Longtime Port Townsend art and glass shop moving to Hawaii
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
From left, Shirley Spencer, Johanna Wiseman and Dawn Sagar prepare Akamai Art and Glass Supply for closing.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Businesses often close down one location and relocate to another.

But moves from Port Townsend to Hawaii are pretty rare.

Akamai Art and Glass Supply will close its doors May 31, after which time it will move lock, stock and paintbrush to a new location in Kailua-Kona in Hawaii.

“We've been here for seven years, and we never got used to the gray and the dark,” said Johanna Wiseman, who owns the shop with Shirley Spencer.

Throughout this month, the store has discounted its inventory and reduced it to one-third its former size, with the rest to be sold at 50 percent off next week.

After the store closes, schools that have supported it throughout the years will be invited in to choose what they want or need.

“We will give them a budget, and they can take whatever they want,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman said business has been good recently for the specialty shop that needs a steady stream of clients to keep it afloat.

“We are not leaving because of business, but one of the emotional things has been the shoplifting.

“It's sometimes $500 a month, and while the business can absorb this, it's hard when you realize that the people who are stealing are the people you know, that you've talked to and developed a relationship with, that you consider friends,” Wiseman said.

The shop has several security cameras that “are only any good if you stare at them all day,” Wiseman said.

The 3,400-square-foot store at 2328 W. Sims Way was crammed with 24,000 items, many of them very small, something that screamed “opportunity” to a shoplifter.

Wiseman said it was different in Hawaii, where the inventory and layout were much the same.

“During the first six months that we were here, we lost more to shoplifting than in eight years in Hawaii,” she said.

Wiseman and Spencer came to Port Townsend by accident, and their leaving is as fortuitous.

The two operated art supply stores for 30 years in Hawaii before moving to Washington and have kept in touch with their home.

Last year, they saw a house on the Big Island that they liked and made a low offer they were sure would be refused.

When it was accepted in 30 minutes, they were “stuck” with the property.

After a trip to the house earlier this year, they made the decision to move and attempt to keep the Port Townsend store open.

“We were operating the store remotely for a while, thinking that we could keep it open with our current manager, Dawn Sagar, and assistant manager, Bailey Farnath,” Wiseman said.

“Bailey got a job that was going to pay for her college and was going to turn it down because she didn't want to leave us stranded.

“But I told her to take it, [that] we don't hire stupid people — and if she turned down that job, she was fired.”

After that, Sagar decided to make the trip to Hawaii.

“It's hard to find good help. When you do, you need to hang on to them,” Spencer said.

The store's location on Upper Sims Way on the south end of town is off the beaten track, but that hasn't hurt the business, Wiseman said.

“We're not downtown darlings, and we didn't want to be,” she said.

“Downtown is more a tourist area, and we are not a tourist business.”

Wiseman and Spencer don't plan to move much of the current inventory to the new store in Hawaii that will open by Labor Day, though they will take some fixtures.

“When Swain's [Outdoor] closed, we added some items to fill the gap,” Wiseman said.

“Now we are approaching some of the businesses downtown to see if they can fill the void, telling them we carry certain things and seeing if they have room for them in their inventory.”

While the shop caters to professional artists, several customers are amateurs and hobbyists who just want to make something original with their hands, Wiseman said.

“There is something tactile you get when you create art,” she said.

“Smushing paint around can be a lot more gratifying than pushing pixels around.”

Akamai will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through May 31.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 23. 2013 6:06PM
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