We drive along the two-lane highway heading north to the peninsula. No more than 10 minutes pass and we see it. It is enormous! As the urban tales described. Jack’s Country Store takes up an entire block from the main intersection, making it the only 4-way intersection in this small seaside town of Ocean Park.
A sign in the window shows it as it is: “An Old Store. Many things”. Both have made this retail store infamous, at least in those parts.
Jack’s Country Store has served this community since 1885, making it the oldest retail establishment in Washington State. With that kind of longevity also comes a rather colorful history.
Founded by JA Morehead and Co., the company changed hands a few times between different owners. The first sale was to Mr. Trondsen & Sons in 1915, where it remained in the family until 1956, when it became Henrichsen’s Grocery. Then, finally, its latest incarnation began in 1969 when Jack and Lucille Downer bought the store, and it’s still run by the Downer family today. They placed signs honoring these past owners inside the original section of the hardware store, gently reminding shoppers of its history and original creation.
Back when the Downers took over, Ocean Park was a very different place. Primarily a commercial fishing town, the economy has largely focused on its clam and oyster industry. Today fishing is still king for this small town and Jack’s is here to provide all the necessary clam digging, fishing and oyster fishing supplies any weekend handyman needs to make that big catch. .
Over the past 50 years, Jack’s has grown with the times and with the city. Change has become a constant process. In their first year of ownership, the Downers added to the existing storefront, nearly doubling the square footage. Until then, indoor plumbing was non-existent, so it was added, along with running hot water and a new electrical system. Eventually, the Downers purchased even more real estate – allowing Jack to grow to its current size of 25,000 square feet (most of it being dedicated retail space).
And the Downers continued to follow modernization. As Ocean Park became a popular tourist destination, the couple also felt the need to grow up. They extended store hours to include weekends and increased their inventory. In fact, Downer was known to say “Even in a town the size of Ocean Park, you can make a living selling what other people don’t have”. And Jack has become known for doing just that.
Even today, the store is literally overflowing with merchandise that a person might need and certainly want. As I walked through the aisles of treasures and trinkets, General Manager Grant Lehman would occasionally remind me to “look up.” Above me in the paint department, an assortment of old tools collected by Downer were on display. And as I walked down the fries and soda aisle toward the dairy department, I looked up at rows and rows of flags — from all states, Harley Davidson flags, Cascadia flags, and more. again.
These are unorthodox ways to display their wares. Every shelf, nook and cranny is full of merchandise. It is both a curiosity and a bit overwhelming. Those hard-to-find items? They are here too. In fact, as I walked down the kitchen aisle, the Lodge cast iron cookware wall caught my eye. Looking on a lower shelf, as opposed to an upper shelf, I spot a baking dish that I couldn’t find online or at big box stores. Yes! It was here at Jack’s in Ocean Park, the store that has everything anyone would want or need.
It is also the pulse of this city. Jack’s staff are like family, many of whom have worked for this company (one of the area’s largest employers) for 5, 10, even 20 or more years. They raised their family and paid their mortgage while working at Jack. They are as much the heart of Jack’s as Jack’s is the heart of this community.
The next time you find yourself cruising along the Long Beach Peninsula, stop and stock up for Jack’s is the premier one-stop shop. You never know what you may find.
Although some of the products, services, and/or accommodations in this article have been provided free of charge, all opinions herein are those of the author and Seattle Refined editorial board.