Then & Now

In the late nineteen sixties Eastsound had the appearance of a town fallen on hard times. Abandoned cabins were slowly disintegrating under the relentless growth of blackberry canes. An open sewer ran along Prune Alley. There were more children playing in the streets than open storefronts. For a very brief period of time central Eastsound had more gas stations, three, than restaurants, two. Parking was plentiful. 


The A1 Drive-in Cafe was a “drive-thru” and would remain so until the seventies. “Drive-thru” in that Hal Carson would take a drive-up order if and when he felt like doing so. Never in the winter and always with a cigarette in his mouth. The building had temporary walls with plastic sheeting for windows which were sometimes removed during warm summers. The four ancient wood picnic tables seated thousands of folks over the years. And a black, pot-belly stove provided the only heat in the winter. Well, sometimes Hal would “heat things up” with a tip of his bottle. 


Hal Carson’s now demolished home was next door to the A1. It was a hummingbird paradise. Year after year people would return to the A1 just to see the hundreds of hummingbirds. Between eight and ten feeders were perched outside the windows. Folks could be inches from feeding birds. With another dozen or more feeders in various locations around his property customers at the A1 were guaranteed a free show along with their burger. 


Along came the Doty family. Hal retired and sold the A1 to a large family that instantly doubled the total population of Eastsound. With the Doty family came the first major change to the landscape of Eastsound. The walls with plastic windows were removed. A second two-story building joined the handful of like-size buildings in town.  


Over the years of their ownership the Doty’s made many changes to the face of the A1. When the USPS decided to relocate the Doty’s purchased the building next door. Rick Doty opened the Homegrown Market, a predecessor to the Coop. A growing need for storage and dining space resulted in merging the two buildings into one large building. Velma Doty managed to save a small patch of over-grown beauty in the courtyard between the two buildings which gave customers a colorful place to dine. Everything had changed except the picnic tables in the A1 cafe. 


When the building sold an era ended. Efforts to keep the cafe open after the Doty’s retirement were short-lived. By then Eastsound had several other dining options and a good bakery. Other  entrepreneurs flourished in the space. The Homegrown Market had enough client base to attract individuals developing a food cooperative and the Coop was born.  


The changes in the A1 somewhat reflect the changes in Eastsound. Both were small, island-retreat entities that catered to more to locals than visitors. With the increasing popularity of Orcas as a retreat, Eastsound and the A1 have grown-up into a thriving town.