Family Business Thriving in Edmonds
Family-owned businesses make up the backbone of the American economy with nearly 90% of all businesses falling into this category. Edmonds is home to many family-owned businesses and we’ve created a series to highlight them, with this being our third installment (you can read the first article here and the second article here).
To refresh your memory on the important role of family business, consider these stats. Family-owned businesses make up 90% of all businesses in America. Approximately half of our entire workforce is employed by a family-owned business…that’s around 80 million people nationwide.
For our third installment in our family-owned focus, we sat down with three more Edmonds businesses to find out more about their history: Petra Rousu of The Savvy Traveler, Jenny Murphy of Sound Styles, and Paul Lowell of Lowell’s Stained Glass Studio.
Ed!: Tell us about the history of your business
Petra of The Savvy Traveler: I started this business 22 years ago with my passion for travel and also my frustration of not finding all my travel needs in one place. So this is what we created: all your travel supplies under one roof. We cater not only to hardy travelers but also carry a large selection of purses, bags and clothing which can be worn daily. “We can help you with all travel products from adapters and converters to luggage—all except the tickets. And if you need packing tips or travel advice—our staff will advise you as well,” is the motto of the well-traveled staff of The Savvy Traveler.
Alexandra, my daughter started working in the business after getting her Business degree from the UW. Since she has inherited the passion for travel, it makes a great fit. She has been traveling all over the world from a young age on and is now an integral part of the store as Manager. In our 10 years working together, we make a great Mother-Daughter team, who has fun at work and enjoys helping customers get ready for trips and sharing in their experiences. As I get closer to retirement and enjoying more travel, Alexandra will take over the business and continue in our tradition.
Jenny Murphy of Sound Styles: Sound Styles, Womens Clothing & Accessories, was founded in 1985 by two couples (one of them my parents) who bought an already existing clothing boutique (Lady Haberdasher) for their daughters to run (one of them me). In short time, it was owned by my family only and part of the business became mine. Over time I became 50% owner with my mom owning the other 50%.
Back then my oldest brother did the window displays, my dad wrote a newsletter that we mailed to 2400 people 5 times a year, my mom paid all the bills and I ran the storefront. We were a well-oiled machine. My mom just retired last year, so I am now responsible for the whole operation.
Paul Lowell of Lowell’s Stained Glass Studio: I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, my family moved to Boulder, CO, Northern California, and finally to Walla Walla. I ended up going to the University of Washington, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree (and later a Master’s degree).
One day as I was walking up “the Ave”, I saw a stained glass lamp in the window of La Tienda. Being a poor student, I could not afford the $89 price tag.
I was working at the University’s main warehouse, Central Stores. As a part of the facility, upstairs there was glass shop in addition to other maintenance shops. They gave me some scrap glass and lead; and after three months of frustration I ended up making myself a small stained glass lantern. I showed it to their lead art glass man, Frank McGowan, who had a part-time business rebuilding church and commercial windows out of his home studio. My lantern was crude, but he liked it and I apprenticed with him part-time for 3 ½ years.
We eventually went into business and opened a studio, McGowan’s Stained Glass Studio, in Lake City in 1972. Eventually I started my own business out of my commercially zoned house in Lake City in 1974. I moved to Edmonds in 1976 and opened my studio.
My mother was very artistic and this contributed to my interest in art glass. My oldest son Chris worked with me for several years. My wife does the books and I have had also had my mother, former students, and friends work for me over the years.
Ed!: How long have you been at your current location, and were there any prior locations?
Petra: We quickly outgrew our small space in Edmonds, across from our current location, and moved into the current larger space three years after founding the store. The additional space allowed us to promote travel by featuring weekly Travel and Packing seminars. We usually feature two destinations every Saturday, except during our summer break.
Jenny: Our business has been in the same building since 1985, but we got offered the corner location in 1993 and subsequently we moved two doors south where we have been ever since.
Paul: My first shop was in the old Sail Inn Tavern building at 109 Main Street, my friend Roy Anderberg shared my showroom with his antiques. From there I moved to 410 Walnut, the old Gus’ Marine location, and now the Walnut Coffee Shop.
In 1979 I moved to my current location at 209 4th Avenue So. It was an old house that had been an antique store among other things, and I gutted some of the walls and opened my shop. Later my landlord, Jack Jacobsen, built his new building and I occupy suite 102.
Ed!: How has your business evolved over time?
Petra: Retail in general is an ever-changing environment, but even with the increasing digital internet world, we have found that people enjoy the in-store experience. We feel that the ability to see, touch, and feel products ranks highest among reasons customers prefer to shop in store. Nothing can replace the personal touch and experience we provide.
Jenny: Yes, our business has evolved over time even though our commitment remains the same, to be an interface between fashion and our 45-90 year old customer in a friendly, knowledgeable, community minded way. We sell washable, packable, affordable, comfortable everyday clothes at a moderate price.
Travel wardrobing and providing great customer service are two of our greatest strengths. New technologies have, of course, changed how we advertise and connect with our customer. Today we are on Instagram, Facebook, have our own on line newsletter and you tube channel and write a once a month column in our local newspaper The Beacon.
Paul: I do custom designs. At the shop I talk to people and get an idea of what they want design and budget wise; and they pick their patterns and colors and/or textures. I like to get the customer involved as much as possible and then they are excited about the finished piece, having authorship in it. I have a kiln and my work also includes bent panel repairs of antique lamp shades, and the restoration of windows and lamp shades. Occasionally I do painting and firing of artistic designs and shading on some window orders.
I sell stained glass and supplies to the hobbyist and offer classes for those interested in learning this special art form. Many students say they find it therapeutic, and it brings out their latent art talent.
Ed!: Tell us what you love most about being in business in Edmonds and why do you choose to stay here?
Petra: Edmonds is a lovely community and we draw from a wide area. Our customers come from North, Eastside, Islands and from Seattle and often make coming to Edmonds a destination for shopping, dining and visiting.
Jenny: My three favorite things about being in business in Edmonds are what I get to do, where I get to do it and who I get to do it with. Wouldn’t be anywhere else.
Paul: I like being in downtown Edmonds for several reasons. Edmonds has great people, it is easily accessible from Seattle, anywhere in Snohomish County, and even by folks on the peninsula who take the Edmonds Kingston Ferry. It has been a privilege to contribute in a small way to the artistic enhancement of homes and businesses in the area over the years.
We appreciate these business owners sharing their story with us! Edmonds is so fortunate to have a rich history of family-owned businesses with interesting histories to share. Look for more installments in this series soon.
For more information about all the local businesses in downtown Edmonds, please visit http://edmondsdowntown.org/.
By Kelsey Foster