There was no shortage of suitors angling to fill the storefront vacated by Video Isle at 2213 Queen Anne Ave. N. at the end of last year.
By the time the backers of a nonprofit retail concept reached out to the landlords, several offers had already been submitted. And as a new nonprofit, they didn’t have much leverage other than their mission, and commitment.
Initially, the property owners chose a different organization to take over the space, which had been occupied by the video store since 1990. But Carolyn Quatier checked back in to make sure that deal was finalized.
“I just happened to call again,” she said, “just to see if that actually came through and the day before, the deal fell apart. So, they were open to us resubmitting a formal offer.”
The serendipitous timing paid off. This time, their offer was accepted, and the result is Simple & Just, a high-end resale shop with a worthy purpose: Providing sustainable funding for five organizations in Seattle and Portland providing after care for women and children who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation.
“Each of the organizations we have selected have sort of their own footprint on what their or their sweet spot on what area they care for,” she said. “It could be education and mentoring, it could be housing, it could be trauma and abuse healing, so we wanted to provide sustainable support for the whole individual, and that’s what we did.”
One hundred percent of the store’s profits will be divided between those organizations. Quatier, the founder and board president of Simple & Just, has a long history working with nonprofits, and knows how difficult it can be to balance fundraising with forwarding the mission of an organization.
“Every year we started out with a budget we needed to raise,” said Quatier, who is not paid for her efforts. “What would it look like for our nonprofits if we had a continuous stream that we could count on and how might that relieve our executive directors of the pressure of starting from ground zero every year to raise their budget?”
That thought spurred the idea of a retail shop that could provide consistent funding. Quatier had previously launched two other nonprofits, and had no intention of starting a third, but said, “once I saw the potential, and the market need here in Queen Anne,” it made sense.
In the time she’s lived in the neighborhood, Quatier said, there hadn’t been a resale shop like Simple & Just.
“I started thinking, ‘Okay, if I’m driving to Ballard, I bet there are other people like me who might enjoy donating something in their neighborhood,’” she said.
The store also provides an opportunity for people to help the cause in their own way.
“Not everyone can be a mentor,” she said. “Not everyone has the ability to walk alongside of a survivor. Not everyone feels like they can give that much time, but everyone can participate in Simple & Just. Everyone has things that they grow tired of, that are still in good shape, and that way they can be a part of the mission, really, in a significant way, and know that on their watch they did something to make a difference.”
Of course, beyond the value of a donation, Quatier said there’s another benefit for those who clean out their wardrobe.
“One of the things we talk about is that we offer a chance for everyone to reclaim their very expensive Seattle closet space,” she said.
The store is seeking men’s and women’s “better brands,” clothing and accessories, gently used and ready for the next person.
“That’s the whole thing about this shop,” she said. “What is one person’s giveaway item is another person’s go-to, sought after item, and we get to see that happen, the repurposing of a donated item to become a critical part of someone else’s wardrobe.”
Any items that can’t be sold will be passed along to other organizations that support women and children.
Another part of the store’s vision is to hold occasional events like catered dinners to celebrate the front-line workers that help the victims of trafficking on a daily basis.
“Oftentimes social workers aren’t paid very well, or maybe their paid adequately but the caseload is tremendous,” she said. “Just to know that there’s a community who cares about the work that they’re doing can be a boost.”
While the store has been open for less than two months, Quatier has been thrilled with the support their efforts have received from Queen Anne. Thus far, she said, sales have exceeded expectations.
“The community’s been very generous,” she said, “and we’re so thankful for them.”
Simple & Just is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Donations can be brought in any time during business hours. For more information, go to www.simpleandjust.org or call 206-357-5558. The store can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.