Retail News, Great Stuff

Where to Find It: Soho in Seattle

Fifth Avenue, too. Only with better prices. Introducing Karen’s Vintage.

December 22, 2009


Remember when someone found Brooklyn out in Burien? There are those that say if you take a stroll down Western Ave around Yesler and Columbia, you may find Soho — or is that Fifth Avenue? — at Karen’s Vintage Couture.

Not that I necessarily advocate looking for New York in Seattle (you’re better off looking for Seattle in Seattle), but there are worse things, and really, when you consider the gorgeous historic buildings and lofty art spaces and the wave that’s brought shops like Goods, Jack Straw, Totokaelo, and Neodandi to join Far 4, A Mano, and all the great European design showrooms and create a compelling shopping district southwest of Downtown and north of Pio Square, well, the inclination is understandable.

And really, every retailer that’s come into the nabe known – at least in the eyes of the city – as West Edge has proclaimed it the new [insert name of cool, NYC shopping area here]. But if anyone can make it so, it’s Karen Mayers Gamoran.

Karen’s Vintage Couture is no regular vintage shop and no regular resale shop either. I doubt there’s anything like it even in Soho. Gamoran curates tax deductible donations of fine designer goods — most are vintage or retro — and retails them to benefit social service and environmental non-profits. So, it’s not a consignment shop, and it’s not exactly a high-end thrift shop, but something rarely if ever seen before that fits right in the middle.

Now, even a forward-thinking and innovative concept such as that can’t transform a neighborhood, but when she’s not coaxing Chanel jackets out of the closets of Seattle’s society doyennes, Gamoran is whispering in the ears of Senator Maria Cantwell, Howard Schultz, and Bill Gates. Allow me to refer you to her Linked In profile for more on her giant money-raising adventures and city- and state-focused great deeds.

What’s more, Gamoran’s the daughter of a hugely successful West Edge pioneer (her father started Ace Novelty inside the very building, the Polson, where she now runs her shop; he later moved the company to Bellevue and then sold it to a Texas corporation for enough scratch to keep you, me, and all of our friends in Chanel for some time to come) and a huge champion of the entrepreneurial stripe.

But don’t just sit back and wait Gamoran to change the world.

The whole Elliott Bay Books thing is a reminder that our favorite shops don’t operate in a vacuum. Especially in destination neighborhoods.

So, browse through my favorite finds in the slideshow here, remember the 3/50 initiative and, as you ready for holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations, make yourself available to the brilliant scores waiting for you down in West Edge.

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