… but I have been told I put together a mean hanger display,” King laughed. Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. will remain the preferred drop-off and appointment time, and she will continue to cater to islanders. “We are casual, active, and outdoorsy and that is really where I am most comfortable,” she said.
As a resale business, Second Act benefits community members who earn funds by reselling their gently used clothes. “We supplement the income of an elderly woman on Lopez, who other wise lives off social security,” King said. There are also accounts for local non-profits like the Community Theatre and Wolf Hollow for those who want the funds from their items to go towards one of those organizations.
“I’m really trying to keep myself open to learning from the local community here because I want to be a part of the community. To me, there is no better way to be a part of it than buying a commercial business,” Sennet said, adding that he likes to leave a building better than he found it. For up-and-coming business owners, he said striking a balance and putting out a positive attitude is key. “I always feel like there is an opportunity, if you have the right attitude, and you put out the right attitude, locals respond and tourists respond.”
Sennet is still interviewing for leases for the two spots inside the former Island Studios location. For those interested, contact Sennett at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 808-895-3541.