The joy is palpable at Over the Fence.
A seamless transition has just taken place between the new and old owners at the iconic Sequim home and garden store.
“It’s the end of the year and the end of 27 years,” said Jeri Sanford, beaming with happiness over her worry-free retirement from the store she and husband Fran Sanford have nurtured since October 1996.
Why no worries over leaving a business they have loved so deeply and invested so much into? Their daughter Emily Underwood and son-in-law Scott Underwood are the new owners, possessing plenty of experience and much enthusiasm about the future.
At a recent interview, it was obvious how well the four get along and how happy they are about the evolution.
“These two are going to do exceptional things,” said Jeri, “and Fran and I couldn’t be more excited.”
In retirement, Jeri said the couple plans to “live it up.”
“It’s been so fun to have all these years here,” she said. “[Now we will] garden, travel, hang out with friends, and have company over.”
They also plan to help out at the store when needed.
Scott’s last night as a registered nurse was Christmas Eve; he has resigned to fully commit to the store.
“We like to work together,” he said.
Emily has been an integral part of the business since it opened when she was age 16 and a running start student at Peninsula College. In 1999 she moved to Bellingham, where she met Scott through mutual friends.
In September of 2001, she and Scott helped her parents open a second location in downtown Bellingham.
Along with their newborn daughter, Mia, they managed that store, which eventually relocated to Bainbridge Island.
“We left Bellingham in early 2005 after our son, Adin, was born to move home to Sequim to be near family,” said Emily.
Until 2007, when the owner of an adjoining saloon offered the Sanfords first rights to buy their building, the store was on the “smaller side,” said Jeri, but after buying the other building, Fran joined the two and the store expanded to a total of 5000 square feet inside and out (3000 inside, 2000 outside).
The Bainbridge location consolidated to Sequim when they bought the neighboring building.
Jeri had originally conceived of the store as a source of quality gardening supplies; Fran joking that she wanted good tools “at cost,” but over the years it housed a growing variety of home goods, becoming today’s eclectic shopping experience which draws in locals, people from all over the state and from other states as well.
Fran sold his business, Sanford Irrigation, to his nephews in 2001 so that he also could focus on the business.
“I was getting stretched pretty thin trying to do both,” he said.
“We’ve always grown and done something new,” said Jeri. “Now I get to watch and see what they do to grow and make it their own. They have wonderful plans.”
“We know what works,” said Emily. “The spirit of Over the Fence will remain.”
Eyes on the future
Each of the current employees, with their wide variety of talent, will also remain, owners said.
Emily and Scott plan to expand the kitchen section, saying that they are “big foodies” and there is no proper kitchen store in the area.
They are also remodeling a part of the original section of the store to be a design space, for people to consult with them or brainstorm on their own.
“This space will be focused on made-to-order furniture, rugs, art and lighting,” said Emily. “Customers can come enjoy the space for inspiration, consulting and purchasing items for their homes.”
“Customers can go in there and dream,” said Scott.
The couple plan to expand the store’s internet presence, with Scott in charge of social media. They said they may have a collection of “Over the Fence favorites” for sale on the website.
“We are exploring e-commerce,” said Emily, “but our brick-and-mortar store will always be our focus.”
Jeri and Emily listed together the priorities that have always been important to the family: a warm welcome inspiring atmosphere, offering assistance with home design, no sales pressure, and environmentally sustainable products made in the USA or ethically-made imported goods. Fran and Jeri have at times toured potential source companies to make sure ethics and quality line up with their ideals.
Over the Fence is hosting a raffle fundraiser for the local women’s shelter (see overthefencehome.com). For $5, participants have a chance to win a two night stay at the AirBnB above the store (the Downtown retreat), complete with wine and chocolates.
The winning ticket will be drawn on the last day of January.
“All the money raised will go directly to the women’s shelter,” said Emily. “Community involvement and support has always been integral to our business and we intend to become even more involved.”
Over the Fence
Location: 118 E. Washington St.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11a.m.-5p.m.