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WARREN’S WORLD: Open House

By Beacon Staff

Every year on the Saturday before Father’s Day, the local hardware store/lumber yard on our island has a gigantic spring sale and a small-town-atmosphere carnival. Orcas Island Hardware and Supply is unique in that it doesn’t have a fence around it. The owner, Paul Garwood says. “If I ever have to put a fence around it I will sell it.” It is so laid back that I can go there on a Sunday when they are closed (another unique feature), fill up my trailer with wood, write him a note and he will bill me for what I took home in my trailer.

The Saturday before Father’s Day is a special Saturday because nearly everything in the store is 20 percent off, and sometimes the lines at the cash registers are 30 minutes long. I have seen people standing in line for that long to buy a $10 broom at a discount. Paul has the local Kiwanis club come and cook pancakes for breakfast until 11 a.m. and then at noon he serves free hamburgers, hot dogs, soda pop and carrot cake.

While everyone is gobbling up bargains by the bag full and eating free lunches, the Duct Tape Band plays 1970s tunes on top of the flatbed of a semi truck.

Paul’s son, Woody, is a radio-controlled racecar fan and has built a fold-out, 16-by-20-foot race track on top of a trailer. He runs a 30-lap race for the kids every 15 minutes.

For the younger kids, there is a hula hoop contest. Off in one corner of the yard, alongside the free hamburger line, was someone campaigning for the new sheriff hopeful.

According to the census taker, there are 4,200 people living here on our island and Island Hardware has 2,800 charge accounts. I would guess that Paul Garwood is one tough person to do business against if you are in the same hardware business.

At about 1 p.m. there is a nail-driving contest with two divisions. The winner of each gets five pounds of nails of whatever weight they want.

If you use a measuring tape very often and need to relax for a moment, it is an old habit to see how far out you can extend the tape horizontally before it collapses. It takes a steady hand and a gentle pull to get it to hang out horizontally very far. This event of extending a tape is well attended because it requires no strength or stamina.

If all of these skill events are too tough for you or your kids, you can step over to the concrete stepping-stone making department. You can arrange small rocks or inscribe a message in quickset concrete. Some people have been coming here for 15 years and their kids inscribe a new concrete step every year.

In front of the stage where the Duct Tape Band was playing was a recently restored 1975 Cadillac Eldorado convertible that was for sale to raise funds for a local kids school called Kaleidoscope, as well as some money for my wife’s foundation to teach entrepreneurism to young kids, Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, www.warrenmiller.org. No sale yet, but a lot of interest in this great old convertible that looks as good as the day it rolled off of an assembly line in Detroit 35 years ago.

There are people at the sale that I only see once a year. I spend four or five hours there every year and it is a great place to get caught up on all of the gossip of the island; who had grandchildren, children, got married, moved away or went to jail.

This past year the owner, Paul Garwood, distributed 100 percent of his net profit to his employees based on their longevity and performance and attitude in their various jobs. Everyone on our island is a recipient of Paul Garwood’s charity, even if it is nothing more than a couple of free hamburgers and a drink of soda pop every year. I, for one, want to thank Paul for what he does for everyone on the island. Not the least of which is that every November he gives away 200 free parkas to kids whose parents can’t afford to buy one for them.

All communities have people like Paul, who was raised by four stepfathers but turned out very well. People like Paul know what it’s like to have problems give back instead of complaining. Thank you, Paul.