By Ashley Lodato
After 14 years of supplying the Methow Valley with colorful clothing, artsy gifts, antiques and collectibles, Poppie Jo Galleria is closing up shop on Friday (Aug. 31).
Poppie Jo owner Joanna Sprague moved to the Methow Valley in 2004 with a truckload of attractive and unique items from her garage in Kennewick, Washington, where she had a career in the welding supplies industry.
“I had always been a collector,” Sprague says. “I had a garage full of stuff that I liked but didn’t know quite what I was going to do with it.”
“I wasn’t a hoarder,” Sprague hastens to add. “I had just collected things that attracted me over the years, in shops, at auctions, and at estate sales. All that stuff came with me.”
Sprague had no intention of opening a shop of her own, but when she settled in the valley she decided to do just that, on a bit of a whim. “Maybe I’ll just open a shop,” she thought. And five months after Sprague arrived in the valley, Poppie Jo Galleria opened its doors in the office space currently occupied by Methow Arts Alliance.
“It was just a little shop,” says Sprague. “A few antiques and collectibles, some older furniture.”
But as the business evolved, Poppie Jo eventually grew to occupy two spaces in the same building: one filled with gifts, clothing and jewelry, the other dedicated to antiques and furniture.
“I caught the fever,” Sprague says. “And I started purchasing all the things that go hand-in-hand with antiques: gifts, clothing, jewelry.”
Sprague’s style is distinctive: colorful, a bit bohemian, quite striking. The aesthetic is instinctive, not carefully curated. “I guess I never thought about having a certain style,” says Sprague. “I just filled the shop with whatever I was attracted to.”
Others took note of her signature style, however, often traveling long distances to peruse the intimate shop spaces filled with items ranging from scarves to statement necklaces to summer dresses. Sprague says “Some customers from the west side come into the shop and tell me ‘nobody else has that where we live.’ I was just trying to stock the shop with things that might catch someone’s eye.”
Sprague has worked to keep Poppie Jo Galleria relevant, changing jewelry to reflect the times, rotating apparel with the seasons, and stocking “sporty lines for sporty gals.” Tastes in her line of work, however, can be fickle. “There might be a big push for Roseville [pottery],” she says, “and then suddenly it’s out. Things can be very trendy, especially if they’ve been on TV or in a magazine.” Sprague points to shabby chic and steampunk as examples of sweeping trends.
For Sprague, hands-down the most enjoyable aspect of her retail business has been connecting with customers. “I have many people who make the trek each year from Seattle, Spokane and Canada,” she says. “They stop in to see me and we catch up. It’s really neat connections. I’ll miss that the most.”
Until Friday, everything in Poppie Jo Galleria is 40 percent off, as Sprague works to pack up whatever inventory remains. After that, Sprague plans to take road trips.
“I’m going on the road, in the beginning anyway,” Sprague says. “There’s something very therapeutic about being on a road trip,” says the woman who drove to countless trade shows in Las Vegas, always on a deadline, always in a hurry.
“I was always on a timetable before,” Sprague says. “Now I won’t be. I’ll just get home when I get home.”