Vashon merchants association works to improve retail climate

Banded together as the Vashon Merchants’ Association, more than two dozen Island retailers have been working this year to strengthen Vashon’s retail sector. They’ve done such things as create a walking map of Vashon town and implement a program where their stores stay open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

Their upcoming goals are ambitious — to install trash cans and bicycle racks in key locations in town and to charter a bus to take tourists from the north-end ferry dock to Vashon’s core.

Vashon retailers “are very passionate about their businesses and their community,” said Karen Barringer, co-owner of Vashon Bookshop and one of the founders of the Vashon Merchants’ Association.

Created in February, the organization first published a pamphlet in March listing Island businesses on a map. Designed by local artist Annie Brulé, the maps are designed to encourage shoppers to walk through Vashon town.

The pamphlet is available at 70 Island locations, Barringer reported.

The association plans to work in cooperation with the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council to determine where trash cans and bike racks will be most effective, she said.

The association formed in an effort to increase communication between businesspeople and in so doing improve the retail network on Vashon, she added.

“We thought it would be really helpful to get to know our fellow merchants, and find out what they sold,” Barringer said. The association has helped Vashon businesspeople “work as a cohesive group, so we can all benefit from having small businesses on Vashon.”

Retailers appreciate the support they receive from each other through the association, Barringer added.

“We realize that we can turn to each other,” she said. “Bringing this group together, we know that we have a fun, cooperative, supportive group that we can look to for ideas and suggestions.”

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