Island shopkeeping a piece of Cake

Kimber Wysong says “Cake” is a women’s-clothing boutique on a European or San Francisco model. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Kimber Wysong says “Cake” is a women’s-clothing boutique on a European or San Francisco model.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

As one who has spent her fair share of time in stores, Kimber Wysong thought owning a shop would be fun.

She tried to persuade her sister to open a store, but the sister opted for school instead.

So with her youngest in kindergarten, Wysong decided to do it herself. When a small retail space opened up on Madrone Lane, she jumped at the opportunity, and hung out a shingle announcing “Cake.”

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve been busy with kids,” Wysong said. “I’ve been a patron at a lot of stores, and some of my friends with shops have been a great source of inspiration.”

With a small space – the nook near Churchmouse formerly occupied by Fuzzy Monkey, which has moved to larger quarters – and an upscale line of women’s clothing, the term “boutique” seems to fit Cake. That’s the effect Wysong is trying to create.

“I want this to be something like a little boutique in Europe or San Francisco,” she said. “The space is so small that everything makes an impact.”

The clothing is casual-to-stylish, relatively upscale for Bainbridge, and aimed at women 17 and up – clothes that women might have had to go to Seattle to find.

She chose her inventory on shopping trips to San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as through magazine research, and will stock brands like Ella Moss and Paper, Denim & Cloth. The store carries several kinds of handbags in addition to the clothes.

“It’s a little Frenchy – a girlie store,” Wysong said. “With two kid boys and a husband boy, it’s kind of nice to get my girl fix.”

Wysong and husband Jeff have been busy since mid-October renovating the space. They’ve added a decorative tin ceiling, new light fixtures, and an array of racks and cabinetry that create what Wysong calls “the little nooks and crannies” that make a small space intriguing.

The space is also right-sized for a start-up enterprise, Wysong said.

“It’s manageable, especially if I have one of the kids here,” she said. “And people respond well. When it’s small, it’s really charming.”

The Wysongs, who both have a real-estate background, have spent weekends at their South Beach home for a couple of years, but moved to the island fulltime from Seattle’s Laurelhurst area in June “because we wanted to raise our boys here.”

The island is not only conducive to child-rearing, Wysong said, but to the kind of laid-back retailing she had envisioned.

“The word-of-mouth reaction to the store tells me there is a wonderful network of women on the island,” she said. “And I like the fact that you can put a sign in the window saying ‘out to lunch with the kids’ and people will understand.”

The early reception to the store, which opened two weeks ago, has been promising, especially because it has not been especially seasonal, the Wysongs say.

“Even though it’s the holiday season, the people who have been coming in have been buying for themselves, not for gifts,” Jeff Wysong said.

And opening a store has been a fine introduction to Bainbridge.

“It’s a great way to meet other women without doing the whole mom thing,” Kimber Wysong said, “and it’s a wonderful way to feel like you’re part of something. But of all the things I’ve done, I think it may be the most nerve-wracking.”

Sometimes, she said, it can be hard to remember that she is on the other side of the counter now.

“The second day we were open, I signed the charge slip myself,” she said, “then I had to tell the customer that it was because I’m so used to signing them myself, not handing them to other people.”

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