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Thursday, November 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bayview Corner's revival aims to keep things countrified

Seattle Times staff reporter

If you go


Bayview Corner, Whidbey Island

Where

Historic Bayview Corner is about seven miles from the Clinton ferry terminal that links south Whidbey Island to Mukilteo in Snohomish County. From the terminal, drive northwest on Highway 525, turn right at Bayview Road and continue for about two blocks to the intersection with Marshview Avenue.

To reach Langley, follow Highway 525 from the ferry terminal but turn right onto Langley Road, which leads to the town's historic district. To continue to Bayview Corner from downtown Langley, follow Third Street until it becomes Brooks Hill Road, then after a couple of miles becomes Bayview Road.

To reach Coupeville, drive north on Highway 525, which turns into Highway 20.

Lodging

I spent the night at the relatively new Saratoga Inn in downtown Langley (201 Cascade Ave., www.saratogainnwhidbeyisland.com, 800-698-2910) and stayed in a queen-bed room facing a street but with a nice view of Saratoga Passage and the Cascades, plus a gas fireplace and a hot breakfast in the inn's living room. Rates range from $115 to $175 for that type of room, depending on the season, and go up to $200-$280 for the adjacent carriage house. Specials are available in the off-season.

At the water's edge in Langley is The Boatyard Inn (200 Wharf St., www.boatyardinn.com, 360-221-5120). Fully equipped studios go for $175 a night and loft suites $230, but rates are lower during the week.

Closer to Bayview, the Victorian-style Island Tyme Bed & Breakfast Inn (4940 Bayview Road, www.islandtymeBB.com, 800-221-5078) offers five rooms ranging from $119 to $175 a night.

In Coupeville, chestnuts litter the sidewalks around the beautifully restored blue Victorian, The Blue Goose Inn (602 N. Main St., www.bluegoosecoupeville.com, 877-679-4284), which offers just two rooms ($115 and $125 in winter), as well as a restaurant on the ground floor.

A stone's throw away is The Inn at Penn Cove B&B (702 N. Main St., www.whidbey.net/penncove, 800-688-2683), itself a restored pink Victorian. Rates are $60 a night for small rooms with shared bath up to $125 for rooms with bath, including breakfast.

Restaurants

Near the turnoff to Bayview Corner, Neil's Clover Patch Cafe (14485 Hwy. 525, 360-321-4120), serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, and 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

3Cats Caf at Bayview Corner serves breakfast and lunch 8 a.m.-3 p.m. every day but Tuesday, and dinner 5-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Closed Tuesdays.

Toby's Tavern in Coupeville (8 N.W. Front St., 360-678-4222) serves fresh Penn Cove mussels and other seafood 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

More information

For the latest happenings at Bayview Corner, see www.goosefoot.org.

Browse South Whidbey Island inns at www.southwhidbey.com and Coupeville-area inns at www.coupevillelodging.com.

For general information about Whidbey and Camano islands, see www.whidbeycamanoislands.com.

WHIDBEY ISLAND — The Fishmonger seafood market is one of the things I love about island hamlets like Bayview Corner, a pioneer-era business hub near Langley that recently got a facelift.

On a recent visit to this newly prettified crossroads where the market is a popular draw, I asked manager Mary French which fish was fresh that day. She shot back a look that practically purred, "It's all fresh, sweetheart." Of course, all I had to do was read the store's motto behind the refrigerated display case: "Only wild and Always fresh."

So wild ("farm-raised" is a dirty expression here) and fresh, that French enthusiastically invited me into the walk-in freezer to inspect a tub filled with l00 pounds of salmon an "island guy" had caught that morning.

"When we can, we go with our local boys," she told me proudly.

The Penn Cove mussels come from the eponymous waters around Coupeville, about 15 minutes by car from Bayview. "They come right out of there right here," French boasted.

What makes The Fishmonger, indeed the whole concept of Bayview Corner, so special is that while visitors are given a down-home welcome, its main goal is to serve locals, both economically and socially.

Its well-stocked organic grocery store and deli, bicycle shop, artisan galleries and outdoor activities and its neighboring garden center, wooden schoolhouse and village hall make it feel like a real place, not a tourist trap. And the district can be reached easily from the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry landing by driving about seven miles north along South Whidbey's spine, Highway 525, which passes some spectacular rural scenery encompassing sheep-dotted rolling meadows as well as misty sea views to the east and west that make you turn the car around and go back for a second look.

Better yet, spend the night as I did, in one of the many cozy inns concentrated in a 25-mile stretch between the beautifully preserved old towns of Langley and Coupeville. I made Bayview an extended pit stop on a tour of the island's driftwood beaches, working farms, seafood restaurants and curious roadside attractions.

An example of the latter: On the short drive from Langley to Bayview along Bayview Road, I passed the entry for the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club (3634 E. Brooks Hill Road), which advertised a Saturday "Juke Box Dance," a karaoke night and a skeet-shooting championship: "Y'all come," the sign read.

Farther north in Coupeville, I stopped for lunch at the ancient-looking Toby's Tavern (8 N.W. Front St.), which occupies a big red mercantile building on the waterfront and sports walls and a ceiling hung with all manner of taxidermy-preserved creatures, from fish to bison. If lifeless wildlife peering over your shoulder unnerves you at mealtime, take comfort in the priceless views of Penn Cove and the Cascades from the tavern's booths. And there's no better deal around than a pan filled with a pound of fresh mussels from the waters right outside the restaurant. They come served in a no-pretense style, steaming in a garlicky, buttery broth with a side of grilled bread ($11.95).

Even on the tourist route, places like these give a taste of everyday life on an island many mainlanders think of as either a long-weekend destination or the potential locale of that second home we dream about.

And that's exactly the feeling the people who restored Bayview wanted to replicate.

Crossroads with a mission

Much of the credit for Bayview's revival, and its focus on locals, goes to a nonprofit coalition headed by Linda Moore, chief executive of Goosefoot Community Fund. The group received a $13 million gift seven years ago from Whidbey Island philanthropist and organization co-founder Nancy Skinner Nordhoff, a member of Seattle's Skinner family, which is famous both for its business and historic preservation ventures. Goosefoot used the money to purchase a swath of commercial lots at Bayview Road just off Highway 525.

The centerpiece, a wooden building that held the area's supermarket — known as the Bayview Cash Store — was remodeled in 2004 with space for the Star Store supermarket, the Fishmonger, a bike shop, a cafe and other businesses, as well as meeting areas for conferences and cultural events. Revenues go to a fund to support micro lending for affordable housing and small businesses in the surrounding community.

The idea, Moore said, was to create a village center that could sustain itself while also helping preserve the rural character of the district, even as newcomers build expensive second homes on those idyllic wooded hills and meadows. Bayview had always been a working-person's crossroads, the kind of place locals visited to stock up on household essentials, gasoline, tools, livestock feed and garden supplies.

"You used to buy all your explosives here," islander Bob Pearce told me with a huge smile when he popped in to say hello to French. Today, next door to the main building, Jim and Maureen Rowley's Bayview Farm & Garden (2780 Marshview Ave.) specializes in organically grown plants and nontoxic garden supplies and draws customers from around Puget Sound. The commercial spaces at the Bayview crossroads are connected by paths, and landscaped seating areas invite visitors to sit and stay awhile.

Small pavilions dotting the property frequently offer demonstrations on environmentally friendly building and living practices.

A sense of place

Moore, Goosefoot's co-founder, waxes romantic about the idea of fusing 21st-century ideals (there's a biodiesel workshop on Saturday) with old-fashioned values like getting to know your customers, who, in a place as small as Bayview, may also be your neighbors and members of your church congregation.

"People are hungry for two things," she told me during a tour of Bayview Corner. "They are hungry for a sense of place, and they are hungry to be treated as more than walking wallets."

Moore's country mouse/city mouse background makes her well-suited to the challenge she's posed for herself: She grew up in Central Washington, in Harrah (population 300), a town on the Yakama Indian Reservation. Her parents owned and operated Moore's Feed and Seed, which was just enough to pay the bills.

"They didn't have two nickels to rub together," Moore said. "How I grew up was people knew each other and helped each other out. There's this myth in the West that we go it alone, take care of ourselves. But nobody (in Harrah) had the money to do it all by themselves. If somebody was sick, a 'hamburger hot dish' would show up on their front porch."

Moore said that after attending law school in Washington, D.C., she worked for the late, legendary urban planner James Rouse, a champion for affordable housing who also developed successful commercial ventures such as Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, Harbor Place in Baltimore and South Street Seaport in Manhattan.

"He was really a model for me for how real estate can affect people and communities," Moore said. With fellow Whidbey Island resident Nordhoff's backing, Moore was able to bring that perspective to Bayview.

Crossing paths

Of course, as Moore noted, it's hard not to bump into the same people over and over on an island. So why not create a space for people to cross paths on purpose?

To that end, last week Bayview Corner hosted the Mutt Strut dog parade and costume contest, including a pet/owner look-alike competition.

While the market is now on hiatus for the winter, a special three-day Holiday Market will be held inside the Cash Store building from noon to 7 p.m. Nov. 24 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 25 and 26. (See www.bayviewfarmersmarket.com for details.)

Art exhibits often take place in one of the spaces upstairs in the two-story building. And the Fishmonger hosts Sushi Night on the second Saturday of each month from 5 to 8 p.m., hosted by chef Taichi Kitamura of Chiso restaurant in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.

Visitors to the island are always welcome to join in public events, Moore said.

On the same night recently, she said, "there was chainsaw carving and a sushi dinner downstairs."

"It's the best. There's hardly anything we don't do."

Tyrone Beason: 206-464-2251 or tbeason@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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