By SARAH LOW
The Country Store and Gardens may be under new management, but it’s still all in the family, and changes are afoot.
The 40-year-old shop and nursery has added staff, increased its inventory and is planning a significant facelift.
“It’s been a part of our family and the island for a long time,” said manager Mike Biel. “We really just want to make it a more fun place for people to come and hang out and get whatever they need.”
Biel, the son of longtime owner Vy Biel, said he is often surprised to hear that people think The Country Store has been sold or has gone out of business.
“I hear it from people all the time. I’ll be talking to someone and they’ll say, ‘The store is still open? I thought it was closing or was sold,’” Biel said, noting that the confusion is likely due to the fact that his mother is no longer running the business.
Vy Biel, 92, moved into an assisted living facility in January, and Mike is now managing the store.
“We decided that because the store has been a part of this community for so long that it was important to keep it going,” he said.
Biel has also decided to make some changes at the large store and nursery south of town. During the spring, the staff cleared out some of the antiques and odds and ends that had accumulated at the property over the years and sold them at multiple estate sales.
Biel explained that while the store will remain open, they’re now in the process of renovating and will likely be making upgrades for the next six to 12 months. Cleaning out the building, painting, adding offices, re-siding the exterior, cleaning up the grounds and thinning trees are all part of the plan.
Biel said that they have also hired more staff to support this renewed focus, including garden experts Sue Day and Mark Basset to manage the store’s 10-acre nursery, where all plants are grown on site.
“This has been the best year ever for the nursery,” he said.
The store will make good use of the new staff and space that was made available after the spring cleanup by hosting a series of gardening seminars. The first one will coincide with Ciderfest next month and will focus on planting bulbs for the spring.
In moving forward, Biel is keeping an eye on the past and the place the store has in Vashon’s history.
“We’re taking the store back to its roots,” he said. “That’s our goal.”