Our family has vacationed on Orcas Island since the 1990’s, staying for a magical week each June at Beach Haven Resort on the island’s northwest coast. One of our many annual traditions, on the Friday before we had to leave on Saturday, was to motor by boat around the west and south sides of the island to the public dock at Olga. We would tie up our boat and then hike the long dock to the end of Olga Road.
In earlier years we would often stop at the Olga Store for a little shopping, maybe an ice cream cone. After the store closed for the last time, our yearly hike would continue up the hill to the Artworks Gallery and lunch at the Café (first Olga Café, then Catkin). In all those years, we never imagined we would one day call Olga home.
And yet, here we are! And one of the first things we did was become donors to the Friends of The Olga Store Building.
The Olga Store has a long and colorful past. Olga was founded in 1860 and named after the mother of the first Olga storekeeper, Anthony Ohlert. This small hamlet has retained its rustic beauty for more than 100 years.
In the early 1900s, The Olga Store was located in a different building nearer to the beach. It moved in 1937 to the current beloved building. As a general store, it was the hub for the east end of Orcas Island. The store was close to the dock where fresh strawberries were shipped to Seattle markets. The mail would arrive by boat before it started coming from Eastsound by road.
The first Olga Post Office, established in 1890, was initially housed in a log cabin at Buck Bay, then later moved to the current Olga Store Building. The Post Office was moved across the street to its current location, and the store evolved into different establishments: a lunch nook, a fine dining restaurant, and a general store where you could get homemade ice cream.1
What is so amazing about the Store in its current incarnation is pure Orcas Island. A committed group of community members determined to preserve the Store building. It all began in May 2019 when the current Olga Post Office building was put on the market, with the lease ending in October 2019. The situation became urgent, both to save the building from development and to ensure that Olga retains its post office as the focal point of the community.
Friends of the Olga Store Building moved to reclaim this beloved space for the community in 2019. On January 21, 2020, after 10 months of persistent organizing, fundraising, and becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they purchased the building with hundreds of donations from those who shared the dream.
They envision a revived historic East-end community anchor, housing The Olga Post Office and Orcas Food Co-op, an inclusive and welcoming place to receive mail and sip coffee.2
The expectations for the resurrected building are high, which is causing many Olga residents to re-think listing their home for sale. The very real possibility of a revived Olga Store is a great reason to remain, or become, a member of this forward-thinking community.
For more information, click here https://www.theolgastore.org/
1 – Edited excerpt from Images of America Orcas Island, published by the Orcas Island Historical Society and Museum, page 29.
2 – Edited excerpt from theolgastore.org