Blaine’s longest-run business to close August 31

Published on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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End of an era: Greg Goff, 63, spent many years managing Goff’s Department Store, Blaine’s longest-running business. Now, he says, it’s time to close.

Goff’s Department Store, a downtown landmark for 110 years at 674 Peace Portal Drive, will close its doors permanently on August 31.

“It’s just time,” said store manager Greg Goff, 63, grandson of founder Clark C.T. Goff who bought the business from a man named Fuller in 1915. He bought out a neighboring drugstore in 1927, doubling the store to its present 4,800 square feet. C.T.’s son Murray added a men’s wear department in 1953 and ten years later extensively remodeled the store, but since then little has changed. The 1909 cash register is still in use, and accounts are kept by hand as they were when Greg worked there summers as a boy.

“What we get a lot these days are comments from people who tell us that it reminds them of stores they remember growing up,” said Goff, who has worked there for 37 years. His father’s 56 years is topped by his marriage to his wife and co-worker Kathryn; in June they’ll celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary.

“We’d like to thank our customers who have given us such loyal support over the years,” Goff said. “We’ll miss the small town atmosphere. I have an eight minute commute that has no stoplights, and the business has allowed me to stay in town and work with my dad. We even still get along!” he laughed.

The store’s loss will be felt keenly not only by its customers but also by people who have grown used to stopping by for a game of cribbage, to peruse the Goffs’ collection of old Blaine newspapers or just to chat.

“We’ll hardly know what to talk about at dinner any more,” joked Greg Goff, who like his father was kept busiest in the last decade or so tailoring clothes for people. “I like it when a garment says that it’s ‘un-tailorable,’ whatever that means. I wonder if other people ever work on un-tailorable clothes?”

Goff said that the store has always been in the black. “We’re not closing because of the economy,” said Goff’s wife Jo Hay Goff, like her husband a member of the Blaine high school class of 1964. She added that their receipts are only down $50 from this point a year ago, which is “a pair of shoes or a shirt.”

“I want about a year off,” Goff said, “as I’ve had vacations but never more than a week at a time.” He said he and Jo plan to spend more time sailing aboard their Catalina 30 sailboat named Selena.

“We’re open to suggestions about what to do with all the history we have here, the newspapers and old photos,” Goff said.

Fuller built the building in 1899 when Blaine was prosperous, the second largest city in the county after Bellingham. A story from the June 1897 Blaine Journal said, “We have six miles of good plank roads and sidewalks, rail and water transportation, water works, four mills, three canneries with a capacity of 150,000 cans [of salmon] per day, four churches, three brick schoolhouses, 200 children and more expected.”

Two months later fire would destroy the Northwest Packing Company plant and damage the Miller Wharf. But the advent of fish traps and the demand for northwest timber kept the local economy strong. Much of San Francisco and northern California was rebuilt with local lumber as Blaine was an easier port of call for sailing ships than shallow and often windless Bellingham Bay.

Goff’s begins selling off its merchandise at sale prices this week. When asked what the stores absence will do to downtown Blaine, Goff said that it won’t have that much effect. “Blaine has a wonderful potential. Store’s come and go, but the location and the setting can’t be beat.”