Business

Embellish finds a new nook

Embellish is filled with eclectic furniture, rugs, artwork and items that can “really go in anybody’s house,” said one customer. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Embellish is filled with eclectic furniture, rugs, artwork and items that can “really go in anybody’s house,” said one customer.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

Most islanders can get from their front door into downtown Winslow in a matter of a few minutes

But it took Katrina McDermott six years to get downtown with her home-furnishing store Embellish, which opened last week on Madrone Lane. The neighbors are glad to see her.

“The other merchants sent me flowers,” she said. “And we’re closer to lattes, which we really like.”

Most recently, Embellish was in a building off of Winslow Way West, at the bottom of a parking lot behind Bistro Pleasant Beach. Plentiful parking didn’t make up for the isolation.

“People would have to make a special trip to come to the store,” she said. “Now, they can be at Blackbird Bakery and just pop over. The new store Cake is here, the knitting store is here and the bakery, and all my customers shop at those places.

“They’re happy that they only have to park once.”

The 900-square-foot space next to the Art Soup Gallery has seen its share of occupants lately – a travel agency, a furniture store, an annex to Bainbridge Arts and Crafts last Christmas.

Although the space appears amply furnished, McDermott says inventory is at a low point, depleted by pre-move clearance sales.

“We usually have half a dozen large stuffed pieces in here,” she said.

While the floor samples are for sale, McDermott said that much of her business comes through catalog sales, or through displaying a style, then letting the customer choose the fabric.

“You come in and sit on this couch, and I can get it in 1,000 different fabrics,” she said.

Most of the furniture comes from domestic manufacturers on the West Coast and in North Carolina, McDermott said, mentioning names like Dino and Marc Anthony. The decorative accessories come from all over – Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey – while the rugs are Middle Eastern, especially from Turkey and Iraq.

“This is all eclectic enough that it can really go in anybody’s house,” said a customer wandering through during an interview.

McDermott got into the retail business as a teenager through a shop her mother owned in Issaquah, which specialized in dog- and cat-themed goods.

“I went with her on buying trips to places like San Francisco, which allowed me to be exposed to vendors in a variety of areas,” McDermott said.

Like so many others, McDermott and her family came to Bainbridge for the small-town atmosphere and the school system, and welcomed escaping the hectic atmosphere of King County’s Eastside.

In typical Bainbridge fashion, Embellish began as as a home-based business. McDermott started selling rugs out of a studio in her home. She expanded the inventory to jewelry and what she calls “art seconds” – pieces of artwork with slight damage – and eventually opened a retail outlet in Lynwood Center with former business partner Katherine Fuerst.

“We had no intentional vision, it was just two people doing what they liked to do,” she said.

After three years in what used to be the gas station at Lynwood, McDermott and Fuerst moved into Winslow.

“We knew there was going to be construction at Lynwood, and we didn’t want to be there when all that would be going on,” she said.

The location off Winslow Way allowed the store to expand into upholstered furniture for the first time. And while it was quiet enough, the space wasn’t the most convenient, with the top floor being useful only for storage, she said.

The new space is actually a bit smaller, but more usable, McDermott said: “There’s more storefront, less storage here.”

The space has been extensively redecorated. Columns have been given a decorative paint job, and a new floor has been installed by a friend McDermott describes as a carpenter/artist. The walls have been repainted, and the ceiling redone as well.

The hassle of the move-in was complicated by the fact that McDermott’s house was also on last weekend’s Bainbridge Performing Arts home tour.

“We had to essentially install a whole new lawn for that, and stage the house the way you would if you were going to sell it,” she said. “So I’m really tired.”

What has not changed – indeed, what has been the store’s real stock-in-trade from the beginning – is a knack for selecting pieces to please an established roster of customers.

“We have a lot of really loyal customers, and we keep them in mind when we buy. But our rule is that we have to love something as though we will end up with it.”

That attention to customer needs has enabled Embellish to survive without a high profile.

“We haven’t been in the greatest retail locations, and have grown through word of mouth. We have had amazing community support,” McDermott said.

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