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Coming soon to 76th and Aurora: The Purple Store

What do you think? Comments Off October 24, 2010 at 9:07PM

A new shop is coming to 7616 Aurora Ave N, in the spot formally occupied by Bravo European Groceries, one block north of the Greenlake PCC.

 

The Purple Store will sell … purple stuff!

Our news partnerĀ seattlepi.com ran a story on the shop back in Jan. 2009, when The Purple Store was an online business:

Go purple! It reigns at online store
More than 1,200 items are available
By Kristin Dizon

While other retailers struggled last year, The Purple Store’s growth was robust — with sales, according to its owner, up more than 90 percent. The Seattle-based online store (thepurplestore.com) has more than 6,000 customers — all of whom have a thing for purple.

“It’s a very involved set of people,” said Adam Sheridan, who owns and runs the business from his Fremont apartment. “I am somebody who likes all things quirky, individual and interesting.”

At the Web site, lovers of purple can find more than 1,200 items, including best-sellers such as purple duct tape, dress shirts, carnations, purses and wallets. Naturally, there is plenty of Huskies gear and there are copies of “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” but also purple berets, stethoscopes, chopsticks, colanders, toilet seat covers, bandages, violins and cowgirl boots. The most expensive item is a purple velvet headboard for $585.

Susan White found the store while searching for purple Christmas lights. The Des Moines city councilwoman ended up buying 12 strings of lights for an eye-catching outdoor display.

“To me, there’s something peaceful about purple. Most people like it. It’s kind of happy,” said White, whose home and person are not completely decked out in purple. “I would go real purple — like for furniture — but my husband might slightly freak out.”

Nancy Maxwell of Grapevine, Texas, has purple underwear, bathroom rugs, plates, cups, cutlery, pots and pans, plus a toaster, stand mixer, blender, couch, love seat and desk chair. As she talked on the phone recently about her purple predilection, she said she was wearing fluffy purple booties and a black and purple sweater.

But her husband and three children don’t let the genealogy librarian go off the deep purple end.

“My family wonders about me sometimes,” she said. “Several years ago I decorated the entire Christmas tree purple and I just about had a revolt on my hands. Looking back, I think I may have gone overboard.”

Although he carries a purple wallet, Sheridan admits that he doesn’t bleed purple the way many of his customers do.

Visiting The Purple Store is a bit like pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz, he joked. Stacks of plastic bins filled with purple merchandise line the living room of Sheridan’s apartment, floor to ceiling. When customers ask if they can visit the store, which includes some Ballard storage lockers, Sheridan gently lets them down.

To find his merchandise, Sheridan scours the Internet and attends trade shows around the country. Sometimes he’ll persuade a manufacturer to make a purple item. Or he’ll buy out a discontinued purple thing, such as 350 purple clocks.

“Because it’s a specialty, we often find a maker who sold everything but their purple items,” said Sheridan, who has only 20 of those clocks left. “The logic is concentrating the demand throughout the world on this.”

He also has things custom made, such as a popular line of purple camouflage in everything from baby sizes to men’s pants and women’s tank tops. The camo gear has been purchased in large quantities by groups ranging from a church camp for girls to the Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders to boot camp fitness instructors and FedEx employees.

There are a few competitors — some already have come and gone — but Sheridan has the advantage of previously working in search-engine optimization. The store’s Web site fosters a sense of community, inviting customers to post purple food recipes, purple costumes and purple hair photos. Occasionally, one is a bit too enthusiastic.

“We had somebody who sent us shots of herself painted purple — a little too much of herself,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan employs three people, including his girlfriend, and he’s hiring a fourth. He makes more money than in his last job at a nonprofit.

“While it’s not ready for an IPO and we’re not getting rich,” he said, “it’s a living.”

Not bad for something that began as a toss-off line at a party. When asked where the purple drapes came from, Sheridan, deadpanned, “The purple store.”

“You know when you’re at a party where someone says, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if,’ or ‘Why doesn’t someone do this?’ … well, this is one of those conversations where we actually did it,” he said.

Sheridan launched The Purple Store in 2005 with a friend, but neither quit his day job. Sheridan’s family, including three brothers with M.B.A.s, dismissed the enterprise as a harebrained scheme, until he sent them some sales figures.

He plans to move operations to an office soon and says one day there may be a brick-and-mortar Purple Store, or other online businesses to serve an impassioned niche market.

Fuchsia, anyone?

Ed. note: Many thanks to Ben K. over at Aurora|Seattle for first alerting the neighborhood to The Purple Store last Sunday.

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