Eclipse Charters opens nature store in Eastsound

A new Eclipse Charters Wildlife Store has ensconced itself in the little Eastsound berth next door to the Nest and beneath the new Windermere headquarters.

“This is a great opportunity to try to keep our business current,” said Eclipse Charters co-proprietor Denise Wilk. “We’re trying to generate a lifestyle we can sustain.”

Denise and her husband Daniel will keep their dock store at the Orcas ferry landing, but say it’s mighty quiet out there these days. They hope to expand their outreach to visitors to the island through the new wildlife store and tour office they opened in the heart of Eastsound on May 20.

The sound of water trickling through a sea-blue pottery fountain welcomes visitors to the new store, which displays mainly wildlife-themed goods and native art.

Denise has selected a variety of native offerings, including wood carvings, silver jewelry, silk screened art, delicate silk-blend scarves in deep blues, greens and mauves, a book on native legends, small decorative magnets and brightly hued postcards.

Wildlife wares include laminated field guides, nautical maps, a generous display of guide and cookbooks on harvesting local flora and fauna, and even a book on Sasquatch encounters. A flat-screen TV displays Orca images from a DVD by the Center for Whale Research, and Denise’s fascination with lighthouses is evident in her supply of lighthouse books, t-shirts, mugs and more.

The store is also well-stocked with illustrated children’s wildlife books like “Springer’s Journey,” the true tale of an orphaned little Orca. (Springer showed up in downtown Seattle waters in 2002 and adopted a commuter ferry as her surrogate mother until rescuers returned her to her pod near Canada). The store also carries plush stuffed Orca whales, and Denise plans a kids corner with crayons and coloring books in the future. Other wares include eco-friendly Koko lunch bags, Mario Batali insulated totes, metal water bottles, Denise’s hand-made felt hat line, Chapeaux Deveraux, and watery NebulousArt photography hung along the back hall serving as a gallery.

The Wilks moved to the island in 1978, and they’ve been busy in the community. Denise was recently named Educator of the Year by the Sustainable San Juans 2010 awards.

Now in their 20th year of operation as Eclipse Charters, they named their tour and whale-watching business for the 1906 halibut schooner, Eclipse, which will be featured on the historical ship quilt currently being sewn by Denise and other volunteers for the Orcas Island Historical Society. In the 1993 movie “Free Willy II,” Denise and Daniel played the “Coastal Marine Patrol,” captaining their 56-foot Orca Express charter boat.

There’s even a baby Orca named after their company, baby J-41 Eclipse born in 2005 to Mom J-19 Sachi. The naming was a thank-you from the Whale Museum, as the Wilks financed the first pictorial Orca ID chart. The Wilks are also sponsors of the SeaDoc Society marine lecture series and set aside a portion of their sales proceeds to benefit the Washington Lightkeepers Association and the Keepers of the Patos Light organization.

“It’s small, but it adds up,” said Wilk.