The history of the South Whidbey Commons

Commons exterior by Mike Burroughs

The South Whidbey Commons grew out of a 1998 county-wide Family and Youth Summit at which participants came together to create a shared vision and plan toward an increasingly healthy and connected South Whidbey community.

At a three-day conference in 2001, 65 community members identified the need to create new opportunities for people of all ages to gather and connect. After the conference, these community members continued working on the project, and the South Whidbey Commons became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2002. The original intent of the group was to build a facility in the Bayview area that housed a number of social service organizations serving people of all ages. However, those doors closed, others opened, and the Commons found a home in the heart of Langley, its offerings firmly anchored in a coffeehouse bookstore and workplace training program.

In 2005, Island Coffeehouse & Books opened in the former Golden Otter Bookstore as a program of the South Whidbey Community Engagement Center funded by “Learn and Serve America.”  In 2006, Island Coffeehouse & Books bought the bookstore.  Their leadership and volunteers developed the barista training program, fostered youth involvement, and initiated many activities, including Friday Night Live.

In 2007, South Whidbey Commons became the umbrella organization for Island Coffeehouse and Books.  In 2008, the building was purchased by the Commons.  In 2010, the name was changed to South Whidbey Commons Coffeehouse Bookstore.   In 2009 through 2013, significant remodels were accomplished with support from this community and the Boeing Community Fund.

Throughout this time, volunteers, AmeriCorps members, and community organizations and supporters were crucial to the success of the Commons’ programs.

Today, opening onto the newly created Second Street Plaza, the South Whidbey Commons continues to thrive, offering a gathering place with a variety of programs for all ages and the Commons Workplace Training Program.