The Shop that Wasn’t There Yesterday

by V. Buritsch-Tompkins

One of my favorite tropes is “The Shop that Wasn’t There Yesterday”.  I’ve experienced a few, in my lifetime.

My favorite one was “Gravois Variety” – which really was there much longer than I was around, and that I continued to visit until the owners retired quite suddenly.  I’ll never forget the going-out-of-business sale.  Where there were once aisles of kids’ toys and random knick-knacks for crafting – party favors for baby showers and wooden doll heads with little black strands of painted hair and dots for eyes – now stood an empty shell, nothing but a few tables and sun streaming through the front of the building.

It couldn’t be the same store.  It couldn’t possibly be the same place.  The honey-drenched memory still tugs at me.

Stores open and close, and places are discovered and disappeared almost as quickly.

I can think of no better example in Seattle than Island Time.

Island Time was a combination funplex and frozen yogurt establishment.  It was hidden away in a corner of Mill Creek around the corner from the Twisted Lime pub, not far from a few apartment complexes and a short walk from a church building that offers intermittent Jazzercise classes.  Depending on the day, the week, and the hour it was full of kids, or empty of everyone.  Our money was spread a bit thin, so we visited twice before we were unable to make it a habit.  Not because they were expensive, but because taking on an apartment as a new cost in a separation has its own negative net impact on finances.

Only months later did I scrape together enough mad money to have a few dollars to support them – but it was gone.  A sign, thanking us, and families like us, for the good times, and asking us to come back for the going-out-of-business sale.

So we did, to say goodbye.  I asked the proprietor about what was next – if they were planning to go somewhere else: No, not really.  All of the teens who worked there had gone on to find new things, and had their back-up plans in place.  And the owner had other things to take on in her life, and that was good, too.

These stores tend to pop in and out of our realities at random in our heads – but they don’t, actually.  Without patronage, places like Gravois Variety and Island Time really need a steady stream of customers to keep their businesses going.  Similarly, stores like Merle Norman Cosmetics in Lynnwood are lace-laden curiosity shops out of the way and rarely visited.

Just recently, I saw a “Thriftique” open up down on Evergreen Way.  It was the shop that wasn’t there yesterday.  I hope it will still be there tomorrow.

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