Stores We Love: Ugly Baby and Monster in Seattle

Posted by Christina Loff on

Tell us about the origins of Ugly Baby, when did you open and why? Our company, Ugly Baby, was created in 2006 shortly after we invented our product: Shower Art - waterproof art you can hang in your shower with a suction cup. We sold online and traveled around the country to craft shows for years until we settled down in our spot on the back side of Pike Place Market in 2012. We originally were just looking for a studio space, but the spot we looked at is two stories so we could have a store downstairs and a studio upstairs. Initially we basically opened a fake store with very limited hours. I think we were open Mon - Wed from 11-4 just to fulfill the part of our contract where we had to be open to the public. But to our surprise, people complained that we were never open because they wanted to shop here. Now we're open 7 days a week and have a staff of nine. Who would have thought? 

And when did Monster open? How is that store different from Ugly Baby? Monster is working on It's 14th year of existence - but we bought it in 2017.  It has been owned by three different women in the art community since it opened. Monster is much larger and we feature the work of over 150 different independent artists in addition to teaching art & craft classes in our classroom (it has a glitter floor!).

How did your shop make it through 2020? 2020. Fuck. How DID we make it through 2020? And honestly - ARE we really done with 2020? I still feel like I'm living in March of 2020 and none of the last two years have really been processed.

We survived thanks to a couple of different things. First, on the second day of quarantine, I broke my ankle in two places. Having broken my ankle before - and not really wanting to go anywhere near a hospital, I just decided to sit on the couch and not move my foot until it was healed. I decided that the exact right amount of time for healing would be if I watched all of the versions of Housewives in a row and at the end I would be fixed. I was right! Am I a doctor? No. Do I recommend this to anyone else? Absolutely no. But - to make a long story: I spent a lot of time on the couch bored out of my mind and during that time I was able to create about a million items on our website - something I never had time to do when the world wasn't on fire.

Second, on the day that I was basically recovered and returned to work in the shop for an afternoon, (a day that my husband Doug looked very forward to as he had to basically deal with everything while I was in my Housewives healing journey) I decided I would see what it was like to post a TikTok video. Like everyone else in quarantine, I had been watching a LOT of TikTok but I hadn't ever actually posted a video. I made a little explanation of what Shower Art is and just filmed our wall of them. The video ended in the middle of a sentence because I didn't realize they could only be 15 seconds long. I posted it anyway thinking - who cares! No one is going to see this anyway! About 30 seconds later we began getting order after order after order and they didn't stop until they reached about 600. 600 orders in two days is a lot for this small business. It's a real life BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR kind of deal.

Doug did not get the break he was so looking forward to & instead has been mailing packages and making custom orders for the delightful folks on TikTok ever since.

What inspires you about your customers? I mean. Our customers are the best! We draw unicorns in chalk on the sidewalk that lead them from the Gum Wall right to our door at Ugly Baby. All the best people follow unicorns. It's basically a filter that gives us only the most excellent people.

What surprises you about what sells well? Retail is weird. Some things that I think will be a home run just fail. Sometimes all it takes is moving something to a new location in order to make sales take off. If something doesn't sell well at Ugly Baby - I'll try it at Monster and sometimes it's a hit there. Retail is weird. People are weird. I don't get 'em. 

What do you recommend for people who are just getting into making and crafting? What gateway craft do you recommend? I think cross stitch is really an excellent gateway craft. It's simpler than embroidery and still has a really similar end result. I always tell people - if you can make an X - you can cross stitch! That seems to put them at ease. Plus, the Subversive Cross Stitch designs are so funny and relatable that they make people want to learn.

How did you discover Julie and Subversive Cross Stitch? Oh gosh. I think I've known about Subversive Cross Stitch since the beginning. I feel like I was probably introduced to it by Bust magazine as I was a DEDICATED reader.

Any fun stories to share about working with Julie or how Julie’s products have been received in the store? I just love that everyone agrees with this one: "Other people ruin everything." It's so good!

What's ahead for 2022?Uhhhhhhhh... who knows, right!? Hopefully some calm, solid, dependable times where nothing surprising happens at all. Hopefully there's lots of dogs involved somehow. Maybe some quiet meditation? I'll settle for just nothing shocking or earth shattering.  

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