PORT TOWNSEND – The Wandering Wardrobe, for the past two decades, has been a place for earth-conscious style and the occasional bottle of champagne.
Now the owners, Beverly Michaelsen and her daughter Kaiya Lily Hubbard, are “ready to pass the torch to someone more computer savvy,” Michaelsen said this week.
The vintage clothing company is on the market for $50,000. The building itself, in the Fountain District at 936 Washington St., is priced at $450,000.
Michaelsen, which opened in 1998, said the time had come for a new owner to put these retro dresses and suits on a website for global browsing, “rather than our little stage in Port Townsend.”
With the advent of the pandemic, shoppers are migrating to the internet – while Michaelsen and Hubbard are poised to pursue new chapters.
Hubbard, 36, is a jewelry artist and novelist who intends to publish her fantasy fiction. Her mother, 62, also works at the Unity Center in Port Townsend, where she helped organize the first virtual festival of lights.
The management of the store has always been aligned with the values of the duo.
“I saw the wardrobe as a platform for resource reuse,” Michaelsen said.
“Rather than sending [vintage clothing] to the landfill,” or donating it to a major charity, she aims to provide locals with a place to consign and recycle.
And there were parties: small groups of friends came to try things and sip a glass of champagne.
A tango birthday party rocked the cozy boutique with bandoneon music.
These days, while Michaelsen and Hubbard hope to find a buyer, they continue to consign and sell clothes.
Michaelsen, who networks with nearby thrift stores, recently bought a few armloads of winter coats to sell for $20 each.
At the same time, consignees who want their belongings come to pick them up, she said.
Some give him the green light to donate the items.
On a recent Sunday, Michaelsen had to limit the number of people inside due to social distancing protocols. A family showed up and “guys volunteered to wait outside,” she said.
The shop is open Thursday from noon to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment from Sunday to Wednesday. A phone number is posted on the door for passers-by.
“I live five minutes away. We are willing to come in and open up,” Hubbard said.
Michaelsen, whose previous career was in social services, was living in upstate New York when her friend Gail Dahlman moved to a town on the Olympic Peninsula.
Come see this place, Dahlman said. Michaelsen did, and she decided to take a leap into a new life.
“I turned 40 and I thought, what am I waiting for? I packed my bags, my daughter and I, and we took the train”, opening the shop three months after the ‘arrival.
Dahlman was Michaelsen’s first partner; when Hubbard came of age, she joined her mother in business.
To this day, “my mom is my best friend,” Hubbard said.
She is also a designer whose costumes dressed characters in the musicals “Murder Ballad” in 2017 and “Daddy Long Legs” in 2018 at the Key City Public Theater.
After years of wardrobe shopping, “we convinced Beverly to bring her keen eye and couture prowess to the theater,” said KCPT Artistic Director Denise Winter.
Michaelsen is a resourceful collaborator, she said.
At the start of 2020, Michaelsen said she knew she wanted to sell the wardrobe and have a calmer lifestyle – yet “I’m a bit of a procrastinator” so it took the pandemic for her advance.
The past few months have given people a chance “to reflect on how they want to spend their time”, she added, “and to reevaluate their lives”.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, senior reporter in Jefferson County, can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected].