Heather Feller likes to talk about the day she helped her brother pick out new clothes at a Kohl’s store in Alaska.
“You know, you’re pretty good at this,” he told her.
Years later, the memory of those words and his continuing appreciation for “such a simple act,” as she calls it, brings tears to her eyes. As if she had stumbled upon something deep, the answer to a question she’d long sought through a dreary shuffle of passionless jobs: Where is my passion?
Her joy would be about bringing joy to others, just as she’d done for her beloved brother – putting them in fine clothes.
Today, Feller brings that same passion to Emerald City Fashion, the women’s clothing store she opened last March at 5o West Main Street in Auburn.
She has stocked her 1,300-square-foot-boutique with a variety of women’s clothing and accessories: dresses for that big night out, blazers suitable for office and sales work; top coats; and casual wear like jeans, purses, sunglasses — you name it.
“I like to tell women with the clothes I have here, you can go from the opera to bed. Because I also stock pajamas,” Feller said.
All at pleasantly low prices.
“I’d started working in retail, making pretty much nothing, seeing what they were charging for the stuff, knowing what I could get it for wholesale and then sell it for a better price. My motto is, ‘I’d rather sell a lot for a little than nothing for a lot.’ I want to be able help women and kids who otherwise couldn’t afford nice clothing,” Feller said.
Feller has a particularly big heart for her “curvy girls,” her phrase for plus-sized women, who all too often struggle to the point of tears to find attractive clothes that fit.
“Everyone deserves to look nice,” Feller said. “I’ve had a lot of people come in here saying they don’t come into boutiques like this because ‘they don’t have my size.’ Here, I go from a small to a 3x. And when they look at my prices, they go, ‘Oh, your prices are good!’”
Feller likes to go the extra mile for her customers.
“I had one woman who’d lost more than 100 pounds in a year, so she needed new clothes, and she goes, ‘I want a Pretty Woman experience.’ She was going to get her husband over at the train station. So when she ran out and got him, I loaded up a bunch of stuff on a rack and had it ready for her by the dressing room. She was trying on clothes, it was so much fun. She ended up buying two to three outfits.”
Only problem so far: potential customers who don’t yet know she’s there. To that set, here is a hint: look for Feller in the new building directly across from Auburn City Hall, where eight months ago, she became the first business to rent space at street level. Shag is above. She is situated between two empty suites.
Feller came to Auburn 10 years ago from the city of Wrangell, Alaska, for an unusual reason.
“I like to say my reason for moving was Bon Jovi,” Feller said with a laugh.
In fact, an invitation from a close friend to attend a Bon Jovi concert at the Tacoma Dome brought her to Washington state.
“One month later, I packed all my belongings up and moved here,” Feller said.
After years at jobs that for many reasons never worked out, she decided she’d open her own business.
“It was COVID and everything that went with it that really got me thinking about a lot of stuff. In 2022, I went and got a small business loan from Business Impact Northwest. They had me get my inventory even though this place here was not finished yet. So I popped up at Rose’s Makers Market for a few months, but it did not work out for me. I wasn’t even making my rent there. I should have just left everything in the boxes and waited for this place. There’s been a lot more foot traffic here, and of course it’s all designed to my dream for what I wanted.”
Feller has large plans for her store.
“My dream is to start making so much money that I have to hire somebody. And then I want to knock out the wall over there and expand to men’s clothing. I’ve seen a lot of men holding their wive’s purses while they’re looking around,” Feller said.