Dr. Jen closing Capitol Hill shop, moving drag-inspired cosmetics company

Dr. Jen (Image: Atomic Cosmetics)

Dr. Jen (Image: Atomic Cosmetics)

Dr. Jen’s House of Beauty made its debut at 617 E Pike just in time for Pride 2013. As we reach Pride 2015, Jennifer Dietrich and her burlesque and drag queen-inspired cosmetics company are saying goodbye to Capitol Hill — and the “Capitol Hill Problem.”

“The elephant in the room was what we called the ‘Capitol Hill Problem,'” an update to the Dr. Jen’s Facebook page announcing the shop’s planned June 27th closure reads. “All of us on the Hill know what I mean-growing crime against LGBTQ folks, out of control rent increases, no parking from all the construction and the endless sea of douchebaggery filling our streets after dark.”

“Do we stay and say goodbye to the ‘Sparkle People’ and start marketing to the new Capitol Hill norm? Or, do we move to another neighborhood and try to keep our clientele?,” the Facebook post ponders.

According to the announcement, Dietrich plans to close the Capitol Hill shop and focus the company’s efforts online with work continuing in Los Angeles and New Mexico where she will move manufacturing of the Atomic Cosmetics line. Washington Secretary of State documents show the Xerion Skin Science corporation behind the company is owned by Dietrich and her husband Shawn Dietrich.

On her way out of town, Dietrich managed to squeeze in plenty of swipes at the neighborhood and even the city’s new $15/hour minimum wage law.

“For slightly more than I would have to pay unskilled labor in Seattle, I can hire scientists with a Master’s degree in Chemistry; or even fresh PhDs,” Dietrich says of her move back to New Mexico.

The full announcement is below.

The decision to leave Capitol Hill follows last fall’s attempts to “save Atomic Cosmetics” with a fundraising drive. “We recently have hit a financial brick wall – a business loan, that we were expecting to secure, has fallen through,” the company’s call for help said at the time. “With these funds, we were going to be able to keep up with our growing demand, as well as expand our operations at our Capitol Hill flagship store.” Benefits were held at drag and burlesque venues to also help boost the business. The financial blow came just as the company was planning to ramp up production.

Monday’s announcement brings the effort to keep the business on Capitol Hill to a close.

“I have striven to make Dr. Jen’s a safe space in the midst of all of this, but from a business perspective, the writing is on the wall,” Dietrich wrote.

Here is the full announcement:

Hello Atomic family! Dr. Jen here. I have a very important piece of news to share with all of you. But before I do, I’d like to tell you a little story:

This past week, we closed the shop and met up in sunny New Mexico to discuss the next year in the life of Dr. Jen’s House of Beauty. Les, Cherry and I hunkered down over some green chiles and started plotting away. We discussed ways in which we could build the two brands (Xerion Skin Science and Atomic Cosmetics), while maintaining strong ties with our community.

The elephant in the room was what we called the ‘Capitol Hill Problem’. All of us on the Hill know what I mean-growing crime against LGBTQ folks, out of control rent increases, no parking from all the construction and the endless sea of douchebaggery filling our streets after dark. I have striven to make Dr. Jen’s a safe space in the midst of all of this, but from a business perspective, the writing is on the wall. The so-called “weird kids” and Sparkle People that come to my shop are being displaced from the Hill. While I am confident in my ability to adapt my business model to accommodate the incoming tech horde, I question whether or not I’d want to. That was the crux of the discussion – Do we stay and say goodbye to the ‘Sparkle People’ and start marketing to the new Capitol Hill norm? Or, do we move to another neighborhood and try to keep our clientele? Then came the endless discussions of where we could move that would give Seattle and its performer community the kind of access that the Hill provided. Ultimately, we just couldn’t figure it out.

Then suddenly, in the middle of an impassioned speech about the importance of maintaining ties to the community, it hit me. Here we were trying so hard to build a safe space for Seattle’s performer community, and we were completely ignoring the fact that our ‘community’ wasn’t limited to just Seattle anymore. My little company has reached performers all over the country, and even into other parts of the world. I hear all the time from performers that they wish we could come to their city – which I would love to be able to do. Until now, I could only travel infrequently, as my presence was required at the shop every day. Once we realized that our audience was nationwide, we were faced with an even bigger dilemma: do we focus our resources on bringing my message and my healthy product to more locations across the country, or do we focus our resources on the retail location on Capitol Hill? Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that being able to have the freedom to travel and bring the Atomic experience to the rest of the country was going to be a more effective use of our resources.

Therefore, as of June 27, 2015, Dr. Jen’s House of Beauty will close its doors for good. But, have no fear! All of our awesome products that you love will still be available at www.ColorsThatGoBoom.com – In addition, we will now be able to take our show in the road! So look for Dr. Jen to be blending foundations in your town soon! We will also have makeup and wig styling classes hitting the road, and of course, we’ll be vending at our usual places like Burlycon, Viva, Dragcon, etc.

In order to better reach performers of all stripes, I’ll be sending Les and Cherry to Los Angeles, where Atomic Cosmetics will be based. Once there, they will explore relationships with makeup suppliers, as well as makeup artists in film, tv, etc. We plan to turn Atomic Cosmetics into THE option for performers who want non-toxic makeup. We believe LA is an excellent base for us to launch from, and we couldn’t be more excited!

I will be moving manufacturing and Xerion Skin Science to a new facility in New Mexico. It’s a hard business decision to make, but given Seattle’s implementation of a $15 minimum wage, it is far better for me to move manufacturing out of the city. For slightly more than I would have to pay unskilled labor in Seattle, I can hire scientists with a Master’s degree in Chemistry; or even fresh PhDs. This will enable us to expand production while reducing the six month training period required to get unskilled labor fully trained. Additionally, this will afford me the opportunity to do more on the research end of things. (Maybe we can all get that gel eyeliner we’ve been waiting for, eh?) In addition, I plan to expand manufacturing into making my own extracts instead of spending countless hours to source ingredients that meet my standard. I am really looking forward to creating some kick ass new skincare products, as well as expanding our wholesale and private label offerings.

We will miss our Seattle family SO HARD. Please stop by during this next month to say goodbye and wish us luck on our new adventure. We love all of you.

Thank you for everything you’ve done to get us here, Seattle!

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27 thoughts on “Dr. Jen closing Capitol Hill shop, moving drag-inspired cosmetics company

  1. It’s a hard business decision to make, but given Seattle’s implementation of a $15 minimum wage, it is far better for me to move manufacturing out of the city. For slightly more than I would have to pay unskilled labor in Seattle, I can hire scientists with a Master’s degree in Chemistry; or even fresh PhDs. This will enable us to expand production while reducing the six month training period required to get unskilled labor fully trained. Additionally, this will afford me the opportunity to do more on the research end of things.

    Man too bad I only got a mere Bachelors in chemistry(eng) and had to settle for $22/hr for my first internship, otherwise if I had gotten a Masters or PhD I could have gotten ~$18 an hour in Nowhere’sVille, NM.

    This person has no idea how much talent costs, if they want those folks to
    1) Produce goods
    2) Expand production
    3) Produce “research”
    4) Expand vertically into a market which the owner has no knowledge, namely extraction
    Without paying for training or experience, because if there is one thing they for sure they don’t teach “fresh PhDs”, it’s engineering for manufacturing .

    • Agreed!!! Just excuse to not pay your workers the min. Wage. Let’s just go to NM where min. wage is 7.50 an hr. In a few years we will hear they moved to Juarez to cut more costs. I say bye bye and good riddance. Make room for a business that can actually make it in a true city!

      • But why stop there? Maybe she can go to Mexico or China where the wage is only a few pennies! I call BS on her excuses. That’s really what happens when you have people who put $$$ above community ties. Shows that she’s really just been in it for the profit and not really that concerned with us. I wonder if she’ll refund all the donations that kept her afloat while she explored her other options of running for the state border?

  2. I’m originally from NM and call bull on her statements. For one you cannot hire a scientist for that amount of money and if you do, I’d hate to buy your product. Secondly ABQ and its surrounds areas are riddled with far more crime than Seattle. In southern NM she’ll find cheap labor close to border but not really a market for what she sells ha ha. Why doesn’t she just come out and say that she’s moving to NM to cut costs and sell cheap products!

  3. So sorry to see such a great small business leave Capital Hill. The LGBTQ community is in serious trouble with all the douchebags coming to the hill on the weekends. The violence is crazy! Hope the latest SPD efforts to create ‘SAFE’ places around the hill works. Such a shame……..

  4. I can’t argue much on the neighborhood changes, but with friends who invested their time, heart, life, and tons of money to obtain their knowledge and PhDs, and this girl is looking to pay them a little over 30K?…

    Good riddance, Jen.

    Seriously. I went from bummed to delighted she’s leaving as I read this article. : )

  5. Yes, Jen. Go ahead and blame closing shop on everything but your own ineptitude as a businesswoman. Atomic Cosmetics has been going under almost since it began, but somehow Capitol Hill (and Seattle at large) is responsible for your failure? You couldn’t get a business loan (no doubt because the bank recognized that the figures didn’t add up) so you did what every entitled person who thinks they have the next big idea does nowadays: you told a sob story and crowd funded. Now you’ve run through all that money in just a few months and have the unbelievable nerve to blame your failure on the very people who funded you! In addition, pointing out that you can hire someone with a PhD for little more than Seattle’s (barely) living wage $15 minimum wage is astonishingly tone deaf to the country’s income inequality problem. When it takes a PhD to earn the right to do slightly better than scape by, something gotta be reeeeeally wrong.

    Your products may be excellent, but the way you are running your business clearly is not economically viable. I may hate the way Capitol Hill is changing but that doesn’t put me on the side of someone as just as shitty and entitled as a lot of the people moving in and scrubbing the place.

    Wake up. The problem with your business viability is not Capitol Hill. The problem with your business viability is the person running your business.

  6. …or maybe your business is failing because it’s poorly managed and/or those “Sparkle People” just aren’t creating the market demand you need to run a small business. Or just maybe there’s another business providing the same merchandise at better prices.

    Good luck finding those $15/hour PhDs .

    I hope you successfully escape the clutches of that evil “incoming tech hordes”…though never mind those evil zombies shielded Seattle from the worst effects of the 2008-09 Crash, and they’ve been “incoming” since like the late 1980s.

    And I’m sure New Mexico will just LOVE the passive-aggressive attitude you’re apparently attempting to export there. Best of luck!!

  7. Insult the PhDs and enjoy paying someone barely anything…. we don’t like that here. If the loan fell through, means your business plan sucks. Good luck finding the demand in NM.

  8. I feel bad for the PhD getting paid $16/hour. “You’ll have those student loans paid off in 48 years.”

  9. Wow. Not many people will come right out and say they expect engineering PhDs to work for $17 an hour. That’s quite something.

    Hate to give out free advice to someone like this, but just an FYI: China’s pretty much captured the market on cheap manufacturing. Good luck competing in cost with large corporations and Chinese manufacturers!

  10. Well…I won’t pile on because so many have already said so much, so well. But I’ll just add— when I first saw the postings attempting to crowdsource for the aborted business loan, I thought “WTF? Who’d be so stupid to contribute to that?”. Seemed obvious then– and here we are. Sorry to see a unique business go, but maybe it’ll be more feasible elsewhere. Good luck.

    • Actually, the loan was confirmed, but fell through because there was a sabotage by someone close to her who trashed the final paperwork so that it didn’t get to the bank on time.
      So terrible that she added the crap about her (until now unknown) opinion of the worth of her employees. Makes me sad.

  11. “For slightly more than I would have to pay unskilled labor in Seattle, I can hire scientists with a Master’s degree in Chemistry; or even fresh PhDs.”

    New Mexico will allow her to exploit her employees by failing to pay them a living wage; Seattle will not. I’m glad I live in Seattle. I’m glad Ms. Dietrich is taking her predator-class mentality elsewhere. She is the “douchebaggery” of which she complains. I pity the people she will abuse on her way to joining the 1%.

    • I am very sorry to see the business move, because it’s exactly what Capitol Hill has been losing over the last decade.

      OTOH, that dig at the $15/hr minimum wage softened the blow by a lot. As others have commented, publicly stating that you want to pay highly qualified scientists less than $20/hr makes me question your business ethics, if not the business model. Good luck finding qualified people with that floating in the interwebz forever.

  12. The “sparkle people” will be better served going to Rite-Aid and Wigland. Drag and Burlesque isn’t about the quality of your make-up and wigs – it’s about entertainment.

  13. Your disrespect for your employees is telling. Don’t blame them for your rejected loan and failed business. I expect to see you on Fox News, trashing Seattle along with the other hypocrites. Please leave, we don’t want you.

  14. Jen!
    I am really going to miss watching you walk over to Stumptown in the morning and get coffee without your make-up on. I’ll miss seeing you in those yoga pants.

    There is no safety in this world anymore, babydoll. For all we know ISIS hangs out at Cha-Cha and does blow in the bathroom. And you’re right: the way that people are on the hill anymore doesn’t present that as such a far-fetched idea.
    There is money to be made here getting motherfuckers with spray tans drunk. We need these bars and streets filled with the dumbest, most pointless, lobotomized masses imaginable. That’s the business model on the hill now, and it really is a pile of shit that yours can’t compete with.

    • Gotta love that, even when there are tons of valid things to criticize about a woman’s words or actions, some guys just have to make it all about their appearance. What a lazy insult.

  15. It is sad to see businesses go, but Seattle is going to start losing more and more businesses. Capital Hill is changing. Only businesses that can survive up there are restaurants and bars. Seattle in general is getting too expensive for even individuals to live. I know that the next rental increase will price me out of Capital Hill.

  16. This should’ve been an online only company to begin with. It was only ego that made it a rhinestone-encrusted storefront when it didn’t need to be. The rent in that space is expensive. It’s such a specialty product that even if Capitol Hill was this rose colored place of yesteryear it wouldn’t succeed. Specialty products thrive online.

    • Actually, I think their online presence just speaks to their unwillingness to pay their employees a proper wage. Their website is a crap WordPress site. It is slow and WP is NEVER good for an e-commerce site. It is horrible when navigating and WP is notoriously less secure than other CMS platforms.

      I’m guessing they paid a designer (not an actual web developer) to build the site (never smart) for pennies. This is what you get from companies who are always trying to do things on the cheap. You get cheap products, from cheap people, who cheat hard working employees (ones with years of education behind them, i.e. PhD, Masters) out of proper cost of living salaries.

      Never went into the store — not a “sparkle”, but have lived on the hill for over 15 years. Later Dr. Jen! (Hope you have 50 years to pay off your PhD on < $15/hr.)

  17. Wow! That’s some pretty crazy stuff from” Dr. Jen’s House of Mean Spirited Ugliness”. Let’s see, she trashes the “tech hoards”, unskilled labor trying to earn a living wage, She trashes the “sparkle people”, Weirdos and she trashes PhD’s that deserve no more that $15 an hour in her sweatshop. It seems like she is the 800lb. gorilla screwing up Capitol Hill. In the 18 or so months she opened that shop according to her, C.H. has just turned into a living hell. I guess that is in comparison to what ever suburb she is from. Having lived on the hill for over 20 years, it is quite obvious she is defiantly the problem. Adios Dr. Just Bad Jen. You will not be missed.