Limited access to the “Goonies house” nowadays often leaves once-hopeful tourists feeling downcast. But last year, it convinced a family of five to move to the area from thousands of miles away.
Mitch and Alethea Eckhardt traveled from their home in Texas to Portland in the summer of 2016 to visit friends. Avid Goonies fans, and unaware that access to the house was cut off by the owners about a year earlier due to a tourist surge, they couldn’t help but drive nearly two hours to see the iconic residence.
Instead, they strolled Astoria’s streets, dined at its restaurants and snoozed at its hotels.
They were hooked. Rather than wait until retirement and potentially move far away from their three children, the couple relocated to the area one year later. The Eckhardts still haven’t seen the Goonies house, but they have found their home.
“If we did see the Goonies house, we wouldn’t have fallen in love with this town,” Mitch said with a chuckle. “I think the whole reason we moved here is because the Goonies house was closed.”
Mitch and Alethea, both 32, made the final decision in July and have lived in the area since September with their three children — Ari, 8, Robin, 8, and Griffin, 3 — and two dogs. Due to the slim housing pickings for a large family in Astoria, they instead settled in Long Beach, Washington — for now.
The half-hour commute did not stop them from continuing to explore Astoria, though. When they first arrived, the Eckhardts caught a glimpse of the city in the summertime and early fall. The Texas natives immediately noticed how many people in town, sporting smiles and offering plenty of welcomes, wanted to take advantage of the warm weather by wandering about town.
“You have so many businesses close together that you can just walk to each one on the sidewalk,” Alethea said.
Mitch spends much of his free time taking photographs and making videos for Refuge Media, a company he started a few years back. He launched a family blog after his brother was incarcerated a couple years ago so he could eventually catch him up on his family’s lives. Mitch has taken photographs of locals and attached a brief story of them in an Instagram project called tellme.astoria.
“It’s been a really fun way to get to know the people that I photograph,” he said.
Continuing a hobby he enjoyed in Texas, Mitch is also by far the youngest member of the Astoria Lion’s Club, which he hopes to promote over the years.
“I was surprised to see that our club was as small as it is,” he said. “I want to be here with dozens of people keeping this club going.”
Alethea, meanwhile, plans to recapture her artistic side. Since the move, she has dabbled in calligraphy by crafting hand signs for her children’s schools.
“The artistic side of this community has inspired me to branch out a little more,” she said.
Mitch is a financial consultant at Thrivent Financial in Astoria, and Alethea will soon work at Windermere Real Estate as a client relations specialist. They would like to move across the Columbia River within five years.
“Eventually the goal is to move closer to town where we don’t have to commute as much,” Alethea said.
Later in their working lives, they hope to find a home in the area with a view.
“I want us to be the grandma and grandpa that has that big house everyone comes to for dinner,” Mitch said.