Like any good entrepreneur, DK Smith had an idea around 40 years ago, one that people weren’t sure was going to work.
“When he opened the store, a lot of people laughed at him when he opened his shop,” said John Fraser, owner of Once Upon a Breeze.
The name of the shop, which opened in 1975, was the product of a naming contest in the small coastal city, Fraser said. The shop has the distinction of being the oldest kite shop on the Oregon coast, and for good reason, Fraser and his staff are experts at anything attached to a string that catches the wind.
“I used to work for him as a beach flier, I would go out and put up displays of large and unusual kites and then fly them. People would then find his shop,” he said. “In the early ‘80s he wanted to sell the shop, and I was able to get a loan and I bought it. I have been doing it ever since.”
The bright blue building is chock filled with kites ranging from the multiple stringed “performance” or “stunt” kites, to kites for first-timers. From Orca whales, to Star Wars Clone Troopers there are also a wide-variety of novelty kites that fill the shop.
“We have a lot of beginner kites,” Fraser said. “Our sales approach is unique in the respect that we fly everything in here to make sure if flies well and also to find out what conditions it likes to fly.”
Fraser said with that information, he can make sure people purchasing kites will get the best use during their visit. He said kites have a range of wind they work well in, and by knowing the outdoor conditions, and the proper kite, he can make sure that people visiting the coast will have the best kite-flying experience during their trip. He even has a wall of shame, of kites that wouldn’t fly, so he doesn’t sell them.
Fraser also said when he gets a new kite in that he hasn’t seen before and it does fly, he will take one of them out and see if his staff can break it.
“I do that for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One I can see how durable the kite is, but also I can make sure I have the right tubing and materials to fix it.”
That’s one of the things that sets Once Upon a Breeze apart from other kite shops on the Oregon coast, he has a kite hospital. Fraser and his team will repair any broken kite, no matter where you purchased it, free.
“The idea is that the more people who are flying kites, the better,” he said. “We repair 1,000 to 1,500 a year.”
The kite repair area includes a sewing machine, all the plastic tubing and other items he needs – and watching him repair a kite is something to behold. Fraser, after nearly 40 years in the business, is a master at fixing and recommending kites to people who visit.
“People will sometimes buy a kite when there is no wind, which doesn’t work, or they buy a small nylon kite during very strong winds, which doesn’t work either,” he said. “Matching the kite to the wind conditions is our biggest challenge.”
The day I visited the store a storm was blowing in, and Fraser said that it would be best not to fly because of the very strong winds – but most days at the coast conditions are such you can enjoy seeing a kite buffet on the coastal breezes.
For those looking for adventure, Fraser did mention that he does carry kites for “sand skiing” where kites pull you down the beach in strong winds. Being the klutz that I am, I opted to skip that portion of the demonstration. However Fraser did say that the large foil kites that will pull him across the beach were one of his favorites.
He did say that before people leave the store, especially with complicated two-lined performance kites, he makes sure they get some tips and advice about flying them.
“Our goal is to get as many people flying kites as possible,” he said. “We want it to be fun, and a positive experience. Just remember, if you break it, bring it back and we can fix it.”
About Once Upon a Breeze: The self-proclaimed oldest kite shop on the Oregon coast, which is located in Cannon Beach and sells everything from beginner kites, to high-performance, stunt kites. They also repair kites for free and offer tips and advice about how to get the most out of your kite.
What to bring: If you are going kite flying, make sure to bring a wind breaker, as it can get chilly – or during the summer make sure you have proper shoes to run on the beach.
Tip: Check out the wind before you visit the shop to make sure you get a kite that is going to work for your visit to the coast. However, do know that conditions change at the coast, so in an hour, you may be able to fly something completely different. Wind conditions are the most important part of your kite-flying experience, Fraser said. It’s best to get a couple of kites for different conditions.
Season: The store is open year-round.
Getting there: The shop is located at 240 N. Spruce Street, in Cannon Beach. It is along North Spruce Street, one block off of the main shopping district on North Hemlock. However you can get to the shop by walking through the outdoor mall area near the Oregon Gallery.
By Patrick Johnson