Quiet reigns where sawmills once stood. Tourists fill the weekend streets, headed for Mount Rainier. Commuters leave early every weekday, bound for stalled traffic and jobs in a city.
These days, Eatonville wants to define itself for the 21st century.
A few weeks ago, town officials and business owners met to begin a Downtown Revitalization project.
“Five years ago, people said ‘Let’s get something happening,’ ” said Steve Pruitt, a member of the town planning commission.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Not much happened, and the town’s Vision 2000 plan lay dormant.
But now there’s a grant. New leaders have taken office.
“It’s time for us to take some action,” Pruitt said.
Fifty people attended the meeting.
“I heard a comment,” said Tanya Dow, former president of the chamber of commerce. “Somebody said, ‘It was the most positive meeting I’ve been to.’ ”
“There seems to be a sense that this is a good time to move forward,” said Pruitt. “It’s a question of whether we let outside forces – growth – dictate our future, or whether we set our own course.”
He explained that the question was previously framed as growth versus no growth, and people chose sides. Now, he said, most folks realize that change is both inevitable and already here.
“Now we’re at a point where we understand the future is going to be different.,” he said. “The issue isn’t growth. The issue is whether we have a community that sleeps through the process and wakes up and asks, ‘What happened?’”
A few ideas
The meeting collected brainstorms.
• What image or theme should portray Eatonville’s character?
Rustic lodge. Home Town USA. Milltown – forest setting. Timber town. Mayberry. Logging style.
• What is the biggest zoning issue?
Parking. Mandatory setbacks.
• What major business does Eatonville need most?
Aircraft. Computer industry. Cleaners. Assisted living. Public market. High-tech.
• What draws business and residents?
Information board at each entrance of town. Flags and banners. Flower baskets. Holiday parades. Good schools. Wi-fi. Mount Rainier view. Park. Public market. Green nostalgic streetlights. Foot bridge. Sculpture.
That small town feeling
“I really love this community,” said Dow. “There’s tons of challenges. But I love going to the grocery store. I’m there for half an hour, talking to people.”
For her, the town offers “a sense of place. Eatonville has a character that lets you say, ‘This is home.’”
• Pat Bertram (Eatonville High Class of ’54) owns Eatonville Furniture. He’s been in business for 25 years, starting as an upholsterer.
“It’s OK. It hasn’t changed much at all. It’s good for a ma-and-pa.”
And the town?
“I never found a place I liked better.”
• Former Mayor Kirk Heinz – now chairman of the school board – opened the town’s pharmacy 10 years ago.
“If people see that you truly care, they’ll support you.”
A business can succeed, he said, “when people see you out there, and it’s not all about the almighty dollar.”
• Louise Carson and her husband Terry have operated TLC Forge and Farm since 1994.
The Carsons are among several entrepreneurs – from cabinetmakers and yarn spinners to artists and farmers – who live and work and sell locally. Louise and Terry manufacture hand-forged ornamental iron, and although they live 12 miles outside town, they consider themselves Eatonville residents.
“Like any other business, you have to know your clientele,” Louise said. “You’re often on a first-name basis. You walk into the banks, they know your name. They say your name.”
Take the accounting business, she said.
“When you talk with them, you know that your information is not going to India. With all respects to globalization, it’s nice to know that.”
• Nancy Iams opened her Holly Hut gift shop eight years ago, although she has been a part of Eatonville longer than that.
With half of her profit coming from tourists and the rest from townspeople, she said the town “is good for small business.”
She sells such things as jewelry, candles and wind chimes.
“Some people like the big box. My shop is a shopping experience. These kinds of businesses are fun. They pull their own weight, but you don’t go into it for the money.”
“You know everybody,” she said. “We’re all concerned about each other.”
Iams did not attend the recent meeting where officials and business owners began looking for the character of the town.
She said she’s attended to such meetings before.
“Been there,” she said. “Listened to that.”
She already knows where she lives.
Population in 2002: 2,070
Population in 1980: 918
Median household income: $43,681 (1999)
Housing units: 805
Taxable retail sales: $26,574,170 (1998), 0.37 percent of Pierce County total
Top three employments sectors: Education, health, social service; retail trade; manufacturing
For a great cup of chowder on Fridays: Tall Timber Restaurant
For a pastry, longtime resident “Miss Ruby” recommends: Truly Scrumptious Bakery
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535