19 March 2008

Decisions...Part One

Our first reaction to this town was, "Why?" Why would people come here? When we looked it up online, almost all of the websites described it as a Carmel of the Oregon Coast. It was painfully clear, very quickly, that the people that wrote those words had never been to Carmel.

It was a cute little town that seemed to be lost in the past. We had stepped into 1950. To make matters more complicated, we had already committed ourselves to spend at least two years here and now we had three days to find a place to live and arrange a cross country move.

The doubts filled us. The coast was poor. Most of the year round residents lived on minimum wage. The home owners spent less than a few weeks a year here. Their homes were seconds, thirds or more. They used their homes for vacation rentals or an occasional getaway where they came to hide. The last thing they wanted to do was be part of the community. Supporting the local businesses wasn't even a consideration.

We went against our doubts anyway. Needing a three bedroom house we started the search. From Astoria to Tillamook there were seven places for rent that filled our needs. It took less than a day to find that all seven were in a sorry state. As we drove around questioning our sanity we came across a for rent sign that had just been put out.

As we pulled in the drive we could hear the roar of the ocean. The house sat on the cliffs of the cove in Seaside. The front yard was wilderness. The back yard was the Pacific ocean. We walked up to the front door and could see through the house all the way up the coast to the state of Washington. It didn't matter what they were asking, we wanted it. It was a dream home. In California it would have been way out of our range even as a rental. That afternoon we signed away a year of our lives and wrote a huge check. In three weeks we would drive our worldly possessions 1600 miles and start our new life.

The move went smoothly. An easy drive up the west coast. We emptied the truck, unpacked a few things and days latter started to open the new gallery. It all happened very fast and gave us no time to get settled.

Cannon Beach wasn't a place that we would have chosen on our own. We had partners. I had know one of them for more than fifteen years. He had been very good to me and I trusted his judgment. We still had doubts.

The first month the gallery was open went well. Better than I had thought it would. Our partners had set a goal of about 37,500 a month for a break even point. Personally I thought 25,000 a month was more realistic, but the first month we hit our goal. It looked promising. Hopefully we were wrong.

The gallery opened in May. This was a seasonal town so the summer kept us busy. Plenty of people came to the coast. They hit every single shop in town, not once but several times. The tourists came to town to stay for a few days to a week. With such a small town they went to all of the shops many times before they would make a purchase. It was odd for us. We were not used to such a seasonal touristy place.

Precious and I grew up in small towns. We kept telling ourselves that we would adjust. This was a great place to raise our son. It was just what we wanted. Away from the busy chaos of southern California, the long slow commutes and self obsessed crowds. In time we would slow down to the pace of Oregon. Two years in and I'm still trying to slow down that far.

The first year of the gallery was not quite what the partners had hoped but a little better than I had thought. It seemed to have potential. We had met some great people and made a few good friends. The house was a haven that made up for any short comings the community might of had. I spent hours a day staring out at the ocean, dreaming. I had a studio in the lower level. It was a great place to be creative. My paintings started to progress and grow.

Into the second year things slowed dramatically. The US economy had started to dive. The mortgage meltdown, the decline of the dollar, gas prices, the war, you name it. All of which spelled a big problem for a place like Cannon Beach and the coast. The only way to get here was to drive and tourists weren't driving. The ones that did were spending all of their money on over priced hotels and food. Very little was being spent on luxury items like art.

1 comment:

Hilly said...

I can't wait to hear the rest of the story!