Changing of guards: Birches Habitat gets new owner

Although the store retains its same local charm, a new owner has taken the helm at Birches Habitat in North Bend.

Alyssa Sprague, a longtime Valley resident and employee at Birches, will take over the shop from former owner Nancy Wray, who retired at the end of 2021, having run the store since its founding in 2008.

“[Nancy] has been an icon in this community and this has always been everyone’s favorite place to come,” Sprague said. “It has a lot of responsibility and I want to make it a palace where people feel super welcome.”

Sprague, who has a background in visual merchandising at companies like Eddie Bauer and Ralph Lauren, said the store is a “merchandising person’s dream.” She said Wray offered the store to her earlier this year while thinking about retirement.

The store will retain all of its current staff, and has thus far made a few cosmetic upgrades including a new speaker system, relocating the dressing room, updating the cash register and a few more changes to come. The store will be looking to expand its availability of large art work, puzzles and games and clothing for both men and infants.

The store is also hoping to build on some of the foundational work left by Wray in working with nonprofits, holding community events, and auctions.

The store will be backed by Karin Simpson, Sprauge’s sister and owner of the adjacent Simpson Group Real Estate.

“It’s really fun to be part of a community that we love,” Sprague said. “It’s such a great small town feel.”

Sprauge said she is looking forward to meeting everyone who comes in, and getting to introduce those who are traveling through town to hike or ski, to North Bend.

“The thing that sucks me in is I love the fact that people are excited to come in here,” Sprague said. “I want to bring joy to the community and have people enjoy their time here.”