Pantages brews up a new blend

Islander’s new venture brings lattes and lingerie to the Winslow.

From the first step over the threshold of Metrion, both halves of Tarsi Pantages’ bewitching “coffee/shop” cast their spell.

Described as “part cafe and part shopping spree,” the store that opened March 12 in the new Winslow Building is the island’s first joint coffee shop and lingerie boutique.

“I want to be unpredictable,” Pantages said, “and provide things that can’t be found anywhere else on the island. And I want to stay flexible, because then I can be open to what people want, what makes sense – and what’s fun for me, too.

“I’m too old not to have fun.”

The island outlet succeeds a previous venture Pantages opened in Seattle in 1993. A favorite among University Village shoppers during its 10-year run, the store offered a line of fashion and bath accessories similar to the present Metrion offerings.

New at the Bainbridge store is fair traded, shade-grown organic Apassionata coffee, served with pastry goods fresh daily from Sluy’s Bakery in Poulsbo.

The espresso bar was part of the plan for this shop from the start. “I knew I couldn’t make it here on panties alone,” Pantages said – although she accords her previous establishment at least partial credit for “saving several marriages” in the Laurelhurst area.

But life in Seattle was getting harder to manage, she said, as the city became more crowded and more expensive. “It kind of lost its luster for me.”

When she came to University Village in 1993, Ernst Hardware and Lamont’s were still there and QFC was the biggest thing going. Then the shopping center was bought and its character began to change.

“It just got bigger and bigger, and more upscale, with Banana Republic, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, the Gap and other large retailers moving in,” she said. “It was convenient for shoppers, but it wasn’t unique any more.”

When she heard that Victoria’s Secret was on the way in, she knew it was time for her to move as well. In the meantime, her two children had grown up and she had moved back to her childhood home on the island.

After commuting to Seattle for a year with two large golden retrievers, it wasn’t such a tough decision to close the University Village store and make a fresh start on Bainbridge. “After moving back here, and liking it so much, the combination of everything just felt right,” she said.

The Winslow also felt right. It reminded her of a Soho loft, Pantages said, so she furthered that resemblance by leaving the cement floor softened with area carpets. The building’s high ceilings and tall windows give it an airy, bright feel.

Most of the furnishings from the Seattle store were incorporated here, including a cafe table and chairs from the candy store her grandfather owned at First and Yesler at the turn of the last century. (A portrait of her grandparents, first-generation Greek immigrants, hangs on one wall.)

Pantages also brought along most of her favorite products. She said the present inventory isn’t quite complete, but does reflect her own tastes – especially a clear obsession with fine bath items such as triple-milled French and Italian soaps, delicate finger-tip towels, bath oils and salts, exquisite robes and natural sea sponges from the Aegean.

There is also a wide selection of accessories, including jewelry, as well as lingerie and other clothing and a host of offbeat items, including feather boas, frou-frou slippers and “glow sheep.”

Pantages said she is still tinkering with the formula for this shop, feeling out the island demand to see where Metrion can make the best contribution.

That may take the form of lunches served in the Winslow’s water-hushed central courtyard, or live entertainment.

Since the day Metrion opened they have been besieged with requests to stay open later at night.

“I have to figure out how to work the coffee machines first,” Pantages said.

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