Hot dog! It's officially summer. And while that means sun, fun, and getting outdoors, this year it also means wildfires, Covid-19 variants, and lots of figuring stuff out as things reopen in the "new normal." This season, we hope you get out and support your local businesses, get some fresh air, and see your inner circle—but don't forget to prepare, take safety precautions, and exercise a little patience, too. Sometimes the old adage is true: Everyone is doing the best they can.

In this issue, Nia talks to 
Chika Eustace and Cat Wilcox of beloved indie boutique Velouria about reopening their brick and mortar after managing over a year of adjustments, plus their changing views on the retail industry, and Niki finds out why a Pike Place Market milliner came back to Seattle.

Reminder, if you are able to give, we are now accepting contributions. Every little bit boosts our efforts to provide original, quality journalism and helps us grow in order to bring you more voices and stories. Thank you to those who've already pitched in!

Shop Talk

The women behind popular Seattle boutique Velouria talk weathering the pandemic, figuring out how to get dressed again for fun, and why less is more. 

Velouria co-owners Chika Eustace (front) and Cat Wilcox (back) took over the Ballard boutique in 2012 and moved it to Pioneer Square in 2014. The pair took turns in the shop fulfilling online orders during the pandemic. Photo by Chika Eustace.

“I’ve seen a lot, this year, of people saying, ‘We’re people, too,’ in retail,” says Cat Wilcox who, along with Chika Eustace, co-owns the Seattle clothing, home, and gifts boutique, Velouria. “Whether you’re talking about an order from Amazon or something else, that’s people in some way, shape, or form doing an amount of work; I think that was really exposed over this year.” The pandemic has been a time of major upheaval for many in the small business community. That includes Eustace and Wilcox, who weathered the crisis via PPP loans, negotiating rental agreements, and a strong online presence. Now, the two are taking a harder look at the sustainability of their industry, in a time period that has many questioning the nature of work and capitalism.

The two women each came to their maker approach in retail differently: Originally from Massachusetts, Eustace studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and moved to Seattle days after graduation. Wilcox learned to sew with her mom while growing up in South Texas and worked in her grandfather’s furniture stores after college, moving to Seattle in 2007. The two women scored jobs, and developed their close friendship, at the former Capitol Hill location of messenger bag company R.E.Load. Eustace sewed and designed graphics and began handcrafting her own items, selling them at trade shows and small businesses—including then-Ballard-based Velouria, which opened in 2004.

When the opportunity to take over the venerable independent-designer boutique came up in 2012, Eustace asked Wilcox to join her; they moved it to Pioneer Square in 2014. “Being a maker, designer, doing a lot of retail at craft shows and trade shows I thought owning a brick and mortar would be a logical next step,” says Eustace. “And it’s not, don’t do it! It’s a whole different animal!” she laughs.

If you take a peek at Velouria’s website and
social media, you’ll frequently see Eustace and Wilcox wearing and talking about the shop’s merchandise. “I don’t think either of us would’ve wanted to be the face of Velouria in the way that we have, it’s just by like…” Wilcox starts, “…necessity!” Eustace finishes.

When lockdown came in March 2020, they already had started an online presence to build from. During that time, they took turns in the shop to buy, prepare orders, and other duties. “We didn’t see each other for maybe nine months,” says Wilcox.

The move to Pioneer Square had been a deliberate choice, with its big events and heavy tourism to draw foot traffic—other retailers were making similar moves there in the mid-to-late 2010s, including Cone and Steiner, Moorea Seal, Peter Miller Books, Clementines, and Flora and Henri. That backfired during Covid-19. “The only good thing in a pandemic is to be in a residential neighborhood,” says Wilcox, “and we had all these reasons we didn’t want to be in a residential neighborhood before, and now that list of all these things is suddenly decimated.”

“It was such a hard several months of, ‘How do we reach our people or have a conversation with people that we usually do on this platform [Instagram] and have this connection when everything is pretty overwhelming,’” says Eustace.

One answer: They upped their video content for online customers by wearing, moving, and showing the details of shop items. “Video really informs people when they can’t come in and touch it themselves,” says Eustace, “even if it’s rotating a thing in space or touching a fabric in front of a camera, I feel like it can help.”

Even as gatherings and tourism restart this summer, the co-owners expect lingering consequences of the pandemic. For one, their customer base is largely professional women, many with children, who may have had their
career trajectories derailed over the past year and a half. For another, their business neighborhood has been devastated. Wilcox struggles when it comes to making nearby recommendations to visitors: “Thinking through what’s what in the neighborhood, and what’s open and closed, and what’s closed forever, is really hard,” she says.

Along with the pandemic, conversations and demonstrations around the murder of George Floyd and the Movement for Black Lives were important to Eustace and Wilcox, both in their personal lives and as a business entity. “Because we're a business, we often think about business solutions, and making sure our shop supports and markets Black-owned brands is one of the most meaningful actions we can take to make our communities more equitable—it's by no means the only action,” says Wilcox. Velouria carries brands such as
Anne’s Apothecary, Sage & Onyx Soapery, and Mahnal Jewelry, and the co-owners also like to recommend to their customers and followers local businesses to support as well, such as Little Sister, Diamond Leah, and Martyr Sauce Pop Art Museum (aka MS PAM).

“Chika and I have a lot of people we need to see and visit, just like everybody else. I think for shopfront and retail workers, that’s a big part of this going back that’s hard. Everybody else is planning vacations and seeing family and all this stuff that has not been able to happen for a year and a half, and that’s just when retail is supposed to be ramping back up. And we’re sort of refusing that.” —Cat Wilcox, co-owner of Velouria

Having come out the other side of a year that changed everyone’s lives, they are very clear-eyed about what they want—and don’t. “Before this, when we were open full time, and we were running full speed, it was a real grind,” says Eustace. “You’d hear announcements of stores closing and we’d always be sad, but also, ‘Oh, they’re getting off this crazy train. Good for them!’” Retail, in reality, means long hours, giving up evenings and weekends, managing employees, dealing with customers, constantly organizing the administrative and financial end, figuring out how to promote and market, plus fork over dollars for costs, too. Wilcox says it comes to around $5,000 just to hire someone new—a steep amount for a small business in an industry with high turnover.

“I think that where we’re at now, we’re often like, ‘We see this hustle; do we want to hustle just so we can get 50% of the revenue we were getting before but working twice as much? No!’” says Wilcox. “Neither of us wants to do that. If that means our shop just goes under—we’re not willing to put the shop above us anymore.”

That’s in line with much of the current jobs ethos, which focuses on
employees reevaluating their work situations. However, it’s not something you often hear from proprietors in industries that have been heavily impacted, who are expected to welcome reopening with gusto. “Chika and I have a lot of people we need to see and visit, just like everybody else. I think for shopfront and retail workers, that’s a big part of this going back that’s hard,” says Wilcox. “Everybody else is planning vacations and seeing family and all this stuff that has not been able to happen for a year and a half, and that’s just when retail is supposed to be ramping back up. And we’re sort of refusing that.”

It’s no wonder. Working in service and customer-reliant industries in-person over the past year
hasn’t exactly been inspiring. Customers also continue to heavily support dominating businesses despite ethical violations over their own neighborhood businesses needing help. Good customer conduct and thoughtful consumer spending make an impactful difference to small businesses in a variety of ways, and both Eustace and Wilcox feel grateful for the loyalty and support their customer base has shown them through this turbulent time.


Whether emerging from a year of working from home, or having shown up daily as an essential worker, folks are starting to spend more time in public for fun—and that means that they’re turning back to fashion. Though the trend of revenge dressing may hook some, Seattleites tend to embrace understated attire over bold statements. That’s where Velouria comes to the rescue, with its versatile, well-made wearables that are intended to feel good on and meant to last. Eustace mentions two jumpsuits in the store, for example, that can go anywhere and be dressed up or down.

The two also offer a few tips on how to choose your post-pandemic wardrobe when staring into the abyss of your closet: “I think the first thing is, is it comfortable?” says Wilcox. She advises staying away from pants that cut into you, fussy tops that constantly need adjusting, or high-maintenance fabrics that stain easily. “Something I knew, but got reinforced during the pandemic, is if you wear a woven top with a necklace, you look fancier than anybody else around you,” says Eustace. Both agree that woven pieces instantly elevate a look and that you can’t go wrong with a statement necklace.

“We’ve always offered a top you can fluctuate 10 pounds back and forth and you can still wear for 15 more years if you take good care of it,’” says Eustace. In a society where trends and fashion are still overwhelmingly geared towards smaller-sized, younger women, having wardrobe pieces on offer that work with you as you change is refreshing. “Even just the little time where we’re seeing people face-to-face, you know, we’re always having to talk about bodies and trying to respond to people if they’re being negative about their bodies. But there’s already been a lot of talk about ‘My body has changed, my body has changed!’” says Wilcox. She says that it can be hard to know how to approach these conversations. Afterall, despite having survived a virus that’s killed over 600,000 people, customers still live in a world that holds women, in particular, to an impossible physical standard. The co-owners point out that bodies naturally change and fluctuate so much in our lifetimes for so many different reasons. “Your body does not stay the same, it just doesn’t,” says Wilcox matter-of-factly.

The pandemic has also changed their own wardrobes, with jeans becoming a fast favorite. “Jeans that go from the couch to the outdoors,” Eustace jokes. While many of us shunned our jeans in favor of leggings, sweats, and other elastic waistband items, to Eustace and Wilcox, who dressed up daily to work in the shop prior to the pandemic, jeans became a reliable comfort while working behind the scenes.

As of press time, Velouria’s brick-and-mortar shop is open by appointment and also for specific drop-in hours, in addition to its always-open online shop. “We’re probably not going to go to a more open schedule until the fall, when things are returning to normal, and until we’ve been able to do the things that are good for our hearts and minds,” says Wilcox. She hopes customers will carry some levity when engaging with the service and retail industry. Afterall, everyone has been through a lot, including business owners. She hopes that people drop assumptions and approach interactions with a sense of compassion and understanding for what others might be going through. “At the end of the day it’s people dealing with people—and you never know what is going on behind the scenes.” By Nia Martin

Ready to shop in person? Make an appointment at Velouria here or check their Instagram for drop-in hours. 

Inside Velouria, which sells items made in the U.S. and Canada, including clothing, accessories, jewelry, homewares, paper goods, gifts, and more. Photo by Cat Wilcox.

She Made It

"Seattle is a hat town," says this milliner, who recently returned to Seattle to revive her shop full of handcrafted toppers. Tap for all the details!


What to see or do this week/end

Governor Inslee reopened Washington state on June 30th, though Covid-19 variants are still a concern. We encourage you to get vaccinated and follow common sense guidelines, as well as the rules of the businesses/venues/events you visit. Below, we've highlighted some ways to support and engage with the community.

Get in your Seattle summer feels with Chong the Nomad's just-released "Get Back"—a groovy ode to our lives reopening. I dare you to watch the artist's smooth moves in the music video (at local sites such as Georgetown Trailer Park Mall and Seward Park) and not get up and get to it yourself!

With summer heating us all up, Naomi Ishisaka's important recent piece on how climate change hurts communities of color is a must-read. In it, she talks about how lack of tree canopy correlates with worse health outcomes in neighborhoods. (Word to the wise: Avoid the comments.)

Recently released, grab a copy of Motherland by 2020/21 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate, Bitaniya Giday at Open Books  in Wallingford.

Celebrate the reopening of the Chintatown-International District with live music, dances, vaccine pop-ups and more at Hing Hay Park on July 17th and 18th, plus don't miss the food walk on July 31st.

It's sandal season and I recently got a fantastic mani/pedi at Opal Nail Studio in West Seattle. Not only is it women-owned, but you'll find a delightful assortment of items in-studio—all by women makers.
We love what we do here at P&L—and hope you do, too! 


Financial contributions help us bring you original reporting, research, points of view, and photography. This year, we'll be focusing on ways to sustainably continue and grow our efforts here, including with this option to donate ($5, $10—whatever you can), once or on a regular, subscription-style basis (via PayPal). Thank you for supporting local women in journalism!
That's all for now! We hope you've enjoyed this issue of Parts & Labor—keep washing your hands, wear those masks when and where required, and look for the next issue in two weeks. Check out past issues here, and SUBSCRIBE!

Have an idea or comment? Send us an email at 
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Parts & Labor · 4412 California Ave. SW · Seattle, WA 98116 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp