Friday Harbor Threatened with Fast Food Franchise

An editorial from the keyboard of Stephanie Prima-Sarantopulos

The Journal of the San Juans reported on October 7th in an on-line story that Pat and Stephanie O’Day were considering opening a Subway franchise at the upper end of Spring Street, in the historic yellow house once occupied by Ositos, and then, Crème Brulee.

Local residents were immediately up in arms, writing letters to the editor in protest and began a “Say No to Subway” petition.   Comments and letters to the editor expressed concerns about how the purchasing power of a franchise restaurant can undercut the local restaurants; it also cuts out the local food producers for cheap foods from subsidized  industrial farms and factories; it creates a few jobs, but only minimum wage positions, possibly not even full time – can’t pay rent on that.  Others mentioned how fast food chains seem to bring an enormous amount of litter – those sandwich wrappers don’t all quite make it in the garbage cans.

One particular incendiary comment was Stephanie O’Day’s quote in The Journal that she doesn’t see any difference between a food franchise and other franchises in town. “It’s just a sandwich shop. I think it would be a great addition to the community. People know what the product is — it’s good, healthy food. Some people may grumble for a while, but ultimately they’re going to come and eat here.”

I found her comment extremely arrogant.  Their breads contain high fructose corn syrup, corn maltodextrin, or hydrogenated vegetable oil.  Their meats have all kinds of additives – even the chicken is not just a piece of freshly-roasted chicken.  How is this “healthy?” The vegetables are tasteless – I know because I HAVE eaten at a Subway, and I won’t again – in Friday Harbor or anywhere else.  I don’t even like the SMELL that wafts out the doors of every Subway franchise.  No matter how much money you spend on advertising, there is just no way this type of mass-produced food can compare with locally-grown tomatoes, greens, meats and freshly-baked bread for nutritional content.

More than that, the absence of fast food franchises, big box stores and stop lights are among the very qualities that make Friday Harbor so charming.  If we want a dose of reality, we take the ferry across to “America,” but most of us prefer this eclectic little town – that’s why we moved here.  The addition of a fast food franchise becomes very emotional – where will it end?  Can you picture McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken in these historic wooden homes in Friday Harbor?  As an island visitor, do you really feel the need to eat at a fast food franchise when there are so many other unique restaurants to choose from?

So far, there’s no definitive word on whether the O’Days have actually purchased the franchise, and the original location under consideration has already been rented out.  The Friday Harbor Town Council was scheduled to discuss possible restrictions on fast-food franchise restaurants on December 2nd, but ended up referring the matter to the Planning Commission, with instructions to draw up recommendations for the council to review.  As of now, there is no permit pending for a “formula business.”  I hope the O’Days have found something else to sink their money into, and that the rest of the fast food franchises just leave us be.