Businesses cater to Island tastes

Nancy Hilliard
Around the Island

If you haven’t found “Finders” at 7607 S.E. 27th St., you’re missing the best of Island “kitsch.” Try a Sunday afternoon (also Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) to discover the funky gifts and folk-art.

Owner Judith Olson says “destination staples” continue to be Adah Edwards’ primitive bowls painted with Mercer Island’s iconic buildings and Byron Ives’ hand-carved shorebirds.

Some of the hottest funk is Susan Foster’s mixed fiber and bangled scarves, Ann Ryan’s hand-crafted birdhouses, and Carol Airut Murphy’s pop-top jewelry. You’ll find hand-woven rugs, hand-dipped candles and hand-knit goods. Hoda Greiss knits baby sets; and Inga Bastida’s hat profits go into her grandkids’ college fund.

Olson says more than two dozen local artisans sell here, including Steve Roberts’ book of “Wine Trails of Washington”; CDs of jazz singer Gail Pettis and pianist Connie Wible, and Carolyn Armstrong’s watercolor greeting cards.

We parents and grandparents know Finders as Webkinz central and a place to get a little discount on our birthdays. Where else can we buy jewelry made of Mahjong tiles?

Adages abound. A counter sign reads: “Your husband called. He said buy anything you want.” Messages on pillows say: “Strong women — may we know them, raise them, be them;” or “Call home, your mother worries.” Five rules of living adorn a paper-weight gift for graduates.

Judy has been collecting for Islanders for 23 years and has built a following of 5,000 loyal customers. Tami Szerlip is her mainstay helper, along with Carol Becker, Ann Fenwick and Jinny Sewell. Lest we not forget Barbara Setters, originator of Finders in the late-70s, and Marilyn Adams (now Roy), who worked there then and in 1984 spun off Pennsylvania Woodworks, now in a Woodinville warehouse and still selling Amish furniture, Hadleyware and other country items.

Islanders Derek and Jessica Newman have created and are marketing “Zevia,” new carbonated beverages sweetened with a rainforest herb sweeter than sugar, with no calories ( The health-conscious — yet soda-thirsty — pair sought an alternative to the artificially sweetened sodas, particularly during Jessica’s pregnancy. You can try it in three flavors: COLA, ORANGE and lemon-lime TWIST.

Li’l Tokyo Teriyaki Restaurant is now under the ownership of Ms. Hee Kim, who features a new Bento Box menu and family dinners for four. Take out or dine in. She will also retain the Indian chicken curry recipe of the former owner. Open 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., 2717 78th Ave. S.E.

Travel Tastes: About 25 years ago, there were four times as many travel agents on the Island — gone are Mercer Island Travel, Kowaguchi Travel, Travel Masters, Dayton Travel, Tour and Travel, Global Express — but still serving us are Continental Travel and Admiral Travel. They’ve survived the sea change of individuals booking their own travel, lodgings and ski trips on the Internet by becoming specialists in tours and more complex excursions.

At Continental, Betty Orrico is the cruise queen; Virginia Sperber, the Scots’ expert, whether it be whiskey, golf or castles; Rick Long and Alisa Kruse arrange “Journeys to Paradise” to follow the sun, exotic lands or other milestone adventures; Ray Meisgeir is an Asia specialist, who spends 70 percent of his time arranging corporate travel.

At Admiral, Erica Hauck says its staff plans such international experiences as a trip on the Russian Volga with guides and every detail; African safaris at multiple camps; all the arrangements to the China Olympic games, or a family reunion aboard a cruise ship. They can schedule you on the Bullitt Train through Japan and book you in the best traditional ryokans, replete with Tatami mats, Yukata robe, hot-spring bath and futons ( or Or, get you to a Spitsbergen, Norway, hut for a snowmobiling adventure. Leave your guns behind, says Erica. The guide provides one in the event of polar bear attack.

They say MI popular travel destinations are Hawaii (year ’round) and Europe — especially Italy, in the summer. In the United States, MI families most often fly to New York City and Washington, D.C., for the culture and history. Runner-up spots are the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu and the Yucat

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