Meet the Shopkeepers: Velouria
Ballard’s favorite spot for small-batch dresses has new owners.
Eons ago, back before Pinterest and Twitter, Tes de Luna sold locally made dresses, upcycled silk slips salvaged by a Seattle thrifter, and small batch handbags made by crafty girls in middle America. We’re used to the indie designer boutique setting these days, but when she started Velouria in 2004, she was a pioneer. Which is why we were surprised to learn that de Luna had sold her shop—but then again, that’s what pioneers do, right? They move on. In de Luna’s case, to the wedding world. She’s now focusing on her event design business, Crinoline and Tweed.
Cat Wilcox and Chika Eustace ought to do just right by the spunky, independent gallery and boutique on Market Street. Since their acquisition of the shop in January, they’ve added Grain Design from Bainbridge, with their line of Utility Cards, and other It-creators from the area. “We are really excited to have the opportunity to offer a connection between independent designers and our customers who really value the attention and passion inherent in small-scale production,” said the business partners.
Here’s more about the new shopkeepers on Market Ave.
WWW: What song or album is playing on your store’s sound system right now?
Eustace and Wilcox: “Learning” by Perfume Genius. Our shop focuses on local designers, so a lot of what plays over the store iPod is also local musicians we really like.
What was your first job in retail? What did you love or hate about it and how does it compare to what you do now?
Wilcox: I was a furniture salesperson for a few years after college. I really enjoyed the freedom of being on the sales floor and not being stuck behind a desk, but the commission sales environment is pretty unpleasant and can be cutthroat. I’m really excited to be in a retail shop that is small and has a personal connection to the designers.
Eustace: I worked in a small candy and gift shop in my hometown all through high school. My job was to weigh jellybeans until I graduated to arranging chocolate boxes and gift baskets. A loveably cranky couple owned the shop and my co-workers were a pack of sharp-witted grandmas. It was a lot like working with the Golden Girls in Candy Land and I loved it. Recently, it popped into my head how cost-conscious the owners were about tissue and bags and heat. As a shop owner, I’m starting to appreciate all of the little costs behind a retail experience but I also believe that a cranky attitude can affect your bottom line a lot more than gift tissue.
What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?
Wilcox: Every time we get a new delivery of stock, there’s a new favorite. So, in keeping with that sentiment, we just got new blouses in from Christine Chaney and I can’t decide which one I like the most! This graphic boatneck might be my pick. The design is very similar to these army green silk tops by Lekkerlife that I’ve been going crazy over too!
Eustace: I am currently crushing on the new small messenger bag by Wooly Bison. I just love the proportions and the contrasting pocket flap! In the jewelry case, I’m drawn to several pieces by Jene DeSpain. I find the refined imperfection of the forms and finishes irresistible. I recently purchased one of our Yasi dresses by Curator and appreciate how foxy it makes me feel, pregnancy bump and all.
Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
Wilcox: I shop thrift stores with friends to round out my wardrobe and because I like wearing one-of-a-kind pieces. In terms of newer buys, I got a great pair of oxfords the other day at Re-Soul on Ballard Avenue that I’m pretty psyched about. I also like Edie’s on the Hill. One of my winter staples right now is an orange, waxed-canvas raincoat by Rebe. I met the designer and found the coat at the Seattle Urban Craft Uprising last December and I haven’t stopped wearing it since.
Eustace: My accessory business takes me to some great craft fairs in Portland and San Francisco where I’ve formed a habit of stocking up on some easy knitwear pieces by Portland’s Make it Good, a line we’re hoping to start carrying in the spring. I think my last five pairs of shoes were all bought at Market Street Shoes. They just always have a great version of what I’m looking for. More recently, I’ve been on the hunt for good maternity wear, which I’m surprised I’ve found a lot of at Velouria.
What do you love about your store’s neighborhood? What nearby restaurants, coffee shops, etc do you recommend?
Wilcox: I just went to Sexton the other day for a whiskey cocktail. It’s in the old Madame K’s space on Ballard Ave and it might be one of my favorite new spots for a drink. The old standbys are La Carta de Oaxaca for lunch (try their pozole in the winter), Sip and Ship for an amazing cider chai and great cards, Savour for their Seattle BLT (Skillet’s bacon jam!), and Hazelwood, another great cocktail place.
Eustace: I have to represent 24th Avenue and give a shout out to Aster Coffee Lounge for coffee and a quickie breakfast, O’Shan for easy weeknight sushi, and the Copper Gate Tavern for dinner and drinks. I’ve always liked how pleasant and accessible the shopping and dining district is in Ballard and I appreciate it all the more now that I live here. There is so much great stuff to see and do and eat, within a walk or short bike ride. One of my favorite things to do with guests on a nice day is grab a picnic from Paseo or the Ballard Supermarket lunch bar and take it to Golden Gardens or Sunset Hill Park at 34th and 75th. The view of Puget Sound and the Olympics tends to impress.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
Wilcox: Our first art walk because we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of people coming through. One woman came in, had some snacks, got a drink, and wandered around for a bit. It was kind of crowded but I guess the shop seemed like a cozy place to take a nap, so she sat in a chair by our dressing room and dozed for ten minutes or so!