Story & photos by Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
You might picture someone that owns a whole darn town sitting behind a desk, gleefully counting rent checks, stopping only to tap the tips of their fingers together like Mister Burns from “The Simpsons.” But Gary Fromm, owner of the town of Otis, is more comfortable behind a counter than a desk; sometimes spending up to six days a week at The Otis Pizzeria, filling orders and checking in with town residents and visitors.
Fromm, a lifelong entrepreneur, is every inch a people person, and his vision for the town reflects that.
“The whole town is important to me,” he said. “When I first bought it, it was pretty run down, but we’re really fixing it up. At some point I’m planning to build an RV park, because right now there is KOA and that’s it. We need more places for people to stay while they are here.”
Fromm said festivals with family camping and live music are also on the list of possibilities for Otis.
Already, the town hosts a bit of a mini festival every weekend during the summer, in the form of the Otis Marketplace, with vendors selling items like jewelry, tie-dyed clothing, soaps and even antiques.
Now in its third season, the market is officially held from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays through September, but will open on Fridays depending on the weather. Vendors will even open up shop early and stay late depending on traffic.
“A lot of us come for the social aspect,” said vendor and market manager Sue Christianson. “We get a lot of local people who stop by a lot, both because our vendors change frequently, but also to visit old friends and make new ones.”
A traveling vendor from Washington recently found his itinerary changed by his stop in Otis.
“We didn’t even know about the market when we first came here,” said Mark Schmitt, who sells jewelry and tie-dyed clothing. “Then we met Gary and he made us feel very welcome. We’re really enjoying it so far. If it goes well we may keep coming back.”
Misty Morn Soaperie owner Geneva Campitelli said she has really enjoyed selling her soaps, lotions, salts and other handcrafted bath and body products at the market.
“Everybody is no nice here,” she said. “It’s a great place to set up.”
The layout of the market also helps customers find her natural and organic, vegan-friendly products.
“People come right to our booth saying that they could smell us from the parking lot.” she said.
At the hub of the market is a business that doesn’t pack up when the market ends, Heid’s Otis Espresso Stop.
“I love the market,” said owner Heidi Newman. “It helps my business, of course, but it’s also fun. People love to hang out, and I get to meet new people all the time.”
Newman, who raised 13 foster children, said buying the business helped keep her busy in the way she likes to be.
“I love people and I love serving,” she said. “Plus I really love coffee.”
Newman proudly serves coffee from the coast’s own Cape Foulweather Coffee Co., brewed onsite or as bagged beans for those who want to make their coffee at home.
“I have customers who come specifically for those beans,” she said. “It’s really, really good coffee and is not that easy to find.”
Fromm estimates that the market has plenty of room for more interested sellers.
“We could fit 200 vendors and would love to see the market continue to grow,” he said. “We’re really welcoming to new people and will even help them set up and break down if they need it.”
During the week and in the winter when the vendor tents roll up, the other permanent business that make up the town besides Heid’s Otis Espresso Stop and The Otis Pizzeria include the Otis Café, Otis Market & Gas Station, Otis Dispensary and the Otis Post Office.
“We really want people to know that there is an alternative to Lincoln City that is still close to the coast but isn’t as busy,” Fromm said. “We’ve got just about everything you would need: really good food, gas, groceries, even some cannabis if people want that. We just need more people to stop here and see what a great little place we have.”
The Otis Marketplace, visible from the road in the heart of Otis, is located on Highway 18, about four miles east of the junction with Highway 101. Potential vendors can contact manager Sue Christianson at 541-992-2356.