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Liquor store’s move stirs consternation

A liquor store is slated to move into the heart of Vashon’s downtown core, displacing both the John L. Scott office and Eyeland Optical, two businesses that now occupy the 1920 brick building next to The Hardware Store Restaurant.

Karen Lindskog, who owns the building, applied for a state contract after notices were published in The Beachcomber that the state Liquor Control Board intended to close its state-run store in the Thriftway shopping plaza and offer up a contract for a privately run establishment.

Lindskog, a lifelong Islander who worked for K2 for 14 years, said she decided to apply for the contract after a friend mentioned to her that the state was looking for a new location and contract. Last week, she got word from the state that she’d received the award.

“I look at this as an opportunity for myself and a handful of people. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a friendly place,” she said.

But some are troubled by the development, saying a liquor store doesn’t belong in a prime spot in the heart of the town and that it will add to the town core’s already tough parking situation. Some also wonder how this went through without any public notice or opportunity for comment.

“I just can’t believe that this thing got as far as it did before anyone knew about it,” said Gary Sipple, an Islander active in civic affairs.

Sipple said he contacted leaders in the Vashon-Maury Chamber of Commerce and other active community members last week and found that most had not heard about the move or had heard about it only last Monday — the day the state announced its contract award decision.

“It didn’t require a public hearing. It just fell through the cracks,” Sipple said. “As a community, we were asleep at the switch or didn’t have the means to pay attention to this.”

Anne Radford, a spokesperson for the Liquor Control Board, said the state decided to close Vashon’s state-run liquor store because both the community and market demand weren’t growing as much as those in other parts of the state.

Under state rules, the Liquor Control Board can operate 161 state stores and 154 contract stores, and every year it undertakes an analysis to determine if it needs to alter the geographic makeup of its state and contract stores, she said.

As a result of the most current analysis, the Liquor Control Board decided to open a state store in Federal Way and change Vashon’s status to a contract store. The Vashon establishment has been a state-run store for 20 years.

Before making its decision, the board usually sends a courtesy notice to a town or city’s mayor, informing him or her that a relocation is in the works, Radford said. In Vashon’s case, a courtesy notice was sent to Vashon’s Chamber of Commerce in April.

“We let them know that we were in the process of selecting an applicant and that the store may be relocated to a new location,” Radford said.

Eyeland Optical, which occupies half of the 2,000-square-foot space, hopes to move to the space formerly occupied by Carlson Chiropractic, just east of Thriftway. Dr. Jon Willems, owner of the optometry office, said the move serves his business well, which needs more space as well as better and easier parking.

Ken Zaglin, the owner of the John L. Scott office on Vashon, said his downtown staff will move to his office on the north end of the Island.

But Zaglin said he was unhappy about the news, which came as a surprise to him and after an investment of $40,000 in the downtown office over the course of his four-year tenancy there. When his lease expired, he said, he agreed to a month-to-month rental arrangement after Lindskog told him she was trying to sell the building and assured him his office would be able to remain.

He said he plans to reopen a downtown office once he finds another site. While his north-end office is large enough to accommodate all of his real estate agents and other employees, he said the downtown location afforded convenience to clients and a great way to plug into community events.

At Halloween, for instance, the office turns into a popular haunted house, and during the run-up to last week’s PTSA auction, the storefront window carried a display of auction items.

“I loved being in town. And I will be back in town shortly,” Zaglin said.

Lindskog said she’s not troubled by the upset, a normal reaction, she noted, to change. The liquor store has been in other locations over the years, she said, including right in town. What’s more, she said, the hours will remain the same as at the current location — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday — and state guidelines will continue to apply to the operation.

“It’s going to be professionally run,” she said, adding, “I’m going to let the naysayers roll off my back. ... I’ve got to prove them wrong.”

The Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, will take up the issue when it holds its monthly board meeting Wednesday morning, said Linda Bianchi, the chamber’s president.

The issue may be moot, she noted, since the state has already awarded the contract. Even so, she said, the board will decide if it wants to take a stand on the new liquor store’s location, which has upset some members of the board.

But Bianchi, who co-owns the Windermere Real Estate office on Vashon, added that the issue is a tough one for her.

“One part of what the chamber does is encourage retail business in the downtown core, and the liquor store is a retail business,” she noted. “It may not be the kind of business people want in the downtown core. But it’s hard to tell one business owner, ‘We don’t want your business,’ and to tell another one, ‘Yes, we want your business.’”

“I’m trying to decide which direction the chamber should go, if any direction,” she added.

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