In 2016, Erika and Cory Spellman moved their family from the west side to the Methow Valley, seeking a different lifestyle. Erika was a high school career and college adviser, but thought her new life in the Methow might include business ownership, like a retail store.
Six years later, that dream is becoming a reality, with Spellman’s recent purchase of The French Quail Boutique in downtown Winthrop.
For her first few years in the valley, Spellman worked three part-time jobs: counselor at Liberty Bell High School, server at Sun Mountain Lodge, and retail sales at The French Quail. Although Spellman’s role at Liberty Bell evolved into full-time work and she phased out of the other jobs, The French Quail experience stuck with her.
“I like nice things,” she said. “For years before we moved here I shopped at The French Quail when we visited. I prefer quality over quantity — I’d choose a single unique and well-made product over dozens of items of lower quality.”
Just before Christmas 2021, Cory Spellman went into The French Quail to buy his wife a Christmas gift and the store’s owner, Cynthia Fisher, mentioned that she was hoping to sell the store. Cory went straight home and said to Erika, “We came here to do something different. Let’s buy it.”
Spellman agreed; the time was right. They closed on March 15.
Spellman plans to retain her job with the Methow Valley School District for the foreseeable future, thanks to her strong sales staff. She has retained the shop’s three salespeople, who keep the store running on a daily basis while she works her day (and sometimes night) job as the school counselor.
“They are absolutely making it possible for me to do this,” she said of her staff. Spellman has a strong presence at the store on busy weekends and plans to spend more time there during the summer.
Other support has come in the form of Fisher herself, who is working with Spellman one day each week until July. “She’s teaching me how to buy,” Spellman said, “as well as mentoring me in all the other aspects of retail business ownership.”
Spellman has also hired a bookkeeper who handles sales, payroll and QuickBooks for the store.
Helping out on occasion are the Spellmans’ three children — Morgan, Mackenzie and Montana — who are, respectively, 15, 11, and 8. “The boys aren’t really that into it,” Spellman said, “but Montana loves the store. And overall it has been a really positive thing for our family.”
Prepared for challenge
Although she doesn’t come from a classic retail sales or fashion background, Spellman feels confident that her skill set — coupled with the training she is seeking — has prepared her for her retail venture.
“I have tons of customer service background,” she said. “I’ve waited tables, I’ve worked in retail, I’ve taught yoga, I’m a counselor. I’m used to helping people get what they want, and with Cory being self-employed [Spellman Construction] we know what it’s like to run a small business.”
Spellman addresses The French Quail’s reputation as an upscale boutique. “We offer very nice things and we don’t plan to change that,” she said. “But I’d like to eventually carry some lines of clothing and jewelry in a different price range. As we head into the busy season I’m going to stay the course and do what has been working for this shop to be viable all these years, but then I’m going to work on providing a niche for quality goods at a more affordable price.”
Another project for the slow season will be launching The French Quail’s website. In the meantime, the store’s online presence is on Instagram.
The Spellmans are committed to being a year-round business with consistent hours.
“There are a few of us here on the boardwalk who don’t close for big chunks of time,” she said. “We’ll offer regular hours, even in the slow seasons.”
“It’s important to me to offer special things to our community year-round,” Spellman said. “During COVID people started shopping a lot more locally, and I want to keep bringing those people in, to make things available to them to make them feel special. I want to offer them new and interesting things — little bits of goodness.”
Learn more about The French Quail at www.instagram.com/frenchquailboutique or email email@example.com.