Amy Natali isn’t sure how she created a place of warmth and community at her Tacoma consignment shop over the past three years, she just knows it happened.
But now, after an early morning fire Wednesday that destroyed the 15-year-old storefront and inventory, the Blooming Kids Boutique is missing from the community and Amy and her husband Justin Natali are left with questions.
“I feel like I happily have an obligation to carry it on somehow,” Amy Natali said. “I have no idea what that looks like. … But I just don’t know how we couldn’t with the amount of support we’ve had.”
Amy Natali said she and her husband have had an overwhelming amount of support from their customers-turned-friends and artists.
An outdoor pop-up market 10 a.m. Saturday outside the store at 3810 N. 27th St. will help support the family.
The event is in collaboration with La Paloma Market. Amy Natali said the artists who had items in her shop have decided to donate some of their earnings.
She also said people have offered to help clean up the store, get the electric system fixed and even donate money — although the building is nowhere near ready for cleanup or renovation.
Justin Natali said there’s also the issue of them not owning the building, so nothing is up to them. He said part of the charm was that it was an older building and had its own character.
At the insistence of some of their friends, the Natalis have started an online fundraiser. On their gofundme.com page the goal is $10,000. Justin Natali said they aren’t sure what they need the money for quite yet, but they know they’ll need it at some point.
They have some reservations.
“I think it’s hard to ask for help in general,” Amy Natali said. “I think it’s hard to receive help in general. I always feel like there’s someone who needs it more.”
Justin Natali also said whatever money they don’t use, they will put it back into the community — most likely a new storefront, but that’s yet to be decided.
Joe Meinecke, a spokesperson for the Tacoma Fire Department, said the fire is still being investigated. He said the fire originated at the back of the building and spread up the side and to the attic. The fire was contained within 45 minutes or so of firefighters arriving on scene.
No one was injured.
Almost everything was destroyed.
Amy Natali said things that didn’t burn still sustained smoke and water damage. She said even their own family keepsakes, such as handmade picture frames, are lost.
Even with it all gone, though, Amy Natali said she knows she and her husband will keep moving forward, especially with the support from the community.
“(We just want to say) thank you — we love Tacoma,” Amy Natali said. “We’re able to skim everything that’s coming our way but not able to respond right now ... but it means so much to us.”
The Natalis took over the store in the summer of 2016. Amy Natali said it all happened pretty quickly, almost like everything just fell into place.
Amy Natali said she’s a teacher by trade, but when she and her husband started having kids, she wanted to have more time to spend with them.
She said she shopped at Blooming Kids and it reminded her of a bookstore where she grew up — it was in an old home and was a place to hang out; it wasn’t just a bookstore. Soon after, the owner of Blooming Kids was ready to pass the store to someone else, and Amy Natali asked for details.
“(Having a store) was always kind of a dream in the back of my head,” she said.
In the three years she and her husband have had the shop they’ve started classes and play groups for kids, creating a community.
“She just created this space that ... it was just so much more than a store,” said Alison Garrison, a long-time friend of Amy Natali and an employee of the store. “It was probably our (family’s) favorite place to go away from home.”
Garrison said she started shopping at the consignment store after Amy Natali took over. She would also bring her son.
“When we started going there, Amy and I ran a play group and my son was just barely able to sit up and he just kind of played by himself,” Garrison said. “You just don’t really realize how much a place meant even though it’s just a building - it’s so much more than that.”
Amy Natali said that’s true for her, her family and other customers who walked through the door. It was a place for them to share their stories and to support one another.
Natali said it was customers who supported her when she and her husband lost a baby during her pregnancy.
Conversations followed about other peoples’ losses.
“It made other people feel like they can be themselves,” Amy Natali said. “I don’t know exactly how (the community feeling) happened, it just did.”
It’s that same community that’s supporting them now.
“I think whenever people love on you like this, it does take your breath away a little bit,” she said.