The Skagit General Store has been open for nearly 100 years. It initially opened for Seattle City Light employees in 1922, expanding its reach to the public in 1940. The store’s spirit is embodied by the “Thelma and Louise” like pair: Barb Haight, the storekeeper, and Kelly Regan, the store clerk. Working together is nothing new for the duo. Growing up together (they met in the second grade!), they make a successful and fun team!
Colleagues and travelers know the Skagit General Store as an entertaining and enjoyable place to say “hi.” Still, the store has been quite different during its peak season. We caught up with Barb and Kelly for a summer 2020 update to share what’s changed at the store and surrounding area.
Can you tell us about your roles pre-COVID, and what has changed these past few months?
Barb: “The summer is our busy season. We usually go from Kelly and me, the only permanent employees at the store, to five temporary, seasonal workers. We’ll see up to 12 people a day during winter, whereas, in the summer, it’s up in the hundreds. It’s a huge change not to see anyone, including each other. Kelly works for one week, and I work the other. We don’t see each other that much right now, which is very unfortunate but a needed safety measure.”
Kelly: “Barb and I pride ourselves in the customer care we provide to the public, so making the transition from being active at the store and interacting with customers wasn’t the easiest thing to do. But closing the store during the busy season was a good decision to keep employees and the public safe.”
How have things changed at Skagit? Have you seen fewer visitors to the area this year?
Kelly: “Quite the opposite, they’re everywhere! I think that the roads have been busier than ever. It’s crazy how many cars are on the road these days. I heard that there was one weekend at Colonial Creek Campground, which is by Diablo Lake, where cars lined up for miles. People said it looked like the beaches in California; there must have been 10,000 people up there! They were swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding – they were doing everything. That would have been an awesome picture!”
Barb: “I don’t think the circumstances have slowed a lot of people down; I think it’s more of people making a day trip or taking a short getaway. Even though we’re in the middle of nowhere, we’re really not that far. And it’s beautiful here!”
Are there any new rules or signage, anything like that for those visitors coming up?
Kelly: “Currently, there are fire bans on top of COVID, so campers can’t have fires right now. Other than that, we’re basically in the store self-contained, so we don’t see anybody unless they call and ask questions – and we’ve had a lot of calls! Folks want to know if the store is open and what’s going on up here. City Light placed a great sandwich board in front of the store that explains what’s going on in the area and what activities are available. It’s helped so much. Of course, if I look outside and see one of our valued customers that Barb and I have made a relationship with, I’ll peek out the door with my mask on, give them a wave and say, “How ya doing?!” because you know, they are so important to us and we want to tell them that we’re still there.”
How have you seen employees respond to the store’s changes and the influx of people coming up there for recreation?
Kelly: “We love our employees. They’re always talking to us and keep us tuned in with what’s going on. Barb and I wanted to be there for them.”
Barb: “[City Light] Employees have been very supportive; they’ll call or email what items they need, and we put it out back for them. We try to share photos of what we have available. When an employee comes by to pick something up, they’ve been great about wearing their masks and stuff. If anything is going on, they’ll let us know if we need to be aware.”
Kelly: “Skagit employees are incredible. They’re amazing people. They work hard; we look out for each other. We’re like family. It’s nice when they call in their order because we can chat, check-in, and see how they’re doing. As Barb said, they’ve been very supportive. The store is available to them, and they must get what they need when they need it.”
What would you tell someone who is hesitant to visit the area?
Kelly: “Just like everyone is doing now, practice social distancing. The leaves are starting to change color, and it’s just beautiful. Get up here, leave the house, go for a ride! Find a pull out where there’s nobody and enjoy the view and area!”
Barb: “Anywhere you go, you won’t be disappointed! It’s beautiful!”
Kelly: “We always welcome people here because it is so beautiful, and we love sharing the work and what we do. We power the city! To me, that’s a great thing, but again, practice social distancing, wear your masks, use your common sense, be kind to others while you’re here and enjoy yourself!”
Thank you, Kelly and Barb, for providing an update for employees and visitors visiting the Skagit area and General Store.