ShopSmart Bazaar brings new life to Totem Lake, for now
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
February 3, 2011 · Updated 6:21 PM
During the past two weekends Totem Lake Malls’ lower parking lot has been unusually busy. Voices and shuffling feet have replaced a deafening silence in the mall’s main hallway.
Ken Grammer and Sig Rudowicz, who work in marketing during the week, have opened ShopSmart Bazaar in the space that still has the silhouette of the old Gottschalk’s sign above the main entrance.
“It has been very positive so far,” said Grammer. “Many of the other stores have told us they have had their best weekends since we opened.”
The “upscale flea market” is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays with more than 70 vendors selling everything from collectables and antiques, to jewelry, crafts, clothes and kitchen cabinets.
“This is not a garage sale,” said Grammer. “We are looking for more upscale stuff.”
They have made an effort to keep an open feel to the bazaar by not allowing tents or putting up walls between vendors. All tables must have a black table cloth to keep a uniform look. The co-owners also have some guidelines to what can be sold.
“Nothing offensive,” said Rudowicz, noting that one vendor was selling a classic motorcycle. “No guns. No nudity. It has to be family friendly … There is something for everyone and it is always changing. People like variety.”
The idea for the business came from the economic downturn.
“There are a lot of people who owned businesses and can’t afford the rent for a store,” said Grammer. “They have storage spaces full of merchandise. This gives them a chance to sell it in a safe environment.”
The co-owners also cited an unsafe atmosphere in other avenues to sell the goods.
“People go on Craigslist and try to sell a diamond and get killed,” said Grammer. “It is crazy … Here we give people a chance to sell and buy stuff at a reasonable price.”
Many of the vendors will barter with Bazaar patrons. The Vittitow family came from Renton to sell their collectables that range from baseball cards to classic movie posters and a four-foot high Donald Duck statue.
“You can do this at the Monroe Fair grounds and such, but this is a lot more upscale,” said Weldon Vittitow. “They have dressed it up and it looks nice in here.”
Their first time in a bazaar, the Vittitow family has one of the largest areas in the store.
“I never thought we would get it all set up,” said Helene Sutherland, who is a family member. “Luckily, it stays up during the week.”
But the good times may be coming to an end.
The start of the bazaar was marred by the initial condition of the spot. Grammer and Rudowicz spent their own money to get the carpets cleaned and replace ceiling tiles, as a condition of the lease agreement. Most of the damage came from leaks in the roof. The co-owners have also paid to replace a majority of the lighting in the 40,000-square-foot rental spot. They said they have not had a day off in three months from a combination of their day jobs and putting together the bazaar.
Leasing issues with the malls’ ownership, DDR/Coventry, has also put the business in limbo.
“Everything is pending what the landlord wants to do. There is a chance that we may have to move,” said Rudowicz, who would not go into any more detail except to add: “We now know why Totem Lake has been going downhill.”
They did say they have spent more than $18,000 in advertising, cleaning and maintenance.
“We are also trying to help the community and make Totem Lake Malls work,” said Rudowicz. “This is not our living and we know it will take a while.”
Grammer said they have even taken a chance on some vendors with great success.
“Some people have come to us, who live in their car, trying to get a space and promising to pay the rent at the end of the weekend,” said Grammer. “We have done that for some people and it has worked out.”
The co-owners have a larger vision for the space.
“We have one-third that is unused and we would like to have a mini home show,” said Grammer. “But that is the second phase.”
Also a part of phase two could be a free area with “grandma tables” where people could share craft ideas. Phase three would be a farmer’s market throughout the malls’ main hallway.
“If the farmer’s market were in here we could feed off each other,” said Grammer. “Based on how successful this is, we could do this at other malls that are not doing so well.”
But Grammer and Rudowicz hope to smooth out the issues with DDR/Coventry, for the sake of their business and especially their vendors.
“We love these people,” said Rudowicz. “We want to see these 75 people make it.”Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.