If you’ve ever wandered up Broadway, you’ve probably spun the prayer wheel outside The Vajra, or at the very least noticed the street suddenly made fragrant by incense.
“Sometimes people live in the neighborhood and have never even noticed the shop,” said The Vajra owner Rachael Savage. “I tell them when the student is ready, the shop appears,” she continued. “It’s kind of a magical thing.”
The Vajra, with plenty of magic to help it survive the continually changing Broadway, celebrated 25 years in May.
Nestled between what was once Than Brothers (moved across the street for newer digs) and Cafe Vivace, The Vajra, which means “Great Wisdom,” originally opened its doors as a sister store to Pike Place Market’s Tenzing Momo before Savage took over in 1998.
Prior to Savage, the shop had a much more Buddhist focus. These days, the 750 square-foot store is a treasure trove of tools for spiritual journey, stocked with aromatherapy candles and incense, healing oils, and magical crystals, not to mention a solid selection of rose quartz rings.
“Everything in the shop is picked for its spiritual or awakening value,” said Savage. “When people come in here, they’re seeking: they’re seeking comfort, they’re seeking enlightenment, and sometimes they don’t even know what they’re seeking, but they’re drawn in,” she continued.
Those who come in seeking guidance can schedule a session with one of the tarot readers on staff.
So what’s the secret to success? The shop’s tiny size, for one thing, and the relatively affordable rent that comes with a small retail space doesn’t hurt. They also set themselves apart as one of the only places in Seattle that pour and mix custom blends of fragrant oils. To ensure profitability, they monitor each oil’s market price and adjust prices accordingly, which means that depending on the day you venture into the shop, that sandalwood oil may set you back a few extra dollars.
But according to Savage, the real secret to success lies within the loyalty of their customers and the community she has created.
“We have people who come back and visit the shop and stock up because they can’t find an incense shop where they live now,” said Savage.
It seems lately, Savage is enjoying the sweet smell of success, especially with the increase in foot traffic on Broadway. But just five years ago, The Vajra was almost shattered during development on Broadway.
“It nearly killed us,” said Savage. “There was scaffolding, there wasn’t street parking, it was really a dead-zone down here,” said Savage.
With dark days behind them, the shop that’s seen more than two decades on Capitol Hill has a lot to look forward to.
“We are so grateful for our community,” said Savage. “People come in here with questions all the time, people want to learn, and we want to provide that for them.”
To answer those questions, Savage has launched a weekly workshop series on Mondays at neighboring All Pilgrims Church open to all at a “pay as you value” price. This week offered a Chakra Clearing. Where else can you find that on Broadway?
You can learn more and keep track of upcoming workshops on The Vajra’s Facebook page.