Meet the Shopkeeper: Venue

Diane Macrae talks about encaustic paintings and close encounters of the friendly kind.

By Malika Ritchie January 4, 2011

Need help getting a gift for someone special? Venue owner Diane Macrae can help…for the most part.

Wouldn’t it be good if every city stopped importing mindless tourist junk and instead opened a version of Venue so that no matter where you went, you’d be able to access local artists and their work? Of course, Diane Macrae’s little-bit-of-everything boutique (from gourmet chocolates to keepsake boxes) isn’t just for tourists. Seattleites with a sense of pride and community love accessing those same artisans – about forty are represented at any given time, some of whom have studio space inside the shop – and their jewelry, photographs, handbags, glasswork, inspired home decor, and more.

WWW: What’s your personal spin on the ubiquitous ‘How can I help you?’ question?
Macrae: We have such a varied clientele: locals who live up the street and tourists from around the world — all different ages, all different walks of life. Something that is important in Venue is that people get to know a little about the artist who made the object they’re looking at. In the same way, we’d like to get to know the customers who walk into our shop. We ask questions to find out where they are from, what their day been like, or even where did they get that fabulous pair of shoes. It’s amazing how a friendly encounter can make the experience more pleasant for both shopper and sales person.

What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?
We are constantly signing up new artists at Venue and I really love our most recent artist, Emily Alice Peck. The encaustic paintings are charming and fresh and have been an immediate favorite of our customers, too.

Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
My multi-chain retail indulgence is Anthropologie. My favorite local shop for gifts is Lucca in Ballard, and the other place I spend money when I’m not in my store is Bastille. They keep me well fed several times a week.

What specific store or type of store do you feel is missing from Seattle’s shopping scene?
Yikes ! I try not to think about this because if I thought of a type of store that is missing from Seattle, I might want to try to open it! Honestly, though, every time I think of what might be missing, I realize there’s a shop that covers that.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
This isn’t really the weirdest, but maybe most awkward. Venue is full of great art and during the Holidays, couples often come in together looking at what we have. One time a couple were admiring a framed photograph. A few days later one of them came in to purchase the photograph for the other as a surprise. A few more days later the other person came in to buy the same photograph, which was gone. ‘It was just here !’, they exclaimed. ‘Yes, it was purchased the other day,’ they were told. ‘Well, I would like to have the artist print another one up… unless…well…what did the person look like who bought the one that was here?’ What would you do?

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