Everything’s just a little more special in Edmonds, and that’s certainly true in the seaside city’s best-kept secret… a local gem called Firdale Village.

Originally established in 1966 as an arts center, Firdale Village Shopping Plaza features over 25 businesses operating out of a Colonial-style building, situated a few blocks west of Hwy. 99, just under 10 minutes from I-5, Edmonds/Kingston Ferry, and downtown Edmonds.

“On any given day, a visitor may hear vocal rehearsals from the live theater, see a doggie fashion show at the restaurant that caters to canines, or marvel at the aquariums full of beautiful fish. The smell of pizza and Indian spices from the restaurants will instantly make your mouth water. Cats are toted to and from our resident cat grooming salon for their spa days and dogs lumber into and trot out of the canine water therapy pool,” described J Linn Black Henline, SplashDog Canine Well-Being Center, Firdale Village.

“If those aren’t your thing, you will also find a Buddhist center, Jiu-Jitsu and wine shop. I can guarantee we aren’t the kind of shops that you will find at any mall. Plus we are all local entrepreneurs that have a stake in our community and care about the people we serve [‘Commentary: Firdale Village — a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else,’ My Edmonds News, Dec. 2, 2017].”

Drive a little past the Westgate neighborhood of cliffside houses, bald eagles, and charming niche eateries (Jaiiya, Ono Poke, Bucatini, Kebella’s, FIVE, Chopsticks) and Seattle chains (Pagliacci Pizza, PCC), head toward the ferries just around the bend, and stop by an all-inclusive resort loaded with unique, local finds.

Where else can you find Murphy, Aquarium Co-Op’s resident mbu puffer, a comedy theater, doggy spa and adoption haven, kitty grooming salon, and artisan boutique, among some top-shelf restaurants?

They’re all here, waiting to brighten your day.

Once you cast your eyes on Murphy, the mbu puffer, at the Aquarium Co-Op Store, you’ll be hooked. Murphy, the co-op’s resident mascot, loves waving his fins and smiling his toothsome smile at all his visitors checking in on him virtually or in-person.

Owner/founder Cory McElroy — who opened the co-op in June 2012 — thinks Murphy, and pufferfish in general, are the coolest.

“While I always thought pufferfish were cool, I believe the bond I had with my first Mbu pufferfish Hank was that of a dog that has gotten its owner through hard times. When Hank passed, there was a big piece of me missing and we got another Mbu Puffer named Murphy who is known as our store mascot today. Because I don’t spend each day in the store, I found myself missing Murphy, so I have Lady Bird who is another Mbu puffer at home. [website blog]”

You will, too.

Regulars come often to load up on supplies and learn responsible pet ownership. McElroy relayed the story of one special needs child coming in weekly with his parents for live black worms to feed his pet African Dwarf Frog.

“To teach their son how to socialize, they would not leave until he asked me for ‘Froggy Food’ in the most cheerful and innocent voice you’ve ever heard. Eventually he got the courage to hand me the money to pay as well. I think about these interactions to this day on how Aquarium Co-Op aims to do so much more than just sell aquarium supplies as a business [blog].”

The carefully curated businesses at Firdale Plaza sell much more than goods and services.

If they’re The Phoenix Theatre, they’re here to sell a good time, with plenty of laughs. Season 14 kicked off Oct. 1st with Molière’s classic comedy of errors, “The Miser” (L'Avare ou L'École du Mensonge), followed by Daniel Sullivan’s “Inspecting Carol,” and “All Together Now!” — a global performance event with other local theaters across the world.

Currently, “37 Postcards” by Michael McKeever’s been knockin’ ‘em dead, featuring a rock-solid cast of characters running around, trying to survive a sink hole, a hungry dog, an aunt running a phone-sex business in the kitchen, and grandma joining in on the hijinks. “Mama Won’t Fly,” about a grown daughter driving her plane-phobic mom across the country for her brother’s wedding, is next, April 8-May 1, from the minds of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. Ooh, and Norm Foster’s “Skin Flick,” June 3-26, sounds intriguing, wink, wink.

Dining is a whole other experience, on a whole other level, a total immersion into other worlds, exotic, heady spice worlds at Chef Shahzad’s Caravan Kebab. From the moment you walk in, he and his staff treat you like family, really taking care to ensure you never want to leave.

Chef Shahzad sources as farm-to-table as possible — quality ingredients, lovingly prepared — for his vast, heavenly menu, featuring dishes you’ll not easily find anywhere else. You can easily dine your way from Morocco (Lamb Tangine) to Pakistan (Beef Nihari), Hungary (Beef Stroganoff), Poland (Pierogi), and South Asia (Biryani). He’ll explain every dish, tell a few stories, and recommend courses you never thought of. Let him decide, he’s the expert! He’ll never steer you wrong.

In more of an Italian mood? There’s Venice Pizza & Pasta. Drop by and take your pick from a huge selection of authentically made pizza (pepperoni, Bianca white, vegetarian), pasta (beef ravioli, baked spaghetti, Puttanesca), salads (Greek gyro, spinach walnut, Caesar, antipasto), sandwiches (gyro, meatball parm), appetizers (pesto cheese bread, Bruschetta, mozzarella sticks, Chicken Fingers on Fire), and dessert (baklava, cheesecake, tiramisu).

Grounded Espresso is yet another locally-owned, family-run business thriving at Firdale Village. The drive-thru coffee stand, a favorite of locals from Edmonds to Seattle, serves every kind of quick pick-me-up with a warm smile — hot or cold, snacks aplenty.

Locals take their dogs everywhere, especially to famous Off-Leash Area Edmonds right on Marina Beach Park.

In true Edmonds style, there’s a place for every pet to relax, feel good, and get adopted: Dmarie’s Doggie Boutique, SplashDog Spa, Haus of Dogs, and City Kitty grooming salon.

At SplashDog Spa, Fido can enjoy massage therapy, acupuncture, Reiki sessions, an obstacle course gym, play groups, and canine water therapy in an actual swimming pool.

Firdale Village’s Art Center lives on at the The Crafty B’s Artisan Boutique, where you can find just about anything to make your dreams come true, from cards, pupcakes, and coloring books, to wind chimes made of forks and goblets, CBD products, and bucket bags in crayon or dinosaur designs.

The Crafty B’s hosts popular events, like vendor pop-up markets, Edmonds Stop & Shop, and more, giving local artisans and small businesses a chance to genuinely connect with shoppers for a most unique experience…a Firdale Village experience.

There is a lot more to explore here. Come and see.

Photos by Matt Hulbert