Edison nestles into the watery-green Skagit County farmlands like a lazy bend in the slough. At 11 a.m. on a Friday, you could be the only person walking around the old-fashioned storefronts and tangled, art-filled gardens. But foodie journals and lifestyle blogs have been discovering Edison for years now: a tiny hamlet (it’s not officially a town) filled with more artists, artisans and chefs than you’d think possible, yet still keeping its offbeat, dusty-saddle charm.
Dip into the quiet
The first thing you’ll notice when you get to Edison is the quiet — and the birdsong. Tucked into a bend near the mouth of the Samish River, Edison is surrounded by flat, fertile farmland (elevation just 6.5 feet) and a muddy slough that makes for a birdwatcher’s paradise. With just 133 people, the loudest sound you’ll hear is your own car.
And then there’s the light.
“The light is beautiful,” says artist Margy Lavelle, who moved from Seattle 10 years ago and recently set up the i.e. gallery where the longtime Edison Eye used to be. “You have the water, the fields, the mountains …”
Diffused by the river, the slough and Samish Bay opening up to the west, the light here is pale and golden, casting a long-ago quality on a town that already feels like 100 years ago. Historic wooden storefronts, rusty barns, Queen Anne houses like the green-and-white beauty at the head of Gilmore Road — Edison is a place to amble around, admiring lush cottage gardens and sweeping views.
Art, shop, repeat
If half the businesses in town look like they stepped out of a Tumblr page, that’s because Edison is a town of artists. Lured from Seattle by cheap land, fresh food and that magical light, Edison’s artists have created a main street full of sleek galleries, vintage décor shops and quirky collectives, often living in the back of the building. There’s the indigo-linen napkins and minimalist bowls at Hedgerow, chandeliers and statues at Shop Curator, painted ceramic owls and handworked leather at artist collective The Lucky Dumpster. Smith and Vallee rotates art like Jean Behnke’s tree-ring prints and Peregrine O’Gormley’s blonde-wood bird sculptures, as well as artisan furniture crafted from reclaimed wood by owners Andrew Vallee and Wesley Smith. (Cross the street and peek into their offcuts shop, and their enormous wood storage shed, complete with tiny duck pond.)
Edison’s so successful as an art destination that the inaugural Studio Tour last month — covering some dozen studios — brought in hundreds of people, said Lavelle. That’s not bad for a town in the middle of nowhere, one hour north of Seattle.
One of the latest artists to move to Edison is Janeen Doi, who moved sight unseen from Hawaii last year and has opened up her textile art shop, Indigo Dreams, in the old red-and-white fire station. Light pours in the windows onto her cream-and-blue felted landscapes and dyed-indigo tunics, with watercolors of slough and birds by Claudia Ross-Kuhn on the walls.
“It’s an incredible aloha town,” says Doi. “I can’t believe my good fortune to be here,”she says.
If you stayed in Edison for a week, you still wouldn’t have time to sample all of the food. Drawn by the abundance of fresh farm food, Edison chefs have turned the place into a foodie heaven that’s gotten the attention of national media such as Saveur magazine. The combination of local food, imaginative cooking and serene outdoor eating is irresistible.
The first stop should be coffee and a dense, chocolatey “Black Bottom” muffin at Farm to Market Bakery at the junction of Chuckanut Drive and Bow Hill Road, outside of town. The same owners run the Rhody Café next door, with lunch options such as filet mignon or veggie burgers amid a flower-filled garden. (Get your vintage on at the nearby Bonnars Trading Post, haven of steamer trunks, old books and antique farm tools. And pick up a box of fresh berries at Bow Hill Blueberries, one mile east.)
Down in the main part of Edison, the choices are tough. Tacos at Mariposa, the new taqueria-in-a-barn with upcycled metal stools in the garden, fresh-squeezed pineapple juice and a veggie taco dancing with fresh salsa and divine caramelized squash? An enormous, creamy artichoke-potato frittata at Tweets Café, with baked treats like crunchy pecan roca? Maybe local cheeses (Goldberg Farms chipotle cheddar, soft and spicy), condiments and wines at Slough Food, or soup in the garden patio overlooking the silvery ribbon of the slough? Or make up a picnic at Breadfarm, where the house wheat has a soft, heavy inside and crunchy outside, and the cookies go from nutty hazelnut-espresso to heady chocolate-spice. And you’ll find local oysters and shellfish everywhere, from the shuffleboard-pub vibe of the Old Edison to the Longhorn Saloon up the other end of town.
It’s rare to find a town that combines high-level art, artisan food and a peaceful, authentic vibe. Edison is a paradise for all three.
Not even technically a town, Edison lies about halfway between Bellingham and La Conner. From the South Sound, take Interestate 5 north to Exit 231 to state Route 11/Chuckanut Drive. Turn left at Bow Hill Road and continue.
Travel time from Tacoma is around two hours with no traffic. Avoid Friday afternoons.
Breadfarm: 5766 Cains Court, Bow. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily (bakery) breadfarm.com.
The Old Edison: 5829 Cains Court, Bow. 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. Pub food, oysters, clam chowder, drinks. theoldedison.com.
Slough Food: 5766 Cains Court, Bow. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Deli, local foods, lunch. sloughfood.com.
Farm to Market Bakery and Rhody Cafe: 14003 Gilmore Ave., Bow. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Bakery, lunch. rhodycafe.com.
Longhorn Saloon: 5754 Cains Court, Bow. 11:30 a.m.-midnight Mondays-Saturdays. Pub food, oysters, drinks. 360-766-6330.
Mariposa: 14003 Gilmore Ave., Bow 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Mondays. Fresh tacos, juice, Mexican desserts. 360-820-9912.
Tweets Café: 5800 Cains Court, Bow. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Lunch, baked goods. tweetscafe.com.
Lucky Dumpster: 14011 Mactaggart Ave., Bow. 12-4 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Vintage items, woodwork. luckydumpster.blogspot.com.
Hedgerow: 5787 Cains Court, Bow. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Vintage, plants, décor. christy-erickson.squarespace.com.
Shop Curator: 14010 Mactaggart Ave., Bow. Accessories, arts décor. shopcurator.blogspot.com.
Smith and Vallee: 5742 Gilkee Ave., Bow. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Art, woodwork> smithandvallee.com/gallery.
Edison Eye/i.e.: 5800 Cains Court, Bow. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. (art gallery) or 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Dana and Toni Ann Rust.
Note: Technically Edison is not a town, so all addresses cite Bow. However, all businesses listed are in Edison.