Tracy Felix “absolutely loves” that her Edmonds business, ARTspot, has a “Main Street” address. She also appreciates having an idyllic four-block commute to work. When you exit her store and turn right, you’ll find a charming fountain; to the left, the sightline veers down the hill toward the twinkling water and ferry. Felix knows that Edmonds is the kind of place people go to vacation. “I get to live here,” she marvels.

Patrick Doherty, director of Economic Development & Community Services for the City of Edmonds, describes this “hometown by the sea” as “a lively mix of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, culture and events — all located steps away from saltwater beaches and outstanding views across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains.” 

Felix raised her kids in this picturesque haven, and it’s a community where she now runs into someone she knows during every outing. She opened ARTspot in 2012; these days, it’s the last independent art store in Snohomish County. Her venue offers an old-fashioned retail experience where shoppers can touch paintbrushes, partake in “artspeak” and connect with like-minded individuals. “We like to think we are a hub,” she said.

A while back, when embargoes brought about extra taxes on imported goods, ARTspot was barely affected; the curated store attempts to sell products made in the U.S. They do, however, stock a few classics like French watercolor papers, produced on the same press for some 200 years. “There’s such history to art supplies,” Felix says.

Edmonds, which Felix describes as having “a rich layered aspect to the arts,” received its official Creative District designation in 2018, the first such designation in the state. When the criteria were announced, Felix — who served on the original committee after the Creative District was formed — says, “We already had everything in place to apply.”

“The natural beauty surrounding Edmonds creates an aesthetics of place that inspires the creative in all of us,” Doherty says, “from artists, designers and photographers to chefs, baristas and mixologists! Throw in the hometown vibe, and the result is a community that thrives.”  

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Draws for creatives here range from the Cascadia Art Museum and an annual arts festival to monthly art walks that have happened on third Thursdays for the last 15 years. During the shutdown. gallery owners moved displays into store windows for a COVID-safe experience.

Anticipation is growing for the completion of Graphite Arts Center, a multiuse “community gathering space” that plans to host its soft opening in late fall. As the HQ of nonprofit Art Start Northwest, which Felix founded with Edmonds resident Mary Olsen, the building aims to make art accessible for all. It will feature a gallery, an area in which to relax and savor art books, a pottery studio, darkroom, restaurant, plus locker rooms where folks can store their art supplies to be used in the workshop. Felix hopes this will become a welcoming and nonjudgmental space for anyone interested

Felix believes that Edmonds has become increasingly more “hip.” Doherty adds that while most visitors initially enjoy downtown Edmonds and its enticing waterfront, there is much more to explore. “Smaller neighborhood business districts offer a wide array of shops, restaurants and activities,” he says, “while the International District in the Highway 99 Corridor offers the best of Asian shops and restaurants — some real hidden gems: dim sum, Korean barbecue, fresh fish, Taiwanese hot pots, bubble tea and more.”

Some of Doherty’s favorite additions? Fire & the Feast (think pizza and pasta), Kahlo’s Cantina, FIELD florist shop, the new Epulo Bistro location at Salish Crossing, plus a whole slate of shops and restaurants soon to arrive with Main Street Commons.

Felix also calls out tried-and-true businesses like Edmonds Bookshop, HouseWares, which has been a mainstay downtown storefront since 1999, and Cole Gallery, a venue she says has “represented artists in an old-school way” since 2006. Then there’s the headquarters of Rick Steves, a fixture around town, with a building marked by European-style gargoyles.

Waterfront Center, Edmonds.

Felix suggests checking out the just-opened Waterfront Center (formerly the Senior Center). At this community-minded, multigenerational hub, visitors can order gelato through a takeout window or enjoy meals-with-a-view at The Potlatch Bistro, one of Chef Shubert Ho’s latest ventures.

Throughout this past year, the community continued planting beautiful downtown flowers and decided against boarding up shop windows. ARTspot even displayed affirmative Post-it Notes in its windows, scribbled by Edmonds residents. One message says it all: “Stay safe, stay kind, stay creative!”

The Edmonds Creative District is a traditional, walkable small-city downtown featuring a rich mix of arts, culture, creative-sector businesses, public gathering spaces, and historic structures — all on the shores of Puget Sound with panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.