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Islandale Southenders / Southend Cafe
Lopez Island, WA

Lopez Island, located in Washington State's San Juan Islands, is commonly referred to as "the friendly island."  This is due largely to the tradition on the island that drivers wave to all other cars that they pass on the roads.  Lopez is also known as a very good place for bicycling.  But a recent experience on Lopez made us call into question this reputation as "the friendly island."

We took a bicycle trip around the island, following the route suggested at the bike rental shop.  When we reached the southern end of the island, we decided to stop for lunch.  Conveniently, there was a small grocery store attached to a small restaurant.  We had earlier bumped into a group of about 8 or 9 Canadian cyclists, and they arrived at this market at about the same time.  We went in, looked at the menu of the cafe (mostly burgers and a couple of other uninspiring choices), and decided to just buy food in the grocery store part of the business.  We purchased some overpriced fruit and snack foods and walked out.  So far, so good.  But here's where it starts to get ugly.

Incident #1

It was a sunny day, so we were pleased to see that the building had a deck attached, with some empty chairs lying around.  We thought it would be nice to sit there and eat the food we had purchased from their store.  Some of the Canadian cyclists were also sitting there, while others were inside buying food.  After a couple of minutes, a woman comes out, and in a rather nasty tone of voice, starts scolding us for sitting in an area reserved for "restaurant customers".  Well, there weren't any actual restaurant customers anywhere to be seen, and in any case, there was plenty of room in case some did show up.  Of course they have the right to use their deck as they see fit, but the contempt with which this woman expelled us was appalling.  In fact, one of the Canadians noted to us that several of them were going to order food from the cafe, but because of that woman's attitude, they changed their mind.  When we ran into them later in the afternoon, they told us that their impression of the island had definitely been soured by this incident.  Chalk one up for international relations!

Incident # 2

Anyway, as I was leaving the deck, I finished eating the banana I had purchased in the store.  There did not seem to be any garbage cans on the outside of the store, so I went inside and asked the cashier where I could find a garbage can to throw this away.  She pointed me to a small trash can under the counter, so I threw the banana peel in there and started to walk out.  But I didn't escape in time.  A mean-looking woman stormed toward me and asked, "what did you put in there?"  When I told her that I had thrown away the peel from a banana I had purchased, she looked at me as if I had just taken a crap on the salad bar, and then said in an annoyingly self-righteous manner, "on the Island, we recycle!"  Really?  Down in the big city we've never heard of this recycling thing.  Apparently, I was supposed to know that the unlabeled tin bucket, to which the cashier had directed me when I asked for a "garbage can," was, in fact, reserved for recycling.  Being pretty fed up with the proprietors of this establishment by this point, I decided not to make an issue of it and just leave.

Incident # 3

So I'm walking out to get my bike and go, thinking I had finally seen the last of this place, when the villain from Incidents 1 & 2 comes out of the store and walks up to me again.  She then says, "Boy, you're 0 for 3."  Staring at her with a "what the hell are you talking about this time, you crazy old woman" look on my face, I wait for her to elaborate.  She points over to an area where there is a bike rack (still completely full with the bikes of the Canadians) and tells me that that's where bikes go.  This time, my great sin was to park my bicycle on the side of the store, in a area where it could not possibly interfere with foot or vehicle traffic.  Apparently I didn't see the small note hung 10 or 15 feet further down the side of the store, saying that bikes should be put in the bike rack on the other end of the store.

This was one of those situations in which someone is so unbelievably rude that you are rendered utterly speechless, and then sometime later you think of all witty comebacks and other things you should have said.

While the actions of one or two people at one business normally wouldn't make much of a difference to the overall impression of the island, this case is different.  This grocery store / restaurant is essentially the only place to stop for a break or to buy food or supplies on the entire south side of the island.  For cyclists, it is the natural stopping point at about half way through the standard loop.  So unless you plan ahead and bring sufficient food and water, it is almost unavoidable (so I would definitely recommend planning ahead so that you can avoid it, or else choose a different island for your cycling trip).  They are clearly hostile to visiting cyclists, even those that are paying customers, so I would say that it is not a desirable place to spend your money.

Here is the relevant contact information:

Islandale Southenders, Route 1 Box 1560, Lopez, WA 98261 - (360) 468-2315

Southend Cafe, P.O. Box 396, Lopez, WA 98261 - (360) 468-3198

Lopez Island Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 102, Lopez, WA 98261 - (360) 468-4664 


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Last Updated 22 July 2005
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