Retailer’s new location offers a brighter space

Kathleen Fitch, owner of Vashon’s only office and art supply store, said her new location kitty-corner from Giraffe offers her two key assets in the tough world of Island retail life — parking and visibility.

Kathleen Fitch moved to her new space last month.

Kathleen Fitch, owner of Vashon’s only office and art supply store, said her new location kitty-corner from Giraffe offers her two key assets in the tough world of Island retail life — parking and visibility.

But perhaps even more satisfying to her, she said, is the fact that her small shop is now suffused with light.

Sporting a pink scarf and a flower in her hair, the 65-year-old owner of Essentials 4 smiled brightly as she talked about her move to the new location a month ago. “I’m very happy here,” she said.

The space — a free-standing building that formerly housed Katz Communications — is actually smaller than her previous location next to Bob’s Bakery. But it’s configured in a way that works well for her, with spaces that act as rooms for her four lines of “essentials” — office supplies, art supplies, school supplies and travel accessories.

That natural configuration, plus the light that streams through the windows, have made the new location ideal, she said.

“I’m really hopeful it’ll work with the community,” she added.

Fitch bought what was then just an office supply shop nearly a decade ago from Andrea Aldrich, who decided to specialize in art supplies. Five years later, when Aldrich closed her art supplies store, Fitch decided to take on that niche as well.

She’s slowly expanded over the years, so that now Essentials 4 offers a wide array of gifts and product lines, many of which are eco-friendly. Fitch is a member of Green America, a nonprofit organization that encourages ecologically sound business practices and products; nearly all of the products she sells on her website, in keeping with the Green America seal of approval, are considered eco-friendly, she said.

In recent years, she’s tried to expand her art supplies line in particular, having heard from Island artists that they wanted more products, especially ones that are considered environmentally sound. With her new move, she gave what she called “a present” to the store: She now offers a professional-quality line of non-toxic acrylic paints called Golden Paints.

Like many retailers, Fitch found the last couple of years challenging. Sales, she said, hit bottom early last year. But since then, sales have been picking up, and Fitch is optimistic about the future.

“There’s so much more potential here. I’m having fun figuring it all out,” she said.