Guemes Island General Store

Just a daytrip away

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

People often make fun of me for this, but I’m a devoted day-tripper. I am never happier than when behind the wheel of my hand-me-down mid-’90s sedan indulging my desire to explore the nooks and crannies of my immediate environs via back roads and less-beaten paths.

As such, I’ve traveled most miles of viable roads in Whatcom County and a good portion of those in Skagit County as well. For someone with a yen to explore her own backyard, Skagit offers a wealth of destinations and communities, each with its very particular charms and all worthy of getting up close and personal with. Over the years, I’ve spent time in nearly all of them, from Anacortes to Marblemount and points between.

However, the one place I have yet to visit is Guemes Island. Which is a shame because that’s where the Guemes Island General Store is located—but I’m fairly certain it’s about to be my new favorite day-tripping destination.

Before it was the Guemes Island General Store, it was Anderson’s General Store, a mainstay on the tiny island that’s just a five-minute ferry ride from Anacortes. It was bought by a married couple with big ideas in 2016, and they not only breathed new life into the old store, they also transformed it into the heartbeat of the entire tight-knit island community.

Lucky for me, we happen to share similar interests: being on the water, menu items with punny names (including a salad called the “Beet Down” and a sandwich dubbed “Hoagie Juan Kenobi”), fried cheese curds and, of course, live music.

I suffer from the delusion that very many things on this Earth were put there just for me, and the fact that there’s a place where I can see bands, be next to the water and stuff my face with fried cheese all at the same time is doing nothing to dispel that belief. Heaven, thy name is Guemes Island General Store.

Part of the draw of seeing music at the General Store is certainly its stunning locale (and the aforementioned fried cheese), but the other part is the venue tends to draw talent that belies the island’s relative inaccessibility, not to mention its limited population and services. They’ve played host to everyone from Karl Blau to Kuinka, and half the fun of checking out their schedule is to see who they’ve managed to lure to their pocket paradise.

On the near-future horizon, they’ll welcome Josh Clauson, founder of Flowmotion as well as Summer Meltdown, for a Sat., April 14 show. Clauson is playing in support of his recently released album Driftless, which he wrote with his wife Genevieve and recorded with some help from his friends in Polecat. For his Guemes gig, he’s enlisted Jacob Navarro and Robert Peeler to help create Clauson’s self-described “dream folk” that should prove an ideal soundtrack for the idyllic setting.

The following Saturday—April 21—is Earth Day, and with it comes an event intended to celebrate the planet while also bringing together the Guemes community as a whole. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own luminaries to illuminate the night sky and symbolize the light that radiates from within all of us. While everyone gets sufficiently lit, they’ll be entertained by the Peter Jackson Trio, who will come all the way from Anacortes for the night.

The final happening of the Guemes Island General Store’s spring calendar (as it currently stands) is Steve Meyer, who will bring himself and his nimble fingers for a night of piano music at the venue. But it won’t be Bach sonatas or Mozart concertos or Bach on his musical menu. Instead, he’s got lively New Orleans-style blues up his skilled sleeve, and if you’re not too weighed down by grass-fed burgers and plates of “daily dirty” fries, you might even be moved to dance a little—or a lot. What happens on the island, stays on the island.

What: The Josh Clauson Trio
When: 7pm Sat., April 14
What: Earth Day Celebration
When: 6:30pm Sat., April 21
What: Steve Meyer
When: 6pm Sat., May 11

Where: Guemes Island General Store, 7885 Guemes Island Road, Anacortes
Cost: Free

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