Shaw General Store turns 100

Nestled on the shoreline near the ferry terminal, the Shaw General Store has been a central hub for Shaw Islanders for a hundred years. It is the place to stock up on supplies, to visit and catch up with one another.

To celebrate the store’s milestone, owner Terri Mason held a party at the store, complete with food, live music and speeches from previous owners.

“We have helped people with so many problems,” Mason explained to the Journal a few years ago. She continued to list off a few examples: helping find lost dogs and lost people, flat tires, sinking or drifting boats, broken vehicles, keys locked in cars, flooded houses, bee stings, car accidents and even a bomb scare. One day, Mason said she was working at the store, and a man brought in a ball covered in craft paper with wires and fuses sticking out of it.

“He set it on the counter and said, ‘I found this on the beach, and I didn’t know what to do, so I brought it to you because I thought you would know what to do with it,’” Mason remembered. “It definitely looked like a bomb.”

It turned out to be an unexploded firework from the Fourth of July that had washed up.

The store’s origin story begins in 1898 when Eugene and Sadie Fowler started a small store in their home near Blind Bay. In 1924, the Fowlers built a new store at its present site, at the water’s edge near the ferry terminal. In the early days, feed (for the many island chicken farms) and building supplies for Shaw and other islands were important parts of the store trade.

The warehouse, adjacent to the store, was originally a cannery for the Shaw Island Canning Company in 1912. The cannery processed salmon and produce from local farms. Later, the building was used for boat building and selling feed and lumber for the store.

After 1958, the store was sold to a succession of owners, including the Yansen, Leidig and Nichols families. In 1976, the Franciscan Sisters purchased the store and ran the ferry dock. The “Nuns” were famous for meeting the ferry in their brown habits and greeting people at the store. They maintained a chapel near the dock and welcomed many friends and visitors to Shaw. They continued to serve the Shaw Island community for 27 years. Steve and Terri Mason and their children bought the store from the nuns in 2004, and continue to this day. The history of the place keeps the Masons going.

“History is important and a lot of our historical buildings have disappeared,” Terri said. Growing up on Orcas, she pointed out that the islands had at least six similar stores. Today, the Shaw General store is one of the few remaining.

“It is joyful work, that is one of the reasons why we wanted to put the celebration together, to lift our community,” Terri said.

According to Terri, about 350 people attended the centennial festivities, coming from all over the country. Even a pod of orca whales made an appearance. The weather even cooperated. It stopped raining right as the event began and did not return until the festivities were over.

Terri explained that because it is a small store, obtaining items can be a challenge. Larger stores are often prioritized. Still, local farm-fresh items fill the produce section, and one can find a number of treasures from clothing items like beanies to overalls, mugs, and more. Orcas Islander Anita Orne wrote in her Shaw Store Centennial song, “If they don’t have it you don’t need it.”

Shaw Store Centennial Song

By Anita Orin


Shaw store, since 1924

If they don’t have it you don’t need it,

Welcome to Shaw Store

Eugen and Sadie Fowler were the ones who built the store,

The doors first opened in 1924

Their daughter Mabel ran it next, then a Fowler, name of Darrel

Followed by the Yansens, selling goods from shelves and barrels


Starting in the 60s came the Leidigs, then the Nichols

Then for nearly 30 years the Franciscans sold the pickles

The Masons took it over in 2004

And still today they welcome all to our Shaw Store


It is the heart of Shaw, for food and news and goods,

For one hundred years on this island, it has stood

Providing what we need whether we know it or not

In General, it is our home store and that means a lot!

As the music played, whales swam by almost as if to join the celebration too.

“It was a really joyful event,” Terri said, adding that the band played well into the night.