Pat Slusher, Known for Hawaiian Shirts and Coins, to Retire and Close Centralia Shop After Decades-Long Career

Downtown Centralia Fixture Recalls Memorable Career Ahead of Retirement


If you’re a fan of Hawaiian shirts or collecting coins, then your life is about to get a lot more difficult.

That’s because Pat Slusher, 79, of the eponymously named “Slusher’s Coin Shop” in downtown Centralia, will be retiring in the coming months, with a target date of Aug. 31. 

Pat Slusher has been in the coin business since the 1960s. He got his start selling his merchandise out of a series of “little places,” as Slusher called them, small buildings where he would sell his coins and other products.

His first store, Pat Slusher said, was a small building in a former rental car lot. He said he had to move out of that first building when a truck clipped the store and made the whole building tilt to the side. He then moved his store to a new building he built in the 1970s named “International Coin Galleries.”

Pat Slusher eventually moved to Yard Birds, where he spent much of the 1980s and 1990s. At Yard Birds, he was soon faced with a problem he hadn’t faced before — flooding. Floods hit the area twice in the 1990s, in 1990 and 1996.

“We lost everything both times,” Pat Slusher said.

Fortunately for him, and for his customers, Pat Slusher had someone who was always willing to help him get back on his feet.

“Security State Bank saved my life because they loaned me money to get going again. Security State Bank saved my bacon. They gave me all the money I needed,” he said.

Throughout an interview with The Chronicle,  he repeatedly returned to the help he’s received from Security State Bank throughout his career.

“It’s a good feeling to have, to know people in positions of power trust you … because honestly Security State Bank has backed me in some crazy deals,” Pat Slusher said.

“The secret there is that I’ve always kept my word,” he added, explaining how he’s always managed to come back.

After the 1996 flood, he decided to move again, this time to a store on Tower Avenue in Centralia. He’s been on Tower Avenue for over 20 years now, though he moved after a few years to his current location. His time on Tower Avenue has resulted in some of his most memorable moments in the coin business.

“I never know what’s going to come through that door. Some days it’s really quiet, sometimes there’s a ton of people,” Pat Slusher said

One time, a particularly memorable person walked through the door at his previous location on Tower Avenue. Pat Slusher was at the counter when the man came in.

“I had this elderly gentleman who walked in one night, and he pulled out this silver dollar. I almost had a heart-a-stroke,” he said.

The elderly man put an 1893-S U.S. dollar on the counter. The “S” stands for San Francisco, where the coin was minted.

“It’s a rare coin,” Pat Slusher said with emphasis.

“Long story short, I gave him $12,000 for the coin,” Slusher recalled. “I had to call my banker to make sure the check (I wrote to the elderly man) would go through. I got the green light.”

“In the coin business you never know if you’re getting $10 or $10 million because you never know what’s going to come in,” he said.

Another memorable event also happened at his old Tower Avenue location. For a long time, he knew someone who claimed to know former Philadelphia Phillies baseball player Steve Carlton. He said he never believed the man knew the 1994 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and 1980 World Series pitcher. But one day, the man walked in with another man towering behind him.

An excited Pat Slusher welcomed Carlton to his store.

“He just didn’t want us to tell the public,” he said of Carlton, who he said spent about three hours in the coin shop.

He welcomed Carlton into his back office, where posters of baseball players — including Carlton — were displayed.

“That wasn’t planned,'' he said.

Pat Slusher’s life has also been an interesting one. Originally from Rochester, he spent 21 years in the Navy before retiring in 1981. He spent a couple years overseas but soon returned to serve as a Navy recruiter, stationed at Fort Borst Park in Centralia. As a Navy recruiter, he found success. He was named Navy Recruiter of the Year in 1975 and said he was always in the top 10 in the nation.

His interests have been as diverse as his experiences.

“It’s primarily a coin shop,” Pat Slusher’s daughter Pier Hanson, 54, said.

“I’ve been selling coins the whole time. Basically what I’m supposed to be is a coin collector. But I get sidetracked,” Pat Slusher said.

He may be as known for his sidetracks as he is for his coin dealing, particularly his Hawaiian collectables, or “Hawaiiana.”

“I’ve sold more than 5,000 Hawaiian shirts probably,” said Pat Slusher, who estimated he had probably traveled to Hawaii 15 to 20 times just to buy the shirts for his store.

“We have more than 10,000 Hawaiian shirts,” Hanson added.

Pat Slusher said the first Hawaiian shirts he sold were never meant to be for sale.

“Once he got out of the Navy, he said, ‘I’m never wearing anything but jeans and Hawaiian shirts again,’” said Slusher’s wife of 60 years, Phoebe Slusher, 80.

He said he had visited Hawaii and bought some shirts for himself and left them on a shelf behind the counter at his store. One day, someone came in and asked how much the shirts were.

“So I sold them and I thought to myself, ‘hmmm,’” Pat Slusher said.

But Hawaiian shirts aren’t the only Hawaiiana he sells.

“We have like 1,000 Hawiaiian records,” Hanson said.

He has also dabbled in stamps and baseball cards.

“I like stamps,” Pat Slusher said. “It’s a very educational source but the problem is to do it right it’s so time consuming.”

As for baseball cards, those went out after the flooding at Yard Birds and their son moved away.

“Our youngest son was 12 years old and he did the baseball cards,” Phoebe Slusher said.

Hanson vividly recalled having to carefully reach into the water and pull baseball cards out, careful not to bump something else into the water as well.

Pat Slusher also has plenty of items to sell before he retires besides coins and Hawaiiana.

“We have 77 boxes of Life magazines,” Phoebe Slusher said.

They also have plenty of books on military history they are eager to get rid of.

In reference to what they had in the front of their store, Pat Slusher said that was only a part of what they had to sell.

“You’re just looking at a sample here,” he said.

“We’re going to sell it all. If I end up with anything left over I’ll give it to some charity,” Pat Slusher said.

“I’m getting tired, I’m getting worn out,” he said of his decision to retire.

“This has really been an interesting store. You’re always learning something new, but the part I enjoy is the people,” Pat Slusher said. “I’ve always been a people person, but I’m getting physically and mentally tired.”

So where’s Slusher and his family going to go? He’ll be staying in Centralia at least part of the time. But he says he also has an oceanfront lot.

“I plan on going down and building a house on there,” Pat Slusher said.

“It’s time to part with it, time to go to the beach,” Hanson said.

Asked if there was anything else they wanted to say, the Slusher family turned their attention to the community.

“Thank you for your business, thank you for your support,” Hanson said.

“We’ve enjoyed the support of the surrounding community,” Pat Slusher added.

The coin shop is located at 107 N. Tower Ave. in Centralia.