Lummi Island was
a overnight stopping point for native fishers before white settlers
came, but there was not a permanent settlement on the island.
The settlers named the town Beach after John Wade Beach, one of
the original homesteaders on the island. In 1882 he became the
first postmaster, and because in those days, the name of the postmaster
frequently became the name of the town, for the next 60 years
the island was known as Beach, Washington. John brought mail and
supplies from Little Chuckanut Village on his sailboat once a
week, sometimes more, weather permitting. His office was in the
headquarters camp for Bacus Logging Company, who logged islands
the old growth timber before the turn of the century.
The Beach Store Cafe (named
after the town, Beach) was built just after this time. The cafe
was at the hub of the island society, which was booming with three
fish canneries and a new ferry dock located right across from
The Beach Store has been
an integral part in the Lummi Island community for nearly
100 years. It is the island's only historically registered structure
(Washington State Register of Historic Places) and its past reflects
its position at the hub of the island's society, economies, and
The period after the turn of the century was an exciting time
the island. The salmon fishery boomed, bringing with it a big
jump in population and general activity. A new dock for ferry
service was built across from the Beach Store and eventually three
large canneries, employing several hundred workers, were constructed.
Several of the fish traps around the island were counted as the
richest producing traps on Puget Sound.
The island's growth was
reflected in the utilization of the Beach Store. The upstairs
was converted into a dance hall and meeting place for box socials,
grange meetings, fisherman's union sessions and political activities.
The main floor served primarily as a grocery, but was also home
to the post office, the fire station and originally boasted the
only telephone on the island.) When the new ferry dock became
operational, the store became a passenger terminal for people
waiting for the ferry. For over 50 years it was the place to sit
and watch folks come and go, get caught up on local gossip, and
During the Depression
the island's canneries closed and the population declined drastically.
The remaining islanders limped along and early in 1945, as the
war was ending, a returning veteran, Harold Long (called Shifty
for reasons unknown) and his wife, Gladys, bought the store. They
completed many needed repairs and during their tenure of 25 years,
the Beach Store continued as an island center, but the name of
the community was changed to Lummi Island in 1946. During the
middle part of the century, the fields behind the Beach Store
were known for the excellent hay they produced, and farmers drew
lots to determine who would mow and buck the hay for their livestock.
The Beach Store property
changed hands three more times, going into a period of decline
until Mark and Elisabeth Marshall, bought it in 1984 and began
pursuing their goals of restoring and preserving the Beach Store,
making it once again a self-sustaining and functional part of
the community. The Beach Store Café is currently owed by
Judy Olsen and Riley, the owners of the more up-scale Willows.
Over the past few decades,
more and more residents commute off the island for work, so the
island is in the midst of a shift from a land-based economy to
a bedroom community.