Karen Farris on Will This 60-Year-Old Small Business Survive to See Labor Day 2021?

Named after the magnificent silver salmon found in the British Columbia and Washington State waters, the M.V. Coho is a vehicle and passenger ferry crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Victoria British Columbia’s Inner Harbour and the city of Port Angeles in Washington State. | Courtesy of Karen Farris

Typically on Labor Day, the small sea port city of Port Angeles is having the final push for summer tourism. The Olympic Mountains are on glorious display; the early fog along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, burns off by mid-morning, and the Olympic National Park beckons travelers to explore the woodland trails.

Port Angeles, Washington, is the largest city on the Olympic Peninsula. It is the gateway to some of the most remote and scenic wonderlands in the world. In a typical year, three million visitors bring their cameras and their pocketbooks to enjoy the scenery and the fresh seafood caught in the nearby saltwater. Tourism wasn’t always the main employer in this region of tall timber and mighty seas — it was logging and fishing, paper manufacturing and forest products. But as resources thinned, so did those employment opportunities.

What was left to the remaining residents was the beauty that surrounded them, and the annual tourists who made the pilgrimage to see for themselves the stunning vistas, old growth timber, rainforests, and ocean beaches. Over the last decade, small businesses have come to rent spaces in the depleted, but classically historic downtown. Artisans with blown glass creations, boutique clothing stores, and specialty ale breweries have catered to the expensive tastes of visiting clientele.

Just as the wind of financial solvency was picking up and Instagram was bringing a younger set of tourists to the region, Covid-19 struck and Washington state clamped down on non-essential businesses — closing them for months. Then came the biggest financial blow from across the Strait of Juan de Fuca — Victoria, British Columbia. When Canada decided to close the borders, this meant the huge Coho ferry that brought daily boat loads of tourists from all parts of Canada and international travelers, would not be running. In a tourism-dependent economy, this has been devastating. In 2019 alone, the ferry traffic brought $64 million to Port Angeles and county residents.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Karen Farris