Mind Your Business
The latest from Oak Harbor's Chamber of Commerce
Elmer and Marlene Veldheer have traveled to our small town on Whidbey Island each April for nearly 20 years to help us celebrate our annual Holland Happening heritage event. Although Elmer is the star of the show with his old fashioned wooden shoe carving demonstration, Marlene has always been by his side, dressed in authentic Dutch costume and imploring us all to please, please, please buy our wooden shoes a size or two larger than normal… (“You really need to wear heavy socks,” she would say.)
In dedication of Elmer and Marlene, Holland Happening 2012 was recognized as the “Year of the Wooden Shoe,” and marked their official retirement from our celebration. Despite her health and visible discomfort, Marlene traveled out West one last time to be with us and blessed us all with the opportunity to say goodbye. What a gift she gave to use without even knowing it.
For those of us who saw Marlene only once a year when she visited Oak Harbor, we knew her to be a fun, spirited, hardworking and graceful women who (wisely!) kept Elmer on a pretty tight leash. Needless to say we loved her.
On Thursday June 7, Marlene passed away in her hometown of Holland, Michigan. And although she was an official member of the Holland, Michigan community, she was also an extended member of ours. Marlene has been instrumental in shaping our local Holland Happening celebration, proving once again that you don’t have to be famous, or rich, or powerful to make a difference….you just have to be willing to live your life in a way that brings joy to others. Marlene did just that. She will be missed.
When I selected a title for this blog, Mind Your Business, it was intended to be a business advice column. But, truthfully, I don’t offer a lot of business advice in this column or in my day-to-day life as a Chamber Director either. I find that people aren’t really all that interested in unsolicited advice.
But if I did offer it, it would be simple and obvious.
- Sell something people want to buy.
- Price what you are selling at a price people are willing to pay.
- Make more money than you spend.
- Fight for every customer, because they don’t have to do business with you.
- Open when you say you will, and stay open a few minutes longer than your customers expect.
- Greet your customers.
- Present yourself, your product, and your business well. Image matters.
- And, of course, join your local Chamber of Commerce. (Come on, you didn’t really think I would miss an opportunity to say that, did you?)
It’s pretty straightforward and simple thinking. But sometimes, simple really is the best.
So instead of writing weekly blogs focused on giving business advice, which I feel is best left to the likes of Jim Collins or Ken Blanchard and maybe even Mark Zuckerberg (but we will have to see how he does when that little Facebook company of his goes public); I like to talk about what we as a community can do to for business and how our choices are a reflection of who we are and what we value.
We are all vested in the success and failure of our local business economy. None of us are exempt from that role and responsibility. So it is important that we spend more time understanding the impact of our actions. This blog is a reminder about the importancet of making choices…mindfully. At least that’s what it’s going to be about for the next few months…and then after that, who knows.
I’m not going to lie, I love Christmas. Always have.
It is such a generous time of year,and other than the bursts of early-morning Black Friday violence over a few marked-down flat screen TVs, it always seems to bring out the best in people. Not to mention that the sparkly lights make even the mundane a little magical.
Christmas is also my favorite time at the office. Why? Well because we get to breakout all of our shop local posters and honestly, we are accumulating quite a collection.
Of course the topic of supporting local (ideally SMALL business) is important, and worthy of a little time on my soap-box; but it’s the local-celebrity aspect of these posters we like. That, and the witty headlines. It’s true, we do think we are exceptionally clever. That’s not just a rumor.
Bottom line…if these posters don’t get you shopping local, I don’t know what will!!
We added four new posters this year and I think they capture the spirit of our business community perfectly. Special thanks to Beth Kuychynka of the bayleaf, Jay Roberts of Cascade Custom Homes, Jack Ng and Angela Vosburg of China City and our own Whidbey Coffee team. We appreciate your holiday spirit and photogenic faces.
We hope you enjoy these posters, and that they inspire you to buy as much as you can here at home.
And in addition to this year’s new collection of celebrities, we have some classic favorites as well. It’s just a fun way to help us all remember that we are a community. We are all in this together. And, there is absolutely no point in taking yourself too seriously….because above all else, the holiday’s should be fun!
Well here is the deal. I am not a good blogger. Not good at all.
Lack of discipline (and well, poor punctuation…but the later is too big of a problem to solve today!)
So my 2011 resolution was to blog consitantly…a minimum of one post a week. To do this, I tell myself, I will keep it short. It will be to the point. It will not ramble. Adjectives will be used wisely and judiciously.
I will not link to unnecessary things. My topics will be simple. There will be no diatribes. No Ayn Rand 150-plus page manifestos hidden not-so-subtly in the middle of a my posts. I will be dependable, moderately entertaining, and try, when possible, to add value to the blogosphere!
So there you have it.
And to start things off right, I am going to keep this week’s post is simple. Here we go!
I love entrepreneurs. I LOVE THEM. I like their spirit, their passion, their risk-taking attributes. I love that most of them start later in life, often after a few early struggles and missteps. And, if I am honest, I find them all a little sexy. Yes, even the ones that are living out of their best-friends basement.
In fact, did you know that Paula Deen did not set out on the path to become the Paula Deen we know and love until she was 41? Yes, that’s right people, I don’t make this stuff up. The woman did not put butter back on the map until she was in her forties!
So today I am celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit and dedicating this blog to Missy and John.
I don’t know them, but I have given them a piece of my heart (and a link to their blog!)
I mean, really, you would have to be Ebenezer Scrooge (pre three-ghost visit) to not root for these two great go-getters!
So to John and Missy (my soon-to-be new friends) at WhidbeyFresh.com…I dedicate this, my first blog of 2011 , to you.
Here is the truth of it, I love irony. I really, really do.
Very few things bring me as much joy as something that I find just a little self-mocking by its pure existence. So how could I not poke a little fun at this mass-mailer I received from SAVEtheFORESTNOW.org.
There is nothing mock-worthy in the content. It’s a postcard inviting folks to a celebration for saving the Trillium Woods, a protected square mile of land on Whidbey Island just south of Oak Harbor that will remain a forest forever thanks to an aggressive fundraising campaign and the efforts of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.
So don’t get all worked up that this is some sort of anti-green, pave-it-all, Republican rant.
It’s not. Chill.
My only reason for sharing this is to spread the joy to my fellow irony lovers. And if you are one…then I hope you delight in this printed-on-paper, mailed-to-the-masses, postcard with the bold proclamation….“Forest Now Saved.”
Not sure how the trees used to produce this postcard feel about that…but, way to take one for the team I guess!
What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.
Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I’ll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.
Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.
This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things!
Now I have done with it, down let it go!
All in a moment the town is laid low.
Block upon block lying scattered and free,
What is there left of my town by the sea?
Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,
And as long as I live and where’er I may be,
I’ll always remember my town by the sea.
If you think Whidbey Island is one of those beautiful places that more people still need to know about, then you are going to love this!
Here are two examples of Whidbey (and yes, Oak Harbor, that includes you) making some hay in the tourism world.
I could write more…but why? Especially when these folks have already said it so well.
If you didn’t already know, the “Best of Whidbey” awards just came out in the Whidbey News-Times and…Drum roll please…I am a winner!
Best Blog? Yep, that’s right, you’re reading it.
Can I get a Woot! Woot!?
Anyway, I wanted to thank everyone that voted for me; Mom, Dad, the folks who work for me at the Chamber and all their dependents. Thank you all. Your seven votes were enough to sweep the category!!
No seriously, thank you. This is a very enjoyable experience for me. I have love having a chance to express myself and give glimpses into life behind the scenes at the Oak Harbor Chamber. I have particularly enjoyed being able to communicate in my own voice. It’s fun and makes me feel just a little famous which each posting. (Next up my own Bravo TV reality series…Andy, call me!)
As I gain my footing and become more confident in this process, I am sure we will explore bigger issues together. Soon topics such as the “Top 25 Things to Do before the end of Summer” will be interspersed with…”What is going on with some of those downtown merchants?”
But as of yet, I am not that brave or confident to tackle the tough stuff. We are in a new relationship and I like to take things slow.
For me, the best part of this blog is that we are taking this journey together, and I appreciate it. It’s nice to be able to share perspectives and engage in discussion.
I want to thank Marcia VanDyke, publisher of the Whidbey News-Times, who lobbied me for months to write this blog. You were right. I also want to thank Marcus Carney, my committed proof-reader and editor and who taught me how to Hyperlink and insert video (as demonstrated needlessly above) into these posts, and Terri Tinker ,also of the Whidbey News-Times, who at my suggestion (begging) added the “Best Blog” category to the “Best of Whidbey” line up.
Yes it’s true; I had to create a whole new category just so I could win. But so what? I’m not proud and I really do love a good plaque!
I’m going to be honest here…this winning thing is FUN! I like it. And it this very moment I think for the first time in my life I have a true understanding of what it must have been like to Sally Field.
I didn’t see the movie “The Bucket List,” but I know a lot of people who did, as evidenced by the fact that this expression keeps popping up everywhere I go…and from the fact that everyone I know is making one.
And as we know, if something involves everyone and is everywhere….well then it’s a foregone conclusion that I am going to want in on that action!
Yes, ever the one to follow a trend, I am making a bucket list too and this is it.
The top 28 things I WILL do before summer (or at least summer as we know it) comes to an end.
And, because I like to be successful at everything I do…I am going to extend my “summer” through to the end of October…just to make sure I have enough time. Sure, that might be a little questionable weather wise…but I can’t believe that October will be any more unseasonable than let’s just say, oh I don’t know…June!
So here it is the official 2010 Summer on Whidbey Bucket List:
1. Walk across Deception Pass Bridge (preferably at sunset…although sunrise is amazing too!)
2. Buy an Ice Cream Cone from Popsies and eat it as I stroll the two-way streets of Pioneer Way.
3. Go to the Drive-In
4. Camp at Deception Pass State Park (or at least donate to the Park Foundation)
5. Check out the vertical garden at a Knot in Thyme
6. Pack a picnic lunch from the bayleaf and eat it at the top of the bluff at Ebey’s landing
7. Walk the entire waterfront trail
8. Go to a Friday night crab boil at Seabolts Smokehouse (on host my own while I am waiting for theirs to start in early fall!)
9. Try the new Tulip Cottage Cafe for breakfast
11. Buy everything I need to make dinner from the Farmer’s Market (this does not mean buying Hot Rock Pizza….again!)
12. Play a round of golf (or a least get to the driving range)
13. Buy a new pair of shoes from the Casual House summer shoe sale (I know I already did this…but just in case they have another sale, I wanted to keep it on my list).
14. Pick berries and make Jam
15. Tour the Whidbey Island wineries….and sample as I go!
16. Eat dinner at Zorbas when it opens in its new location
17. Join in the fun at Driftwood Days (August 21)
18. Take a Deception Pass Tours Boat Ride (again…I know, I know but I can’t get enough!)
19. Attend the first at the first ever OH-ster Fest on September 25
20. Make it to 6:30am Yoga and Lotus Tea Bar and Studio….just once!
21. Feed the birds
22. Splash in a few puddles (look, it’s a Whidbey Island summer list…I need to be realistic!)
23. See Chicago at Whidbey Playhouse
24. Turn in my ballot (ok, not really a summer activity per se…but I need to remember to put my primary ballot in the mail...TODAY!)
25. Fly a kite
26. Tour local artist studios on the Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour (September 25)
27. Enjoy a bowl of Penn Cove Mussels at Toby’s’ Tavern
28. Sit on my deck and do nothing….it’s summer after all, and I need a break!
So there you have it…my list of summer “must dos.” And, just because I really want to see what’s on your bucket list (and because this blog lacks a little locker-room humor) I will end with this ever popular saying:
I showed you mine, now you show me yours. (But really…show me yours…I would love to know what’s on your list!)
Here’s the problem with trying to keep a blog going during the beautiful days of summer…there is so much going on I don’t have time to stop and tell you about what’s happening. On the positive side, you probably don’t have time to read about it either.
So there you have it. We’re even.
But if you happen to be one of the faithful few who check back to see if there have been any recent updates to this blog, (yes, Chicago Johnson’s, I’m talking to you) then I apologize. And I commit, here-to-forth, to do better.
My lack of focus started with Whidbey Island Race Week. I am now, officially, a member of the Oak Harbor Yacht Club and this was my first experience with unadulterated access to the sailing scene. I wont’ lie, it was fun. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much; I didn’t realize that the rest of the town wasn’t having fun right along with me.
Apparently as I was off sipping Mount Gay Rum and Diet Coke, we developed a few Race Week malcontents around town. These folks found themselves feeling left out, unloved, and like a lone buoy bobbing up and down aimlessly in the ocean.
POP! (Yep, you guessed it, that’s the sound of my Race Week bubble bursting.)
Now that some time has passed, and I have regained the firm footing that comes from being on dry land. My deck shoes have been replaced with a very (very) cute pair of summer sandals (purchased at the Casual House summer shoes sale.) I have had some time to do a little investigating in order to better to ascertain what exactly is going on with all these race week dissidents.
Here is what I have come up with:
1. Fellow Whidbey Islanders… Race Week isn’t about us, or for us. It just isn’t.
Sure there are always a select few Oak Harborites can wrangle their way into the event, but in general, this activity is for the racers and their crews. They come to our fine town one week a summer to hoist their sails and compete. It’s their event and we are outsiders.
As my mother likes to say, “It’s not always about you Jill!”
Disappointing, but true.
But I totally get it, you are feeling left out. And nobody likes to be left out of a party…especially a good one.
2. We aren’t getting rich off this thing. We really, really, really aren’t.
You know that line in Jerry McGuire? “Show me the Money!”
Well that’s one of the problems with this event, there’s just no money to show.Yes, that’s right, you heard it here first…nobody is getting rich off Whidbey Island Race Week.
But, we aren’t going broke on it either.
Look, I don’t mean to deflate your sails, but those “economic impact” numbers of 1-2 million dollars that organizers claim blow into town as soon as the first boat arrives aren’t anything other than a big huge gust of (hot) wind.The days of $100 bills flying fast and loose around town are long, long, long gone. Sorry.
If you are a local Oak Harbor or Coupeville business owner, you are one of the lead Negative-Nellies when it comes to bad-mouthing this event. And again, I understand why…you are all (wisely) looking for your piece of the pie.
However, you are also expecting your slice to come warm, filled with gooey goodness, surrounded by a light, flaky, buttery crust and heaped with a slowly melting scoop of vanilla ice cream…maybe even with a little warm caramel sauce slowly dripped over the top….(sorry, I know I lingered a little too long on this analogy…but I am sooo hungry! I just lost myself in the moment).
But it’s not just about the pie (yep, still hungry, analogy continues!) some of you are expecting all this warm and flavorful goodness to be served right on up to you…without even taking the time to order it. In other word, the expectations are too high and we are getting lazy. (See how I brought that back around ? Yep, just like that…back on point my friends, back on point!!)
To be fair to the event however, money IS exchanging hands. Especially for those who make an effort to go after it. And that’s the point.
However I hear you and I know where you are coming from, you feel left out…and nobody likes to feel left out. Trust me, I understand. Especially when times are tight and there is a (fictitious or not) perception out there that millions of dollars are exchanging hands and somehow your not getting any of it.
So I agree with you, if this were true, it would be a total bummer!
3. They don’t want to hang out with us or share their toys.
Race Week snubbed us… or at least that’s how it feels. They party away from downtown while they hang out at the marina, sleep at the old Navy Train wreck, eat at the Yacht Club, and party behind gates that require an elusive wrist-band to enter. Then, to top it all off, they added food vendors* to the event this year, giving these folks even more reason to avoid coming into town. It bugs us!! (and it should.)
However, this is not…I repeat… this is not…a conspiracy (at least I’m pretty sure it’s not but I have a call into Oliver Stone just to make sure!)
*(BTW—these food vendors, they were local guys, so you can’t be mad about that anymore.)
Now (logically) you and I both know that there was not a secret meeting of the cool-kids convention where everyone got together and decided to leave us out. Yes, I said logically…but that’s sure what this event feels like, right?
Again, I will be honest with you, until my recent access to the elusive, all-you-can-drink, wrist-band…I felt exactly the same way. Race Week feels exclusive, a little like they want to party amongst themselves and not have any of our Average Joe energy rub off on their turbo-charged “Adult Summer Camp” vibe. And here is the heart of it. That’s true….sorta!
Still, I’m sure that if you ask any of these racers, they love Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island. And I’d wager a bet that they are, in fact, some of our best community ambassadors. I mean honestly, would you spend hundreds of dollars to sleep on the ground – for a week – in a community you didn’t love?
So it’s doubtful that this feeling of exclusivity is one they try deliberately to create…it’s just something that happens. They don’t mean to make us feel like outsiders and even if they do; it’s our choice to allow them to make us feel that way.
See the thing is, this is our town, and they are our guests, and we shouldn’t expect them to come to us, we should go to them….even if they do seem a little cooler, and even if they do party behind a fence. I mean really…get over it, go say Hi , and then for crying out loud SELL THEM SOMETHING! (As you can see, my Chamber hat is now fully on my head!)
This crowd isn’t snubbing us…(in fact after two days of partying; they don’t have the wherewithalll to do that.) So quit sitting at home crying because you weren’t invited to play… if we as a community aren’t capitalizing on this opportunity, well then it’s our own fault!
I mean really, it’s time to brush that chip off our shoulder and join in on the fun! After all it’s better to be Tardy for the Party then to not party at all! (I didn’t really need that last line, but I really, really wanted to link to Tardy for the Party so badly that I just couldn’t help myself!)
In summary (for those of you who are still with me…yes Chicago Johnson’s I am again still talking to you!) Here’s what I have surmised:
So what if Race Week is not all about us? So what if it’s not bringing in tons of money? And so what if for one week a year we all feel like we are one table away from where all the cool kids sit? (Most of us have spent an entire lifetime at this table anyway.)
Race Week for all its “faults” really is still a really great event.
It’s beautiful. The participants are loyal. Our hotels fill up. The tourists buy some stuff. And we don’t have to close any streets for it!
Plus, the imagery and branding that is created from this event is far reaching and may have the biggest economic impact of it all.
And look on the bright side, if you are still upset that you were left out the action, you can always buy a Whidbey Island Race Week t-shirt. That way, no one will know that you weren’t there.