Business has been 'skookum'

"When Ann and Bruce Candioto built Skookum Company clothing store, they used native materials of an intangible kind - the diverse impressions and ideas that Ann picked up from the community.This has been a wonderfully nurturing community for me personally, Ann Candioto said. I have had inspirations from a variety of people I've known, and I've tried to incorporate those into a successful business.Now, though, it's time for the creator and the creation to part company. The Candiotos are selling the business to semi-retire - rest and travel.This was always the plan - to build a successful business, then sell in five years she said. And we've been here for six years now.The Candiotos have lived on Bainbridge for 20-plus years, and had a variety of jobs. Bruce was a carpenter and a contractor. Ann had worked for the park district, had been a landscape designer, and worked as a waitress.But then a mid-life crisis hit. The 50th birthday loomed, a time of life where, as Ann Candioto says, carpenters all want to be lawyers and lawyers want to be carpenters. And it was time to think of something different.The inspiration came when she heard that a downtown clothing store was for sale. I heard the news, and it was an intuitive thing. I said 'I can do this,' Ann Candioto recalled.Someone else bought that first store, but the seed was planted. And when another clothing retailer located in Winslow Green offered to sell, the Candiotos decided the time was right.Candioto says she always knew the store would primarily carry women's wear.For women, shopping can be a little mental vacation, she said. We enjoy the textures and colors even if we're not buying anything. I wanted this store to be fun.The store's principal line has been what Candioto calls Northwest island style - comfortable, but with a little flair. And it the local buyers for whom she aims.When I buy for the store, I'm thinking of local people and what they want, she said.The line of children and baby clothes was an unplanned addition.It came out of finding ourselves in the children's department of a wholesale store, and realizing that even though I don't have children, I wanted to buy those things for myself. It's what the word cute was invented for, she said.Although the store's name may be confused with snookums, it has nothing to do with babies or baby talk. According to Candioto, skookum is a Native American work meaning strong, impressive or first-rate. She said the word was once widely used, but has fallen out of fashion.If you jumped up and down on a deck and it was solid, you'd say it was a 'skookum' deck, she said.Candioto credits her success to a concentric circle of communities.On the store level, she cites the interaction among the staff.If we are enjoying each other and having a pretty good time, I thought that would carry over to the customers, she said.She said she is delighted that the Winslow Green area has become a community center.Originally, it was just buildings plunked down in front of a sidewalk, she said. But fortuitously, the bakery was in the corner. They're the ones that put tables and chairs out in front, and turned this into a gathering place.And she refers to downtown Winslow as a treasure. The fact that it still exists as a viable little town is unusual, she said, although she called parking a problem that must be addressed.While Candioto and her husband are looking forward to sleeping for a month when the business is sold, she says she has thoroughly enjoyed her tenure as an island business owner.I have been lucky to do something as fully challenging as this has been for me, she said."

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