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A fashion retailer grown far from its Seattle roots, Totokaelo joins Capitol Hill COVID-19 closure list

Inside Totokaelo’s street level showroom (Image: CHS)

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will lay claim to one of the most upscale fashion retailers in Pike/Pine.

Totokaelo came to the neighborhood in 2012, expanding after its Pioneer Square birth and setting the stage for founder Jill Wenger to grow her global fashion ambitions. Wenger soon pushed Totokaelo into the New York fashion scene and set off on a rapid growth strategy. “We’re leaving so we can globalize,” Wenger said. “I want to be the biggest luxury fashion brand in the world, and the most coveted and the most beloved.”

That growth came at a cost. Wenger was out just over a year later as a private equity firm took over the company and engineered a merger with Richmond, Virginia-based fashion label Need Supply.

Now, with COVID-19 reshaping retail and creating huge risk for leveraged enterprises, Totokaelo’s parent company is pulling the plug on the brand and will not be reopening the stores.

The store’s closure joins a small group of fashion retailers calling it quits around the Hill including vintage and consignment shop Le Frock which has shuttered on E Pike and youth fashion chain Urban Outfitters which has left its giant retail space on Broadway empty.

(Image: Totokaelo)

In the small waves of closures seen so far around the Hill during the COVID-19 crisis, Totokaelo’s path seems closest to the travails of the Rudy’s Barbershop chain. In May, CHS reported on a group including Rudy’s founders striking a deal to buy back the chain from the private equity firm that ran it into bankruptcy and was prepared to close every location due to the economic challenges.

Capitol Hill’s Totokaelo space is a two-leveled store inside the auto row-era Ford Building on 10th Ave that is also home to Elliott Bay Book Company. In 2017, the building was purchased by Keeler Investment Group for $14 million from Capitol Hill-based Hunters Capital. We’ve reached out to Keeler to ask about the retailer’s exit.

We have also asked Totokaelo’s parent company for more on the decision to close but have not heard back.

Capitol Hill and Central District COVID-19 Crisis Closures: CHS has tried to confirm all reported statuses. Please let us know if any information needs to be updated [email protected] -- LAST UPDATED: 3/23/21

Food and drink

  • Little Neon Taco, reported 3/1/2021
  • By Tae, reported 3/1/2021
  • R Place, reported 2/2/2021
  • The Wandering Goose, reported 12/29/2020
  • Barca, announced 11/11/2020
  • Suika, lease issues, announced 9/27/2020
  • Juicebox Cafe, announced 9/28/20
  • Heritage Distilling Capitol Hill, announced 9/25/20
  • Amandine, closing 9/30/20 announced 9/25/20
  • Bar Sue, announced 9/25/20
  • Marination Station, announced 9/14/20
  • Ha Na, announced 8/27/20
  • Intrigue Coffeehouse, announced 8/21/20
  • Nates Wings & Waffles, Happy Grillmore and the Central District Ice Cream Company, announced 8/6/20
  • Americana, Broadway, announced 7/23/20
  • The Lounge by AT&T and Ada’s Discovery Cafe, E Thomas, announced 7/7/20
  • Bill's Off Broadway, E Pine, announced 6/24/20
  • Stumptown, 12th Ave, announced 5/26/20
  • Adana, 15th and Pine, announced 5/21/20
  • Tougo, 18th and Union, announced early April, Yesler location remains open
  • My Thai, 10th Ave E, closed but we're not sure when it shuttered

Retail and more

  • Rocket Fizz, reported 3/23/2021
  • Drizzle and Shine, BurnCycle, and Blue Sky Cleaners, reported 3/1/2021
  • Everyday Music, 10th Ave, June 2021
  • QFC, 15th Ave E, 4/24/21
  • Sameday Testing, 15th Ave E, February
  • GameStop, Broadway, 2020
  • Velocity Dance Center, 12th Ave, will continue as organization but leaving Capitol Hill space, announced 12/4/20.
  • Stock and Pantry, E Pine, announced 10/14/20
  • Take 2, 15th Ave E, announced 9/30/20
  • No Parking, E Pike, announced 9/5/20
  • Ritual House, 19th Ave E, reported 7/15/20
  • Totokaelo, 10th Ave, reported 7/13/20
  • Mode of Fitness, E Pine
  • Urban Outfitters, Broadway, youth fashion chain's exit began last summer as Broadway Market began search for new tenant
  • Le Frock, E Pike, consignment shop announced permanent closure in April

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em bee
em bee
3 years ago

Fresh Tangerine around the corner also closed their retail spaces and will continue online, I saw.

3 years ago

I’m sorry people lost their jobs. I truly am. But that place was god damned ridiculous. It was pretentious and obscenely overpriced. The few times I was in there finding a sales person was like you’d been hit by an invisibility ray. I’d be the only person there and sales people were playing hide and seek with me or something. Frankly I never understood the business model in the first place. $8000 dollar throw rugs with $500 sweatshirts? The whole thing just felt like some rich housewife’s hobby not a business.

Anyway. Best of luck to whoever gets that space. Retail is going to be brutal in Seattle for a long time.

John Whittier Treat
3 years ago
Reply to  MeesterMister

I thought the place was ridiculous too. Surprised it lasted as long as it did. Capital Hill is not Soho.

CD Balooka
CD Balooka
3 years ago

Capitol Hill*^

3 years ago
Reply to  MeesterMister

Luxury apparel is a legitimate business concept just like luxury vehicles and real estate. The woman who founded it wasn’t rich or a housewife – she self funded her first small retail store in the early 00s and then segued into this concept.

3 years ago
Reply to  Cat

+1. I say that even as a Nordstrom Rack guy.

I’m curious how many people disdainful of this concept are men (who may be less likely to get the value proposition).

CD Rez
CD Rez
3 years ago
Reply to  MeesterMister

there’s a whole different world out there.

3 years ago

I love this place and I’m sorry to see it go and there’s nothing else like it. It was a grand concept and made Seattle a big notch more sophisticated.

3 years ago

this makes me extremely sad. seattle has nothing else like even remotely like totokaelo and it represented a stylish and cosmopolitan side of seattle not often seen. it will be sorely missed.