NORTH BEND — Every trip past the corner of Virginia Avenue and Lincoln Street in North Bend there is a celebration.
The celebration isn’t coming from the people in the car driving by or pedestrians passing through, but the excitement comes from a reader board at Lillie Family Market.
“It’s something we enjoy doing because it helps us be part of the community,” said Shari Lillie, owner of the store. “You know, wish people joy during their happy times. Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement, new babies — all those good things.”
Lillie didn’t start the tradition but has kept it going. Adjusting the board has become part of the day.
“We change it each evening so that we make sure it’s up for the whole day. It’s one of those final things we do for the day. That way, it’s new and fresh for the following day,” Lillie said.
She has owned the store for the past three years and the tradition of celebratory notes goes back further. But exactly how far back is unclear.
“I think it might go back, probably more than 50 years. I bet they’ve been doing that for a long time,” said Tony Crane, a previous owner of this building. “They’ve been doing birthday messages on that reader board since before me. I bought the store in 1998.”
Crane was at that location for 18 years and he said he was the seventh owner of the building that was first built in the 1960s. Throughout his time at this spot, those celebratory messages were a staple that have reached seemingly everyone in the community, by his estimation.
“I would say a large number have somehow come across that reader board. Whether it was their name specifically or a child’s name or their parents or their grandparents or an anniversary. Any event, every event imaginable,” he said. “It is a cool small-town type of thing.”
People would come into the store and schedule out dates in advance to make sure they had a coveted view of a message on Virginia Avenue.
“We kept a calendar in the store and you could reserve the day but so many people wanted on there that it became such a pain in the butt. Rain or shine I’m out there putting up letters on the reader board,” said Crane.
Crane charged $5 to get on the board as does Lillie. With both of them it wasn’t about making a profit, but in hopes of making their lives easier in the future.
“The only reason we charge for it is because we are setting all that money aside to try and get an electronic reader board up there,” said Lillie. “Because when the wind and the rain and all that good stuff happens, the letters tend to go flying. We do live in North Bend.”