By Grace Swanson
Dan Phillips wears many hats — proud father of three children, bulldog parent, and managing partner of Phillips Enterprises, Inc., a grocery store designing company. His company has designed some of Washington’s most renowned grocery stores and marketplaces, including two Metropolitan Markets, Uwajimaya in Bellevue, and the District Market at the University of Washington.
He does all of this from Langley, Washington, a seaside town located on Whidbey Island that has a population of approximately 1,000 people.
Designing independent mom and pop grocery stores runs in the Phillips family. Lead Designer and Dan Phillip’s dad, Tom Phillips, started Phillips Enterprises in 2005 after leaving the corporate world. He has been in the supermarket and convenience store design industry since 1972.
Tom Phillips runs the business with his wife Cheryl Phillips from Leavenworth, Washington while his sons Dan Phillips and Tim Phillips work from the office in Langley.
Phillips Enterprises has designed stores in other parts of the world, including Paraguay and Kazakhstan.
The company designs each grocery store from the ground up and helps clients customize all aspects of their store from the refrigeration racks to the size of the ladle spoons.
“We hand you a box and you open it up and there’s your grocery store,” said Dan Phillips.
Each family member plays a different role in the company. Tom Phillips is the head designer and interfaces with customers. Cheryl Phillips is the bookkeeper. Tim Phillips works on the computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), marketing, and bookkeeping. Dan Phillips manages the projects, purchases equipments, and markets to new customers.
“Telecommuting allows us to be here and it allows my parents to be over in Leavenworth,” Dan Phillips said.
Each morning Dan Phillips wakes up, cooks his kids breakfast, and kisses his wife, Rachel, goodbye. He makes a five minute commute by foot to his office in downtown Langley where he works on store designs or communicates with customers from all over the country using Skype or Google chat. Sometimes during breaks he takes his bulldog Dudley for a stroll around town.
Langley’s new Gigabit internet speeds up his work, whether he is uploading a file or web chatting with clients.
“It’s really nice to be able to upload a large file to Dropbox in less than a minute,” Phillips said.
Whidbey Telecom’s new Gigabit Internet, also known as the BiG GiG, can reach speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, which is 1000 times faster than before. Currently Gigabit internet hookups are available anywhere within Langley city limits.
A number of co-work spaces are set up in Langley allowing people to telecommute from the island instead of commuting across the ferry. A co-work space is a shared working environment, similar to an office. George Henny, co-CEO of Whidbey Telecom believes reducing commute time will give Whidbey Islanders more time to do what they love.
“If someone wants to live in the place that has all of the qualities of a small town, Langley is an extraordinary gem,” he said. “It’s close enough to Seattle to enjoy the city, but has internet that is better and faster than what you’ll find in Seattle.”
Rachel and Dan Phillips moved from North Bend to Langley in October 2015 to escape the bustle of the city. Shortly after, Dan Phillips’ brother, Tim Phillips, and his wife moved to Langley.
For nine months, the Phillips brothers commuted from Whidbey Island three days a week to their office in Bellevue. Dan Phillips caught the 5:30 ferry so he wouldn’t be stuck in rush hour traffic. He tried to leave by 2 pm, but he often left late and caught the 8 pm ferry; he didn’t see his children on those days. In July 2015, the Phillips brothers found an office space in Langley and set up shop.
“Living and working in Langley changed my life from a family aspect dramatically and so that has brought my stress level down,” said Phillips.
He sees his three-year-old twin sons and one-year-old son everyday now.
“If I’m having a stressful day I can ask my wife to bring the kids down for a little pick me up,” he said.
Being close to nature could also be a factor in Phillips’ lower stress levels. A 2014 study in Japan revealed that those who walked in the forest were in a better mood and felt less anxious than people who walked in an urban environment. David Strayer, a researcher at the University of Utah, found that the brain is more creative after spending time in nature.
Debby Elwell, a marriage and family therapist in Langley, says that Whidbey Island’s strong sense of community may reduce feelings of isolation that can lead to depression. Living in a rural environment may also lessen stress levels.
“Many of the stresses of urban and suburban life — congested traffic, fighting crowds, being bombarded visually by signs and billboards, hearing sirens — are mostly absent from the island lifestyle,” she said.
Dan Phillips explained that understanding online tools, such as file sharing and video chatting, is imperative to his success in Langley. Most of the grocery store planning process is done electronically. He believes that it’s possible to have a successful career in Langley while living the small town life.
“If people want to work and live in Langley, it can be done,” he said. “Just do what it takes to get by and live here and enjoy what it has to offer.”