Business is buzzing at the new kiosks in front of the now-vacant lot that formerly was the location of the Spring Street Landing building, which was gutted by a fire on August 17, 2013. And a new food cart is on the way nearby.
Before the fire, the building housed Downriggers Restaurant, Friday Harbor Marine, San Juan Excursions and San Juan Safaris. The fire devastated the operations of all four businesses, though Excursions and Safaris were significantly less affected, partly because much of their whale-watching business was already booked into September.
The fire caused a mini-recession on San Juan Island, putting more than fifty people out of work, closing Downriggers and shutting down most operations at Friday Harbor Marine and Friday Harbor Yachts for several months. Since then, Friday Harbor Marine owner Mike Close is slowly rebuilding his business, using the north end of the Windowcraft factory on Mullis Street.
Soon after the fire, the Port of Friday Harbor and the four businesses started talking about providing a presence on the waterfront until construction of the new SSL building was complete. After negotiations, the Port Commission found a local contractor, David R. Krueger, to build three 80 square-foot kiosks for Friday Harbor Marine, San Juan Excursions and San Juan Safaris to use during the 2014 summer season.
“We’re trying to provide a place for the businesses to be for the summer season,” said Port Commission Chairman Mike Ahrenius. Construction of each kiosk was about $28,000; the cost was covered by the Port’s insurance. The monthly rent is $300/month.
Downriggers’ owner Debbie Rishel had a food truck built to serve a 21-item bill of fare to locals and visitors until her new restaurant is operating in the new SSL building – and perhaps later at another location. Some old favorites will be offered, new items are being added to the menu – and Rishel’s foodtruck website (www.roadriggerssanjuan.com) says delivery services in the town will be offered. No word on delivery to boats in the Port’s marina.
The food truck will be located in the plaza near the kiosks. The rent for the space has not been finalized.
The kiosks and the food truck will removed this fall because the shoreline exemption permit from the Town of Friday Harbor only allows for one six-month exemption per calendar year. “When we start construction in the fall, we’ll need the space back for machinery and building materials,” Ahrenius commented. He would not confirm a projected completion date for the new building, but did say, “We want to be sure the project is done right with proper construction and cost management.”
Brian Goodremont of San Juan Safaris and Johannes Krieger of San Juan Excursions say they anticipate “another” great whalewatching summer. They wish they had more room for now, but they think the kiosks will be adequate for the season, and the friendly competitors are looking forward to the new Spring Street Landing building when it’s finished next year.
Mike Close of Friday Harbor Marine will use one of the kiosks, but he’s unhappy that the Port won’t let him put a trailer on a parking space above the fuel dock at the Port. “They told me I could lease the space and now they say I can’t,” said Close, who has submitted a claim for damages arising from the fire to the Port. Neither Port Director Marilyn O’Conner or Port Commission Chairman Mike Ahrenius would comment on the dispute.