A building on Coupeville’s Front Street with nearly 150 years of history is about to begin a new chapter.
In a deal closed late last year, Seattle businessman-turned-property-investor Thom Kroon purchased the John Robertson Building from Fairway America, LLC., a hard-money group based out of Portland, Ore.
Kroon, who plans to act largely as a landlord and shepherd of the historic building, said this week that a future tenant has not yet been identified, but that the “bones” of the building are in great shape and that it’s full of untapped potential.
“We’re just really excited,” Kroon said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and we ready to step up and do a great business, and one that’s good for Front Street.”
Janet Burchfield, the Coupeville Realtor who brokered the sale, said Kroon was a great fit for the property. Not only does he, along with several of his siblings, also own the Knead and Feed Restaurant, but it’s located on Front Street and is a historic structure as well.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “I think he’s the perfect buyer.”
Kroon moved to Central Whidbey with his family in 1965 when his father, the late Melvin Kroon, was hired as the manager of Camp Casey Conference Center. His mother spent many years as a teacher in Oak Harbor and the Knead and Feed was opened in 1974.
The John Robertson Building has a long history, which began in 1866 as Robertson’s waterfront store. It was no doubt an important location for the town, as at one time, a dock similar in size to the Coupeville Wharf was nestled between it and what is now Toby’s Tavern.
In 1948, it was converted to a restaurant and has housed a handful over the past 60 years. While many today still call it the Mad Crab; others, may think of it as Captain Jacks or the Captain’s Galley.
But for Kroon, he will always remember of it as the restaurant of his youth when he was a student at Coupeville High School.
“The old Seagull,” said Kroon, recalling fond memories.
While Kroon would move away, going on to serve out a 32-year career in the military – he retired as a U.S. Navy captain – and owning his own aerospace business, he’s always maintained a fondness for Central Whidbey.
Having a home in Coupeville, Kroon said he’d been keeping an eye on the building for some time. He is now largely retired, but has been dabbling in select property investment, such as his recent purchase and refurbishment of a 1930s art-deco firehouse in Seattle.
According to Kroon, the “bones” of the building are in great shape. All that’s really needed, he said, is some heavy “elbow grease” and deciding on the best use of the property.
Several ideas have been proposed but no decisions made, though he did debunk rumors that it will become home to a new Mexican restaurant. Kroon is leaning against any type of restaurant as it’s not a model that’s worked well for that particular building in the past, he said.
A future use will almost certainly be commercial and the deck made available for public viewing as being able to see the water is one of the bet part of Coupeville’s waterfront, he said.
Other than that, he could only make one other assurance.
“We’re not going to call it Capt. Thoms,” Kroon laughed.
He hopes to have the building cleaned up and housing a new tenant by this summer.