Ellie Ludy moved to Gearhart from northern California in 2016.
“Everyone was very nice,” she said, speaking from a place she jokes is her alternative living room, namely the leather sofa at Sweet Shop in Gearhart. “Although everyone was very nice, it was hard to develop meaningful connections.” She spoke of the isolation of the coast and the sometimes inclement weather which kept her indoors so much of the time. “I knew I’d have to change something or leave the area.”
Which is what lead to her founding the North Coast Newcomers club in January 2017. The club, which six months ago changed its name to North Coast Newcomers and Social Club is celebrating its one year anniversary.
“We had 15 people at our first meeting here at Sweet Shop,” Ludy said. “We now have 85 members. Not everybody is a newcomer.”
Some members have lived in the area for some time, but for one reason or another weren’t making new friends or strong connections. “Our club is unique; we don’t have regular meetings. There are no dues. There’s no politics. We just have fun.”
The fun so far has been wine tastings, painting classes, garden events, walking. There is a Facebook page (search for North Coast Newcomers and Social Club) where members post things they are going to or want to do, including movie outings, conversations and coffee, bicycle rides, and checking out new restaurants. Last spring, Ludy hosted at her home a very successful pot-luck Italian dinner night she called “Mangia,” which drew a substantial Italian food loving crowd.
Kathy Zimmerman moved to Gearhart in November 2017.
“I’d been coming to the coast for years as a visitor,” she said. “I met Ellie on the beach with her dog and then we met for coffee at Sweet Shop.” Zimmerman attended the club’s first meeting and has been an active member from day one.
Members, Ludy said, tend to be age 55 and up. So far the club has attracted mostly females, but it’s never been Ludy’s intention it be a women’s club.
“One of the goals for 2019 moving forward is to make the club more inclusive to families and partners,” she said.
Members come from as far away as Hillsboro although the majority reside from Astoria to Manzanita. There’s always room for new members.
“Our goal is to make the experience of being in the club richer,” Ludy said. “More food related events, more outdoor activities, more walking, more hiking.”
Traci Williams, Sweet Shop’s owner, is a member of the club. Sweet Shop, in fact, has become an informal hub.
“Traci’s always been a supportive member,” Ludy said. “Her living room style lounge area in the shop is a natural meeting point.”
After being a newcomer club member for a year, Zimmerman said she feels she’s found a nurturing community.
“We’ve bonded,” Zimmerman said. “The people who are active members are actually here for each other.”
“I feel I have a richness now,” Ludy said. “I feel like the area is not just a place I live, but a place I call home, a place where I belong.”