Twentysomethings acquire two popular Riverside shops
It’s not as if the recent Liberty Bell High School graduates conspired to make it happen. Nevertheless, thanks to Lily Szafas and Rachel Layne, the community of Winthrop shop owners got a lot younger this summer.
Szafas, 22, purchased Rascal’s, a women’s clothing store, with her mother Jenny Darwood. Layne, 24, acquired The Courtyard Quail, a home and gift shop, with her parents Angela and Eddie Layne. Both young women took over in July, after working for a time in their respective stores.
Both will inject fresh ideas into their shops without messing too much with the success wrought by their predecessors.
While these two women tell quite different stories about how they came to own a business in Winthrop, they share the same arc: Both left the Methow Valley after high school and are happy to be back.
Szafas graduated a year early from Liberty Bell, in 2014.
After school, Szafas moved to Hawaii to attend a Youth With A Mission school. During the six-month program, she spent three months in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, then three months doing mission work in the Amazon.
Having made her peace with the Methow Valley’s rattlesnakes, Szafas got to know a whole other world in the rainforest. She learned how to catch a tarantula and had to contend with “the seventh most poisonous snake in the world,” she said, which happened to take up residence in her backyard.
“It was in our lawn – way too close for comfort,” Szafas said.
Later, Szafas worked as a teacher at Pullman Christian Childcare Center while her husband, Logan Szafas, attended Washington State University. She returned to the valley a year ago, providing in-home day care, until the opportunity to purchase Rascal’s presented itself.
Raquel Rhinehart, former owner of Rascal’s, is a close friend of Szafa’s mother.
“I’ve known her all my life,” Szafas said. “She’s awesome. Big shoes to fill, for sure.”
Rascal’s is getting a makeover in the Darwood mold. The hood from a 1962 Ford Falcon serves as a display table, and the trunk of a 1963 Chevrolet Impala is mounted over the cash register. Szafas’ father, Dallas Darwood, ran an auto body shop in Twisp for 12 years.
The classic car parts already have helped boost the clothing store’s clout with male customers. Szafas plans to offer more items for men and children, so everyone can be happy to shop there.
Rascal’s is also getting a new name. The sign for “Diamond Patina” is under Westernization review with the Town of Winthrop.
A lot of changes are coming to the shop, but Szafas intends to keep at least one important feature from Rhinehart’s tenure: the customer service. Locals and visitors alike would come into the store just to see Rhinehart.
“She remembers every single one,” Szafas said. “I’ve learned to care for every single person who walks in the door.”
“She’s passing the torch to me, a little bit.”
Rhinehart said she “could not be happier for Lily.”
“She is full of life, excited and has so many big changes and ideas ahead for her new store,” Rhinehart said.
“Once upon a time, I was Lily and Rachel’s ages when I started Rascal’s,” Rhinehart added, referring also to Layne at The Courtyard Quail.
“I had the best costumers year after year, tourists and locals who along the way have become friends,” Rhinehart said. “I wish both Lily and Rachel the best of luck.”
Her happy place
Layne moved to the valley 13 years ago with her parents. Eddie Layne had opened a skateboard and T-shirt shop in West Virginia when he was 28. Angela Layne managed the store. After arriving here, they became part-owners of Windy Valley Landscaping.
“Both my parents had a background in retail,” Rachel Layne said. “I got a lot of guidance from them.”
Also, Layne had worked at The Courtyard Quail for four years under longtime manager Sharon Warden before acquiring the store.
Heeding the advice of people in the business community, Layne said she will not change the store’s name. “It’s been an institution,” she said.
Layne purchased The Courtyard Quail from Cynthia Fisher, who still owns The French Quail boutique across the street.
Layne studied fiber arts at Western Washington University after graduating from Liberty Bell in 2013. She plans to bring her artistic specialty into the store, in the form of a big floor loom.
“There will be a warp on the loom. People can come by and weave as they see fit,” Layne said. “It will create more of a connection to the store.”
The Courtyard Quail is one of the winter stalwarts in Winthrop. The store is open every day of the year, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Layne doesn’t plan to change that.
“We rely on local business. You see people you have known forever come in the shop,” she said.
Layne said she is interested in working with other business owners to come up with new events that would lengthen the tourist season, “once I get my sea legs here a little more.”
Owning The Courtyard Quail fits nicely with Layne’s life goals at this point.
“I really wanted to get back to the valley,” she said. “The happiest I’ve been in my life is in the valley. I wanted to go and put down roots here, hopefully have a family here, and benefit from that same wonderful environment that I got to grow up in.”