SugarShak art gallery, gift shop closes indefinitely

5 months after winter fire, artisan co-op dealt another setback
By Nicholas Johnson | Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Following a fire in late February, members of the SugarShak artisan cooperative painted over the boarded up windows and doors, proclaiming: “SugarShak will rise again.” Despite the owners reported plan to sell, members of the co-op remain hopeful the art gallery and gift shop will, in fact, rise again.

A small artisan cooperative is officially homeless now that an art gallery and gift shop along West Mukilteo Boulevard is destined to be sold.

SugarShak by the Sea, located in the Boulevard Bluffs neighborhood just outside Mukilteo city limits, has been closed indefinitely after the owner of the building reportedly decided late last month to put the property on the market.

“It was a shock,” gallery owner Liz Myers said. “We have about 13 artists that are kind of homeless right now and looking for other venues to get their wares out there.”

The property has been managed by Rainier Property Management. According to public records, the building owner is Rex Strickland, 67, of Edmonds. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Strickland’s decision to sell the building came five months after fire gutted part of the inside – a pottery studio – and caused smoke damage throughout. At the time, Myers and her fellow artisans were determined to rebuild and reopen.

“We had every intention of rebuilding, and so did the property owner,” said Myers, who hoped the shop portion of the building, which was only damaged by smoke, could reopen as early April. “But, the permitting process took a while.”

Things were looking up by early June when she received the necessary permits to begin making repairs. She then set her sights on reopening in early July, but that got pushed to August. Finally, in late July, she got the news.

“Because of how drawn out it’s all been, this wasn’t that surprising,” she said. “I guess I had a feeling something was going on.”

Myers immediately emailed her fellow artisans and posted the news to the shop’s Facebook page, garnering an outpouring of consolation.

Laura Mullen wrote: “I’m sorry this creative and inspirational space has come to an end. I will miss SugarShak and all the people who shared its artistic and expressive space.”

Becky Stalcup wrote: “We loved coming by the shop. We have several lovely pieces of art from your talented artists – we were looking forward to more.”

Kristin Zoller Kohorst wrote: “It was a wonderful shop for our community to enjoy local artists' work. I'm hoping that you will rise again!!”

Kohorst isn’t alone. Myers and many of her fellow artisans say they remain hopeful a new home will arise.

“I don’t want to give up on it,” said Ann Swadener, a watercolor artist and member of the co-op. “I naively thought it would come back.”

Myers first opened the pottery studio in August 2010, then got the opportunity to expand into the rest of the building with a shop in November 2014.

Brandon Ainsworth, who took pottery lessons from Myers before joining the co-op, said he was disappointed at the news, but he’s also thankful for the chance to have been a part of the community art gallery and shop.

“Moving forward, we just need to look for a similar opportunity,” he said.

Since its temporary closure in late February, Swadener said people have been eager to see it reopen.

“I’ve had so many people that I didn’t even know tell me they loved visiting the SugarShak,” she said. “A lot of people have asked me when it would reopen. I’ve gotten phone calls from friends asking about it. Until a few days ago, I was reassuring them it would reopen.”

Myers said she’ll keep an eye out for suitable places to relocate. She said she might even consider buying the building if the price is right. She’s also toying with the idea of starting a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of giving the co-op a new home.

For now, she’s planning a liquidation sale for sometime in late August to get some art and miscellaneous shop items out of storage. She said updates will be posted on the shop’s Facebook page. Swadener said she might bring some of her paintings to that sale.

“I have a ton of artwork that has no home,” Swadener said.

With so much up for sale, Myers and her fellow artisans find themselves hanging on that which can’t be sold: their memories.

“The whole purpose of it was to give local artists, who has created things with their hands and hearts and minds, a place to share their work with the community,” she said. “I wanted it to be launching point for artists who weren’t established yet, a venue for their creations in the community. It ended up being so much more than that.”

Myers said she remains optimistic.

“I’ve always seen the shop as a gift from God,” she said. “When one door closes another always opens. Now we just have to wait and see which door opens next.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.