The family that lost out to an out-of-state vendor to run the concessions at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal is gathering signatures online.

Share story

ANACORTES — The family that lost out to an out-of-state vendor to run the concessions at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal is gathering signatures for a petition asking Washington State Ferries to contract only with state-run food vendors.

Margie Aipopo has run the Cheesecake Cafe, San Juan Souvenir Shop and the recently closed Terminal Buzz coffee stand at the terminal for the past 11 years. The businesses employed up to 35 people, but it’s down to about 20 after the closure of the coffee stand.

In March, the Aipopo family lost a competitive bidding process to Connecticut-based Centerplate, which manages concessions at other Washington locales such as the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field. Centerplate also beat out the two vendors that run concessions onboard all ferries with galleys.

Aipopo and her family are still operating at the Anacortes terminal because one of the onboard ferry vendors, Bremerton-based Olympic Cascade Services, contested the bidding process, said state ferries spokesman Ian Sterling. A judge has ruled in the state’s favor, but Olympic Cascade Services has until July 29 to decide whether to appeal.

Aipopo didn’t contest the bidding process.

Centerplate won’t take over concessions until after an appeal, if there is one, Sterling said.

Nicole Aipopo, who helps run the businesses at the Anacortes terminal, said the online petition is a first step toward forcing Washington State Ferries to contract only with in-state vendors. She said Olympic Cascade Services helped create the petition at ferryfood.com.

“I think the big picture of this petition is that we really want to support the local economy,” she said.

The petition, created July 14, had more than 2,000 signatures Wednesday. Nicole Aipopo said the petition would be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee.

“We are asking the governor to look at all this support we have to keep supporting the local economy,” she said. “Shouldn’t we keep Washington government contracts with Washington-owned businesses?”

Sterling said the bidding process looks at several aspects of each proposal, including quality, selection and prices.

“If we were to have stayed with the other companies, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs,” Sterling said. “We are obligated to get the best value for taxpayers and best quality food for our customers.”

Written into Centerplate’s concessions proposal is a stipulation that the company give preferential hiring treatment to existing workers onboard ferries. That won’t apply to Margie Aipopo’s businesses, though.

Sterling said Centerplate plans to contract with local companies for food.

Nicole Aipopo hopes the petition and possible appeal will result in her family’s businesses sticking around at the Anacortes terminal. If no appeal is filed and Centerplate takes over, she said, her family is looking to relocate near another ferry terminal.

“If we do close down, we will have to leave Anacortes,” she said. “Wherever our business moves, we’ll have to move with it.”