EDMONDS — After the pandemic shuttered their Seattle store, the owners of East West Books & Gifts reopened in Edmonds on Oct. 25 — a move staff had wanted to make for years.
Since 1989, East West has served the Seattle area as a “brick-and-mortar haven for personal growth and spiritual awakening.” Even in its new location at 110 Third Ave. N in Edmonds, East West specializes in the metaphysical, offering books and other resources on meditation, spirituality and yoga, along with a selection of healing crystals, singing bowls and more.
Before opening East West, Jamuna Snitkin had never run a business. She was a newlywed librarian in Menlo Park, California, when she and her husband were asked by a colleague to open the Seattle location.
“It was a big dive into the unknown,” Snitkin said. “I love people, I love books, but selling them? I didn’t know anything about that.”
However, the store was “very successful” for 30 years until the pandemic forced them to close its doors.
“We did not, however, close the store in our minds and hearts to the original vision,” according to the store’s website.
Snitkin is a member of the Ananda Washington chapter, which owns and operates East West. Most of the staff are volunteers from the group.
Ananda is an American spiritual community founded by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) in 1968 that follows the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, according to their website.
Following the pandemic, the local chapter found a temporary home for East West at Ananda Washington’s Blue Lotus Temple in Bothell and hosted meditation groups and other events online.
After the local Ananda community spent six years looking for a space to lease in Edmonds, the “doors finally opened.” April Votolato, a longtime staff member and the store’s main buyer, found the Third Avenue property they now occupy. It was an opportunity to resume in-person events and resume business to pre-pandemic operations.
To the surprise of other Ananda members, Padma McGilloway, one of the community’s local directors, had been saving money for a new storefront and secured the Edmonds property. “It’s like we were meant to be here,” Snitkin said.
“We always felt like [Edmonds] was forward-thinking and very inclusive and open to all walks of life,” Votolato said. “We thought this would be a great contribution to such a beautiful, community-forward town.”
Votolato said the store strives to work symbiotically with the community, bringing in the “cleanest” most-ethically sourced products possible.
“We’re just really conscious to bring in product that helps other small businesses,” Votolato said. “All of the stuff that we bring in that is Native American is made by Native Americans. Women-forward, LGBT-forward products are made within the culture.”
Snitkin said they don’t want to compete but to “connect with and respect” other local businesses.
“We’re happy to share the joy to the world,” said Rika Rafael, East West communications manager.
This coincides with the main goal of East West — to provide an inclusive space for individuals from all walks of life to find truth, healing and growth, Snitkin said.
“We’re in an age where there’s so much skepticism and agnosticism,” Snitkin said. “There’s so much strife between religion but we’re all in this together. That’s what’s happening here.”