#11 NW Front Street
Coupeville, Washington

Post Office / Laundromat / A Touch of Dutch

This small building was built in 1938 as the second post office, which it remained until 1956. It is a concrete block structure, originally a good example of simple Modern Design popular in the 1930s. It was clad in wood siding for the movie Practical Magic in 1998.

The building was commissioned by the Assistant Postmaster for Post Office. It was then owned by Assistant Postmaster, Bob Cushen. Built by Ralph Ward, it was constructed with cement, not wood, for fire protection because the buildings were so close together.

Grace Cottage
Grace Cottage
Courtesy: Ebey's Landing Building Inventory

1946 - 1950 Postmasters were Captain Clapp and Bill Howard

1956 Post Office - Sylvia Miller and Bruce Anleen, aka Stover Moulder

*From an interview by Judy Lynn with Diane and Roger Eelkema in 2009.

Roger: the cinder block building at the southwest corner of Front and Grace was the Post Office. The Union Oil box was 96. I remember getting the mail when Shirley Parker [grandfather of Diane Eelkema] was a clerk (Easton Mudgett was the postmaster.) After the post office moved to Main Street, then that building became a laundry. Leroy Bodin owned the building and installed commercial laundry facilities. He was quite surprised when he came to clean the machines and Roberta Smith came out with old horse blankets she had laundered. Leroy cleaned them out again and it was a mess. He liked Roberta and Knight Smith.

Diane: Ralph Ward built the cinder block building. After Shirley [Parker] retired from the meat market he spent a year working on his beach property then went to work at the post office. It was a small space but had a big scale. As a little kid you could stand on the scale and grandpa could weight you. When people opened their box to get their mail he would grab their hand. And he had read their postcard. "I see your daughter is having a great time in Yosemite". They hadn't read their mail yet. There are articles in the newspapers about him. He was very congenial and liked visiting with people. A couple of times there were baby chicks. I rode my bike to the post office. Our box was 63.

After the Laundromat closed it was retail shops and Tortuga Restaurant in the 1990's.

1961 The laundromat was opened by Leroy and Margaret Bodin.

Econowash Laundromat
Econowash Laundry.

In 1964 the laundromat was sold to John Stinger, later it was bought by Bruce Miller.

1992 - Became Fantasy Island owned by Doug Dowell who sold ice cream from side window.

1995 - Pam DeGolier opened a Liquor Store. At this time the building was owned by Shelby and Kathleen Quinn.

1996 - Gordon Barnes set up as a CPA in a back room.

1998 The building was wrapped in wood siding by Warner Brothers for the movie Practical Magic. Windows and trim were also added.

Upgrading the exterior for movie
Upgrading the exterior for the movie Practical Magic.

1999 - Pam moved the liquor store to Main Street. "Antique Pirates on Penn Cove" owned by Debbie Rusnak, set up in October.

2001 - Front Street Antiques and Collectibles and then in February the "Tortuga Seafood Restaurant" was opened by Michael Lauver.

*From an interview by Judy Lynn with Michael Lauver [Owner of Sea-Tac Shuttle] in 2009

Judy: I understand you owned Tortuga Restaurant on Front Street. When was that?

Michael: I opened it in 2001, right at the beginning of the year and closed early fall 2002.

Judy: Was the business in the building at Front and Grace, the former Laundromat (Post Office)?

Michael: Yes, Pam DeGolier had her liquor store there before we moved in.

Judy: Tell me about Tortuga.

Michael: It was an evolution of an idea. I had been in the seafood business in California. I wanted to wholesale oysters from Hood Canal and Vancouver Island and I wanted a facility for coolers. Then I thought I should do a lunch counter, then a restaurant. It kept growing. At the time there were no real seafood restaurants on the Island. I was figuring that Coupeville as an historic area would be perfect for a good seafood restaurant.
The building is quite small. It had 6 or 7 tables at the most. I could only accommodate 25 people at a setting. It was never intended to be a big money maker and that I would dabble. I had two restaurants before and should have known you don't dabble. You have a lobotomy and empty your checkbook and then have a restaurant.
We took a bare building with nothing and built it out as a restaurant. We found old Laundromat stubs to the sewer and that was a huge investment. We had to have a fire approved giant hood for ventilation and make it all fit into a 16' wide space. The kitchen was 12' x 12'. It was really interesting. We designed the kitchen with everything….a 6 burner stove, twin deep-fryers, large coolers, flame grill, three bay sinks, prep counter, all the goodies. Then we did the front. I decided I wasn't interest in a fish and chips shop so we had white linen and wine glasses and silverware. And we hired not just a server but also a maitre d'—someone with a tie and jacket to seat and assist people with wine. Our wines ran from $25 to $150. And it backfired. People would look in the door and see white linen and say, "That's too ritzy." Our prices were reasonable. We charged half of what you would pay in Seattle It was all fresh seafood with a delivery every day. Coupeville wasn't ready for that style. People seemed put-off by the semi-formal look. After 6 or 8 months we went to oilcloth and we had fish and chips and burgers with our core of seafood even for lunch. Then at dinner people demanded fish and chips. I had to dumb-down the menu. I relearned the lesson ….you can't sell to the public what you think they want, you have to sell what they want.

Another obstacle was that according to Oak Harbor, Coupeville is on the dark side of the moon. I would run into people who would have seen my photo in the paper and ask them if they have been to the restaurant. They said, "That's down in Coupeville. I was down there two years ago and went to Toby's for a burger." The standard response from Oak Harbor was "We don't go to Coupeville."

Another obstacle was that at that time many of the merchants were hobby merchants. They thought at 4:30 they would rather be at home. All were closed by 5:30. Our restaurant, Toby's and the Captain's Galley were the only places in town open. You couldn't go down and browse the shops before you ate. Dinner was the event.

Even with all of that, we would have stayed with it. We didn't plan on making much money—and that held true—but it was so much work. Then our landlord (Kathleen Quinn) made our situation untenable. The roof was leaking and there were other problems with the construction. I sent her a notice that she was in breach of the lease because she was not fixing anything. I said, "Fix it or we're out of here." She came back with a threatening Jake Cohen letter. My attorney sent them a letter and the next day I had a check. Then we closed it up.

At the time I moved to the Island I had a lodge in Alaska with a restaurant. I had a chef I brought down here for the opening of Tortuga. He had trained at Tassahara and worked at other restaurants in the Northwest. He had been cooking for me for three years before relocating down here. Six weeks after opening he went back to Alaska. I then hired Brad Boyer from the Oak Harbor Country Club and he worked for me for a year. When he departed I took over in the kitchen. For six months or so I did the cooking. I also did the designing and working with the recipes. I used to call it "combat cooking." I had all the equipment, deep fryers and the rest, and behind me was the prep counter. All I had to do was turn around. I had one prep cook working for me. The restaurant would fill up and it kept me extremely busy. And a sort of an anomaly here was that people wanted their food quickly. In most restaurants after you're seated the menu's and water would be brought, followed by questions, a wine order, appetizers and entrée orders, then salads followed by your entrée. A dining experience is at least an hour to 1 1/2 hour. Once people were seated in two minutes they wanted the salad in three minutes they expected the entrée. They didn't have the patience for meals of exotic fish.

The two years we operated we won the "Best Seafood Award" by the Whidbey News Times. Toby's had it before. We tried to put out a decent product and keep it a nicer level than typically offered.

2003 - "Coupeville Antique Mall" opened by Virginia Walshaw and Sandra Roberts.

2004 - "Grace Cottage" opened Judy Tackett and Matt Iverson built a new building behind this one.

touch of dutch
Grace Cottage
Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville

2007- "A Touch of Dutch" Was moved to this building from the Mariner's Court Building by Misty and Virgil Blanton

Touch of Dutch
A Touch of Dutch

2016- "A Touch of Dutch" was purchased by Bastiaan and Janine Verhulst in June. They plan to continue to operate it as before. The can be found at www.atouchofdutch.com.

* All the interviews are extracted from the Judy Lynn's Oral History Project. Judy Lynn interviewed everyone she could find who had any memories of the history of Front Street. For more information on the project contact the Whidbey Island Historical Musem, Coupeville.

The e-book Front Street, Coupeville - An Oral History by Judy Lynn contains all the interviews. I can be purchased for $9.99 at Amazon.com for Kindle application or device or from the Apple Store for iBooks applications. Proceeds go to the Island County Historical Society.

Oral History Cover