Walking into Hobo Junction, you never know what you’ll find. Besides the skeletons that serve as greeters, you’ll find antiques, refurbished fishing gear, local art, and miscellaneous materials available for your own creations. There’s always something in stock that’ll spark the imagination.
Prior to buying Hobo Junction, owners Danny and Yvonne Lee worked in construction and storage, respectively. Such experience prepared them for the amount of elbow grease they needed to refurbish the shop and the number of items they’ve filled it with since.
Being so close to the coast, Danny and Yvonne are used to fishermen and other folks showing up with odds and ends to clean up and resell. They also frequent estate auctions for unique antiques to add to the collection.
The Lees enjoy tinkering with the materials that end up in their yard as well–metal craftwork being their specialty. They sell local art, including their own, and encourage folks to explore their creative side.
Danny tells us about his and Yvonne’s experience in Pacific County and business ownership:
Why did you choose to start a business in Pacific County?
So my wife is from Astoria, close by. We met in Bend then moved all over–Vegas, Florida, LA. Eventually, we found ourselves back in Oregon, in the Dalles. But we were looking for a place near the coast.
We chose Washington because property taxes are half compared to Oregon, and there is no income tax. And we kept on seeing this place pop up for sale. When we talked about buying it, folks said, You gotta be insane.
The guy who owned it had been doing it for years. You couldn’t walk through the yard, it was so crowded. The house is the same: There was a trail winding through everything, where he still had a store. You had to ask him where things were, it was so packed.
We spent five years sprucing it up. I jacked up the foundation, we did the roof. We redirected the trails, so you can see the products and what’s happening.
What products or services do you provide?
Mostly repurposed local nautical finds.
Nets, fishing gear, crab pots–that’s mainly what’s outside. We have commercial fishermen that have excess crab pot buoys. We bring them in, clean them up a little bit, then resell them. The rest is from estate auctions.
It’s amazing what hides out in here. Like, there’s a porthole from an 1850s ship. We have crab pots–or bait traps–from the 1930s and ‘50s.
Some of the glass floats we have are from 1910, and some wooden Japanese floats are dated to the late 1800s. These things just keep showing up here.
We also have local art. Some ladies in Oregon make hand-painted ceramic seagulls.
And my wife and I make metal art, lamps, etc. Whatever spurs our imagination. We never know what we’re going to do!
For example, I make 6-foot-tall Benders from Futurama. I have two in the backyard right now–#7 and #8. I keep track of them, and people send me photos so I know where they’ve ended up in the world!
There’s one in Seattle on top of a building, where some guy mounted it permanently. And I just found that by looking around at #bender one day. That’s been very entertaining.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
There have been quite a few!
One day I was taking something apart at the desk (I rebuild electronics, and other odds and ends) and somebody brought in their son. He looked up and said, “I’d like to be able to do something like that.” So we sat down and I showed him how to go through it. And now he comes back once a year to buy stuff so we can tinker around like that. He likes to go through stereos, and I give him tips on how to work on them. I enjoy that a lot.
People will often drive by, slow down, see a house with stuff in front of it, and run away.
But you always get that person who will walk in and everything about them just lights up. It sparks the imagination. If you’re artistic, we have stuff in the yard you can make all sorts of stuff with. That’s how I get my ideas: Walking through our rust pile.
How do you view your role in the community?
Since we don’t have a lot of time outside of the business, what I do is within a two-block radius.
There’s been a shortage of people doing construction these past couple of years, so when my neighbors can’t get someone to do a job for them, I try to help out. Finishing a floor, fixing a leak, installing air conditioning, etc.
We have a neighbor who’s busy taking care of his mom with dementia, who’s trying to keep the house in the same condition she remembers. So we help with that, doing things like taking care of his lawn.
And if we end up with anything like tables and chairs and we don’t have the room for it, we just set them out front and advertise it on Facebook. We just tell people, “Come and get it!”
How do you define success?
Do what you like, do what you love.
If you can’t do that, you need to find it. To some extent, you have to enjoy what you do or you’re kind of hitting your head against a rock.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone starting a business in Pacific County, what would it be?
Get a business license and play by the rules.
Once you have a place, it’s easy to get a business license. It’s not expensive. And with a little help, everything you need is within reach. Everyone will help you through it–as far as this part of the peninsula goes.
It’s the best group of people I’ve probably ever dealt with in my life. Everybody’s helpful, and they’re all happy to see you. It’s just been fantastic.
And do what you like. Have fun.
Thinking about starting a business in Pacific County? Here are some of Danny’s tips for a successful business:
- Get creative, not discouraged
- Do the paperwork
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your community
- Also, don’t hesitate to be helpful in your community–if you have the time!
- Do what you enjoy and have fun!