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No returns: Owner says Capitol Hill classic consignment shop Le Frock won’t reopen after COVID-19 closure

(Image: Le Frock)

Capitol Hill vintage and consignment shop Le Frock survived the redevelopment of its original E Pine block but it won’t make it through the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Longtime manager and current owner Paula Lucas tells CHS she is closing the store for good after some 29 years of business on Capitol Hill.

“After this virus goes away the face of Seattle is going to be very different,” Lucas said.

Uprooted and in business in the 600 block of E Pike since 2013, Lucas says she is now busy at Le Frock preparing to return consignment shoes and clothing to their owners. She said she tried applying to grant programs like Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund but Le Frock ended up part of the 8,750 or so businesses that didn’t get funding. Besides, she says, the money would have only been a band-aid.

“The money that the government is handing out — Seattle’s $10,000 thing — that’s maybe two month’s rent,” she said. Still, it would have helped. Lucas said she applied for other programs but nothing has come through.

While concern is running high for Seattle’s small businesses and the many shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes that have been forced to temporarily close, closure announcements have been relatively few so far around Capitol Hill and the Central District. If infection rates don’t continue to drop and the economic hardships drag on, this will undoubtedly change. For now, Le Frock is one of the few sad goodbyes for the neighborhood.

For Lucas, she says her plan had been to hand over the store like how she became owner following the retirement of Diane Stone who retired at the age of 75 in 2013 as the store was preparing to move off E Pine to make way for a massive redevelopment of the Bauhaus block.

“I had hopes that when I retired I could just leave it to my longest standing employees,” Lucas said. “But that didn’t pan out.”

If you want to leave a note and say goodbye, stop by the Le Frock Facebook page.

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11 thoughts on “No returns: Owner says Capitol Hill classic consignment shop Le Frock won’t reopen after COVID-19 closure” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

    • We’re destined to become one big office park with all the character that’s being drained away. What is local gov. for if not to protect local businesses that define the city?

    • Um – rent doesn’t work like that…. It might make sense for building owners to not evict tenants right now, as it seems pretty unlikely they are going to find any new tenants to fill empty spaces until this is all over anyway, but in general, you don’t just get to stop and start your rent payments depending on whether or not you are open making money yourself….

      And if you are suggesting shutting down and actually leaving for the time being, starting back wouldn’t be as simply as you seem to think… where do you store your inventory and fixtures while you are shut – if your landlord doesn’t want you back, then where do you get the money to find a new space to rent to get going again… it’s complicated.

      • Would depend on lease expiration and terms. Find a lock up. Doubt you are going to get free rent until this is over…

  1. I’m sorry to read of this closure, but wonder why after 29 years of business, the owner didn’t save up some money to get past a major economic disruption that is only a month old. She doesn’t have to pay rent until the crisis is over and even then she can probably negotiate a multi year payback schedule. I heard SPU is not charging late fees on utilities and her employees are probably already getting unemployment. What prevents her from just waiting a couple more months?

      • The article says, “she is closing the store for good after some 29 years”. But even if its only 7 years, you’d expect there would be some savings. And there is a moratorium on commercial evictions. She might have to pay rent later, but she could likely negotiate fair terms.

    • savings. from a consignment shop. yeah, sounds like she was raking it in. Sometimes you have a business for other reasons than money. You buy a job, but you feel greater pull to serve the community with your service/goods. You get by, and you’re happy. You build a business, and jobs, and people come! That doesn’t lead to loads of savings. Seattle is hostile to small businesses. There will be scant restaurant re-openings, its like starting again, its expensive. The future was already bleak for small businesses in seattle.

  2. I’ve been a customer and consigner at Le Frock for a few years. Paula ran the most organized and conscientious consignment business I’ve seen.

    Small business is often hand-to-mouth at best. A business is doing great to pay it’s employees and all bills on time consistently. Often there’s no real profit and if the owner has a regular salary themselves that’s wild success.

    Closing is a difficult choice, but closing sooner over later is very responsible and to be respected. Less total debt created, and in this situation there’s little chance that debt could be paid off.

    I’ll miss Le Frock deeply, and I respect Paula’s choice to close.

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