206 First Street: Gem Gallery
204/202 First Street: Ott & Hunter Wines and Lounge
(Lenz Garage / Langley Garage / Retail Shops)
1919: Lenz Garage built.
Circa 1923. Carl ("Charlie") Lenz standing in front of his garage.(Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)
The Lenz Garage was the first garage built on 1st Street to service the automobiles that were becoming more numerous. Red Crown gas was selling for 21 cents a gallon.
"Charlie Lenz was a big happy German who had a gifted knack with motors and autos. He had a Garage in town and most of the business. When he was paid off in cash, he threw all the silver dollars into the greasy 12 quart bucket he had used to catch the engine oil. When the garage burned to the ground (in the 1930's), he was surprised and elated to find the bucket in the rubble, intact and containing eleven hundred greasy silver dollars.." (William McGinnis)
The garage burned circa 1932. Following the fire, the garage was rebuilt and enlarged to include the vacant lot between the original garage and the Livery Stable.
1939. Carl's ad in the November 1939 Whidby [sic] Record (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)
1940's. First Street looking west(Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).
The new garage consisted of two adjacent buildings with two gas pumps in front. The name was changed to Langley Garage in the early 1940's.
1943. Joanne Primavera, Jack Scriven & dog at SE corner of Langley Garage (Courtesy Anna Primavera)
Circa 1951: Martin Mortenson and Edward E. Christoe buy the Garage.
Circa 1951. Ad for Langley Garage (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)
Circa 1952. First Street looking west.(Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)
The garage was purchased by Martin Mortenson and his son-in-law, Ed E. Christoe. The name was changed to "Langley Garage", and they added a DeSoto/Plymouth dealership in the western half of the garage.
Circa 1953. Sue Christoe (left) & friend showing off cars in the Tune Up Bay of her grandfather's garage. (Courtesy Sue (Christoe) McQueen)
"You'd go in there and stand next to that huge monster (lift) that stuck through the floor. You could look through the floor and see water down below." (Sandy Izett).
1960 Gas pumps removed. (Courtesy Darrell Corbin)
The garage had several proprietors after Mortenson and Christoe, and the business was failing. Martin Mortenson died in 1962.
1965: Robert Smith buys the Langley Garage
Seattle realtor Robert Smith purchased the building in 1965 and transformed the garage into retail spaces.
"Robert L. ('Bob') Smith came to Langley in the early '60s when business was withering in the small town...'Things were really falling apart.' Smith said a group of business people recruited him and his money to revitalize First Street. In 1965 he purchased 180 feet of waterfront property stretching from the Dog House to the far edge of the park...Two-thirds of the land he kept. The other 60 feet were deeded to the business group, known as Langley on Whidbey Island, Inc. Smith then launched what he terms 'The great restoration of the town of Langley.' Buildings were refurbished and new tenants installed, primarily from his own family." (Whidbey Record, 1996)
Circa 1970. Former Desoto/Plymouth dealership (left) and garage (right) (Drawing by Paul Tietje, courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)
The entire garage was divided into two portions, each with retail spaces. The Desoto/Plymouth dealership area became 210 and 208 First Street. The East end of the garage eventually became numbers 206, 204, and 202 First Street.
Circa 1970. Former Langley Garage (Drawing by Paul Tietje, courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)
The first tenets in these new spaces were the "Sandpiper Gallery", primarily an outlet for the "Art Works" across the street, Rick Capps' "Mug and Brush" barbershop with a striped barber pole by the entrance, and a Ruby Horvath's florist shop. The central door opened to the right and the left. There was a little hallway leading to the florist shop to the right, and a hallway to a shop in the rear (Michele LaRue).
In the Mug and Brush, Rick covered the entire store with a bright red carpet and placed his sole barber chair next to the window so patrons would have a drop dead view! (Louise Prewitt).
1972: Building sold
The building was bought by Mrs. Louis Aquilar and given to her two daughters Angie Schiermeyer and Bernadette Perron. Except for the florist shop, the original businesses moved out and were replaced by new businesses: the "Oaken Bucket" (left), "Purple Plum" Gallery (center).
Lerlene Barnes ran the "Oaken Bucket" antique shop, and her daughter, Susan Nerison, ran the Purple Plum gallery. The "Oaken Bucket" sold unusual oak furniture, lamps and paintings. The "Purple Plum" was primarily an outlet for wood and metal creations made by the Art Works across First Street, as well as paintings by local artists, and turquoise and silver jewelry from the Southwest United States.
Pat Goff had a shop called "Anchors Down" in the building before moving to the building that currently houses the Village Pizzeria and naming her business the "Silk Road."
When Lerlene lost everything when her farm was raided by the FEDS for marijuana, Virginia LaRue opened a new shop called "Virginia's Antiques" in the space vacated by the "Oaken Bucket." She then also took over the adjacent space when the "Purple Plum" gallery left. (Sandrajean Wainwright).
2004. Virginia's Antiques (left) and Virginia's Gifts(Courtesy Robert Waterman)
Circa 2011. Denise, Virginia, and Michele LaRue (Courtesy Sue Frause)
For a long time, Virginia LaRue and her two daughters occupied numerous spaces along First Street. Virginia LaRue died May 24, 2011 after 37 years in Langley. Three days later, on its way to the local cemetery, the hearse made its way down First Street passing by Virginia's shops as a fitting tribute to this beloved lady.
2004. Wayward Son (Courtesy R. Waterman)
Linda Lundgren and Lerlene had a gift shop in the old florist space before Linda moved her "Island Design" business to a building across First Street. Sandrajean Wainwright then moved into that space.
"I started my business in 1982 when Lerlene was still in the Oaken Bucket. My space was the car showroom and didn't have walls. It had glass windows looking into Virginia's shop next door. So my Dad covered them with mirrors. At first I had a country store and it was called WAYWARD SON COUNTRY STORE. I carried Starbucks coffee beans and ground them in the shop. I had a big Hobart and a fabulous 6 foot cast iron coffee mill with wheels. A penny scale, and an oaken cupboard from North Dakota. Not to mention oak shelves from Velva, North Dakota where the coffee was displayed. A wonderful cast iron stove in the back and other antique things to compliment the theme. and of course CANDY. Plus I made jointed teddy bears and did $1,000/month in bears. They were big then and since business was slow I had my sewing machine in the shop and worked on them all day. I got into jewelry later, and did antiques first. Specialized in Aladdin Lamps."
2011. Merlins Antiques (Courtesy Robert Waterman)
In 2011, Virginia LaRue's antique shops were occupied by the "Whidbey Island Gem Gallery" and, for a short time, by "Merlins Antiques."
2011. Ott & Murphy Wines (Courtesy Robert Waterman)
"Ott & Murphy Wines" opened a wine tasting room in the space vacated by Merlins Antiques., and later enlarged into the adjacent space.
"The Wayward Son had a long run, but at some point, the owners, Angie and Bernadette, realized their building was falling down. They had an engineer come from LA to look at it and he declared my safe had caused the problem! I hired someone to do an engineering report on the building. It was indeed falling down. Dry rot everywhere and all the pilings were infected. The safe was on solid ground and one of the few areas that did not have a problem! But I had to move because their work took over a year, so I moved across the street." (Sandrajean Wainwright).
Once shoring up of the building was complete, the "Once Upon a Time" doll shop moved into the space vacated by the Wayward Son. When they left for Clinton, Ott & Murphy enlarged into that space.
2016. Whidbey Island Gem Gallery and Ott & Murphy Wines-Lounge (Courtesy Robert Waterman)
In 2019, the name was changed from Ott & Murphy to "Ott and Hunter" Wines and Tasting Room.
2019. Ott and Hunter Wines and Tasting Room sign(Courtesy Robert Waterman)