EVERETT — Cassandra and Matthew Bell have 12 months to make their new venture, Cassandra’s Closet, a go.
The Mukilteo couple opened the boutique at 2723 Colby Ave. The store sells new and used women’s and men’s clothing.
Opening day was Oct. 15.
“Our landlord keeps an eye on the economy,” Cassandra Bell said. “She said, ‘Let’s play this safe — let’s make this a 14-month lease.’”
By comparison, a typical retail or commercial lease might run from three to five years.
Concerned there might be a recession — an economic downturn — Bell agreed to the shorter term.
The Bells follow the current styles and brands when they stock the racks.
Cassandra Bell buys liquidation pallets of new clothing. Used apparel is sourced from thrift and second-hand stores.
Her retail neighbors and the Downtown Everett Association have welcomed her with gifts, champagne and flowers, she said.
This is Cassandra Bell’s second resale boutique. She opened the first Cassandra’s Closet in Juneau, Alaska, where the couple lived until relocating to Snohomish County six years ago.
In fact, she even re-used the Juneau boutique’s original sign.
The storefront is a former dry cleaners.
That’s created some confusion, she said. The old dry cleaning sign above the shop wasn’t removed until Thanksgiving. “It took us two months to get help with the sign,” Cassandra Bell said. And the “Colby Cleaners” listing still remains on Google.
As a result, people sometimes walk into Cassandra’s Closet with clothes to be cleaned draped over their arms.
“They wonder why everything has changed,” she said.
She encountered another sticking point when she decided to open the boutique. It was a bit of a tough sell convincing the City of Everett to issue Cassandra’s Closet a business license, she said.
A city ordinance designates certain sections of downtown, including Colby, Wetmore and Rockefeller avenues, as “pedestrian streets” and limits the types of businesses that can set up shop in street-level storefronts on those types of streets.
The city’s aim is to encourage businesses that will attract window-shoppers in Everett’s high-profile streets. That means, for instance, that second-hand stores, tattoo parlors or pawn shops are prohibited from setting up shop in those areas, according to a 2010 story in The Daily Herald. City officials were concerned that the boutique planned to sell some used clothing, she said.
“The city said if you agree to stock 50% second-hand and 50% new, we’ll give you a pass,” Cassandra Bell said. “We kind of have a conditional permit with the city.”
“This is a boutique. We have a completely different atmosphere and demographic than a pawn or junk store,” Bell said. “I’m not advocating that the city shouldn’t have these rules, but I feel like we should be taken out of that category.”
Two months out, in-store sales are picking up. Online sales are brisk.
“People see the lights on in the store and ask me why I’m here so late,” Bell said. “It’s because I mailed out 300 packages last week!”
It’s all about “turn and burn,” she said. “It’s my motto.”
That means an item doesn’t stay in the store longer than 45 days, she said.
If it’s on the rack that long, it’s sold online at auction, she said.
Bell, who had been holding several live auctions the day before, apologized for her voice: “You can hear I’m hoarse,” she said.