Friends of the Olga Store make an offer

After a month of pledge-gathering, Friends of the Olga Store Building put in an offer to purchase the Olga Store and are officially in escrow. Now, they need the $250,000 they received via hundreds of pledges to be actualized.

The grassroots community effort to buy the store from its current owner, Patrick Stolmeier of East Hampton, New York, has estimated it will cost just shy of $1 million. $650,000 to purchase and an additional rough estimate of $300,000 for renovations. The nonprofit FOSB plans to lease space to the U.S. Post Office as well as the Orcas Food Co-op, which will establish a cooperative cafe in the south-facing sun porch. The Olga Store has been vacant since 2009.

Earlier this year, FOSB received a $200,000 private loan and a matching $200,000 donation from part-time eastside residents. But their reach stretches beyond Orcas Island, said FOSB President Colleen Stewart. Over 1,000 pledge letters were sent out by FOSB in 30 days. In an effort to close the sale by January 6, the team is asking all pledgers to mail in checks as soon as possible.

“A surprising amount of money has come from people off-island who have legacy homes in Olga or find the Olga Store adds to their sense of place. Living on this island and visiting this island is a rare privilege that restores people in a soulful way. People come here for nature and to see a world that isn’t so utilitarian and uniform,” Stewart said.

Additionally in November, FOSB received their 501(c)3 status from the IRS, enabling pledgers to make direct tax-deductible donations. Formerly, Island Stewards, a local incubator for organizations dedicated to sustainable environmental stewardship and social and economic justice, served as FOSB’s emergency umbrella. Rick Larsen’s office expedited the application in time to make an offer, Stewart shared.

“We feel so much more confident and won’t have to pay any more fees,” Stewart said. “After the contracts have been signed and the building acquired, we’ll go crazy calling everybody to collect pledges throughout December. We’d like to close within 30 days, Stewart said.

FOSB, which includes Stewart, Vice President Gay Peresky, Secretary Selby Lighthill, Treasurer Debbie Durand, Bizzy Riley, Frank Martin and Oshen Schiweck, hired a fundraiser, Chelsea Thorpe, to “be part of the collective dreaming.”

“She’s been making a lot of calls — the word got out really quickly and people provided really fast, I think because we conducted a ton of background research,” Stewart said.

The apartment in the rear of the store will be eliminated and turned into offices or community spaces that will be of value to Olga locals.

“We would have to do a residential permit in addition to a commercial permit. So we’re going to simplify the vision a little bit. These offices could be rented by bodyworkers, artists — it could even be an addition to the Co-Op if they want to extend into that space,” said Stewart.

But FOSB team leaders said the work isn’t yet done. They are in contract with Ben Trogdon, the same architect who consulted on the Olga Artworks building, who will collaborate with builders to asses upcoming renovation costs. This will lead into what FOSB calls fundraising phase three.

“We don’t want people to think this is quite over, we’re definitely over the hump, but we need people to keep volunteering and keep giving. We’ll probably have some events over the winter and creative surprises in the spring.”