Blue Dolphin shop to close in Port Angeles
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Fraya and J.R. Johnson, owners of The Blue Dolphin gift shop in downtown Port Angeles, show off one of the shop's original signs on Thursday. The Johnsons plan to close the shop this summer. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Marcie Miller
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES -- After seven years of selling merchandise -- and sometimes sermonizing to customers -- Fraya and J.R. Johnson are closing their shop on Front Street, The Blue Dolphin.

The couple don't have a set date for the end of their business but hope to be out by late July.

Prices have been reduced to 5 percent above cost, marked in red on sales tags.

"We don't haggle," J.R. said, pointing out a sign reading "All Sales Final."

"We don't have time."

Challenge

The 70-year-old merchant said that, between the downturn in the economy and the upswing in downtown construction projects, it has been challenging to keep the business afloat.

But that's not why they're closing the store, which contains a maze of 6,000 square feet of eclectic items, from nautical decorations and jewelry to paintings and used furniture.

Although signs in the front window of the store at 118 E. Front St. read "Quitting Port Angeles," J.R. said there are no hard feelings attached to their departure.

"I'm not going out of business. I'm quitting," he said.

They are getting out of the storefront retail business to go into selling a brand of water purifiers that reduce acidity and increase the alkaline level in tap water, which they said has multiple health benefits.

It's a business they can do from any location, which appeals to their sense of adventure.

"We will have more freedom," J.R. said. "With the new career, we don't have to be anywhere."

The Johnsons discovered Port Angeles when they arrived by sailboat, and they would like to devote more time to that "hobby," as J.R. called it.

May move to PT

For that reason, they are considering moving to Port Townsend.

"We also have grandchildren in Portland [Oregon] who are 1 and 3 that we would like to see more," Fraya added.

While J.R. wanted to focus on their new career move, Fraya added the economy in Port Angeles had not been good during their entire time there and that friends with investments predicted it won't get better for another five to 10 years.

Downtown businesses faced additional challenges the last few years with the construction of The Gateway transit center, sidewalk construction projects and the temporary closure of the Hood Canal Bridge.

J.R. said he prefers to focus on solutions rather than problems and didn't want to discuss his experience as part of the downtown merchant community.

The store has also given him, a messianic Jew, a pulpit from which to minister to some customers.

He won't have that ready-made congregation, but he's not worried.

"I will do my ministry on the street," he said "I can draw a crowd in five minutes."

Fraya said prices may be reduced further if they still have a lot of stock near the end of July. They also are selling all the display cases, shelves and office equipment.

They don't own the building.

While the couple will probably move out of Port Angeles to seek new opportunities, J.R. said the town won't be forgotten.

"I love Port Angeles and care about it," he said. "I'm not going to forsake it. I feel I was sent here and my work is not done. Not yet."

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Features Editor Marcie Miller can be reached at 360-417-3550 or marcie.miller@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 06. 2010 10:37PM
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