I'll never forget the first time I saw Igor and Yelena Klimenkoff and I'll never forget the first time I stepped into their gallery and shop on First Avenue.
The first thing happened at Nordstrom's Designer Preview way back in the summer of 2008, the second not long after.
Far 4 was then brand new, and I had never seen anything like it. At once precious and almost laugh-out-loud good-humored, the porcelain-focused inventory and elegantly minimal space gave me the feeling of a being the proverbial bull in a china shop—but a very safe bull. A bull and a china shop that nothing bad could ever happen to. Old World, classical, delicate home- and tableware integrated with the family's made-in-Russia figurines and art objects, and even though I could scarcely afford any of it, I felt at home there. Far 4 was the very definition of good taste and even better style.
It has remained exactly that—and a little different, too—in the years that the Klimenkoff's daughter Eugenia, or Jenny, took over.
Under Eugenia's curation Far 4 became one of the most dynamic and varied spots in town. As in, where else have you seen a Delft-esque hand grenade—or rather, where did you see it first?
Keeping with the brand's focus on hand- and artisan-made goods, the younger Klimenkoff (now Hudak Klimenkoff) added modern design from established and emerging names all over the world as well as a game-changing colleciton of local artisans. I am more than confident saying that Seth Damm, Jen Ament, Erich Ginder, Dylan Neuwirth, jewelers such as Joanna Morgan, and other Seattle makers will always be grateful to Hudak Klimenkoff for her early and enthusiastic appreciation of their goods.
And speaking of goods—eventually a rack of vintage clothes moved in, and then two racks. Then locally made collections from the line Silvae (above) to go with already in-place woolen accessories and a smattering of silk scarves and Parisian tee-shirts. And then, a slick Italian-modern lounge complete with a champagne bar—the latter part and parcel with Hudak Klimenkoff's party-plotting and event space side venture.
But retail/event/bar life in the nowhere land between Downtown and Pioneer Square hasn't always been easy. (See the recent Jack Straw migration—then again, there's new life in form of Chrome Industries and Fjallraven on those blocks, too.)
Sure, Hudak Klimenkoff made it look easy. There's that perpetually upbeat personality, of course, which she bestowed on tons of trunk shows and related shopping affairs. And she did a fine job of integrating lower price points that appeased tourists and locals alike, although I think the shop's magically eccentric mood remained a head scratcher for many. And honestly, that's a head scratcher for me.
If Far 4 has a lasting legacy, and I believe it will, it's that a store doesn't have to be just a store. It doesn't have to fit into any one category, and it doesn't have to sell just one type of thing. And it doesn't even have to continue operating after it has sort of mastered its game and come into its own.
I think those are concepts whose times haven't come quite yet. Far 4 is ahead of the game—and I've always really respected those who quit while they're ahead. (I'm looking at you, too, Blackbird.)
What's next for Hudak Klimenkoff and for the space at 1020 First Ave?
You're also invited to join friends at Far 4 on Saturday, July 12 between noon and 5 to raise a glass of bubbly to the future. The store will be open during those same hours on Monday and Tuesday also, though Hudak Klimenkoff cautions that folks shouldn't expect any drastic price slashing.
Soon enough, the store-formerly-known-as will be a vintage shop. Yes, another vintage shop.
Well, bring it on!