Seaside Shopping

There’s another way to do the day after Thanksgiving. Millions of shoppers will help fill thousands of malls (and their parking lots), and possibly empty their inventories (maybe with some jostling in line). Or. Shop by the water. Whidbey Island’s main shopping areas are the homes of artists and craftspeople, and have saltwater for a neighbor. Wander around, shop a bit, take a break by the view, maybe watch a whale go by, then dive back into the shops. Parking lots versus sea shore. Your choice.

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Langley, Coupeville, and Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor all are bordered by beaches and parks, and even have places to moor your boat. Shopping by boat. Imagine that one. In about the same distance of some shopping mall’s parking lots, entire towns of small businesses are naturally arranged and ready for shoppers. Parking is at a premium on busy days, but it is usually free and right outside some shop’s storefront. In the time it takes to traverse a mall’s parking lot, it’s possible to walk halfway across most small towns.

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Clinton’s, Freeland’s, and Greenbank’s stores aren’t by the water, but it is relatively easy to walk or drive there for that inevitable gift-buying break.

Forget the freneticism of massive stores. Wander at your own pace. See the store displays. Enjoy the fact that you can take your dog for a walk in the middle of the day (just make sure you scoop that poop.) Langley even had a whale drop by for the morning. That’s a display that can’t be scheduled and won’t fit in a mall.

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The choices are more unexpected. Art and craft replace brands. Uncommon is easy when it isn’t mass-produced. You’re more likely to meet the person who made it. As one meme points out (paraphrased); “Buy local and you’re helping a person instead of a corporation.” The profits go to other local businesses and other locals, instead of the bank accounts of some CEO who already has more than enough to pay their bills, and probably the bills of a small country. Fund a kid’s future instead of an impersonal stock portfolio.

More importantly, it can be fun. The ultimate may be to book a room within walking distance of the shops, wander at will, eat fine food, drink without having to worry about driving, and do so with nature nearby. Locals and regulars receive a bonus, an opportunity to bump into friends (who may have to cover up the fact that they’re buying something for you.)

If you need that big box experience, there is a venue for big box stores in Oak Harbor. Arguably, there are a few big-ish boxes scattered around the island, but no other place has Wal-Mart, etc. They may not be by the water, but they’re close enough. Brands do matter when it comes to kid’s toys and electronics. Few places are known for artisan consumer electronics – though that’s probably a business opportunity for the right technician.

The holiday shopping season has begun. It lasts more than a day, which means there are dozens more opportunities to drop by and shop easy. Just don’t get too distracted by the neighboring nature – unless, of course, you want to give yourself a gift that’s free, doesn’t need wrapping paper, and different every time you look at it.


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