Ken Chapman

Columbia Winds

283 W. Marine Drive, Suite 5

Astoria

Did you know there’s a kite shop in Astoria? Ken Chapman, a former educator in speech, English and theater for 23 years at Astoria High School, owns Columbia Winds kite shop. Nudged in between Mary Todd’s and a former bathhouse in Uniontown, Chapman’s shop faces the challenge of selling kites away from the beach. For more information on Columbia Winds, call (503) 325-1596.

What do you do?

“I sell kites, windsocks, banners, flags – U.S. and others. I spend quite a bit of time visiting with local people. It’s kind of quiet here most of the time. I really kind of specialize in windsocks. I have a lot of different windsocks. I have all the Scandinavian countries, I have (University of) Oregon, Oregon State windsocks, I have military windsocks of all kinds. I guess that would be my specialty.”

How did you get started doing this?

“I’ve been looking for something to do. I’ve been at home, and I’m not very good at watching daytime TV or sitting on the porch. A friend of mine – Debbie, who used to have the fish market down the street – said ‘Why don’t you open a kite store; there’s no kite store around here.’ I thought ‘Gosh; I’m smart enough to run a kite store, I suppose.’ This space was empty and Mary (Todd) next door at the Worker’s Tavern is a friend of mine, and so we talked about a rental agreement, and I got some catalogues from Debbie. This is the result. It’s a good place for me to be. It’s a place where I have to get dressed and come to every day, meet my friends and look at all the colorful stuff, which I like to do.”

What is the volume of your business?

“I would say probably minimal. I don’t do a lot of volume. I get some kite customers during the summer, sometimes several in a month, sometimes very few. I don’t do a large volume of business here. I would like to; I just don’t. People just don’t know I’m here. I think Astoria really isn’t a kite town, like Seaside or Long Beach (Wash.) where the beach is right there and available. A lot of people come here because they’ve seen the store driving by, and they’re staying in Seaside or staying someplace, and they think ‘Oh; it might be fun to fly a kite out on the beach or something.’ So they come in.”

How does the economy affect your business?

“I don’t know that it really effects my business. I think that people who want wind socks or lawn decorations or something are probably going to buy those, because they’re not really high-ticket items. They’re things that most people can afford. All the major windsocks here are $20, and they last virtually forever – they’re nylon. And I’ve got some less expensive ones that probably wouldn’t last that long. I haven’t noticed anyone complaining about the prices. A $20 windsock is probably an impulse buy or specific because they wanted Oregon or Oregon State.”

— Edward Stratton

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