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Originally published April 7, 2012 at 8:06 PM | Page modified April 8, 2012 at 9:47 AM

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Seattle church consignment shop closes after 53 years, $2.4M in good works

Seattle's Cloud 9 consignment shop has closed, but for the church women who ran it and featured "heavenly values" for 53 years, there's a new fundraising opportunity: They plan to sell the building and create a charitable endowment.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In the beginning there were lamps and lawn chairs, dresses and doilies and always a dream of raising money for helping others.

After 53 years selling clothing and household goods on consignment, the Roosevelt area's Cloud 9 is about to begin a new fundraising wave, as development in the area prepares to take off.

Cloud 9 closed last month, and now the church women who ran the shop are putting their building up for sale, with plans to use the proceeds for an endowment.

They've already raised $2.4 million for charity just from their consignment sales — money that has built a bridge, a classroom and wells in Africa and bought a bus for an Episcopal camp, food for Northwest food banks, a hearing service dog and housing for single mothers.

Shuttering the shop at 6516 Roosevelt Way N.E. was not without a twinge of regret for people like Agnes Stipp, 91. She volunteered at the store for 50 years, along with other women from St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Laurelhurst.

The historic building with the black and maroon tile, purchased decades ago by the church women, is for sale for $1.4 million. Located near a future light-rail stop and across the street from a six-story residential and retail development, the property — which, for tax purposes, is appraised by King County at $743,600 — is attracting a number of potential developers, says real-estate agent Tom Perkins.

Cloud 9 started in 1959 when St. Stephen's Ellen Koogle suggested the women turn their annual bazaar into a year-round shop.

Koogle had been successful starting two others — one on the East Coast and another in Texas. So the women found a pink house at the corner of 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 65th Street, called it Cloud 9 — a site of "heavenly values." The purchases were wrapped in pink paper and the volunteers called angels.

The women rented out an apartment in the house for $90 a month to help defray the cost of renting space for the shop.

Three years later, Cloud 9 moved into the old Hollywood Theater on Roosevelt Way, and eventually, with families from the parish donating $1,000 each for a down payment, the women bought the building for $169,000. It was paid for with proceeds from Cloud 9.

The other day, managers Sharon Sack and Marilyn Beringer sorted through the skeletons of racks and shelves left at the shop, hoping to sell the fixtures and eke out the last donation possible.

One-third of all proceeds went to the parish, one-third to the community and one-third to the world, Sack said.

"In this little corner of Seattle, they have truly been able to make a profound impact not just in the community but in the world," said the Rev. Stephanie Parker of St. Stephen's. "This is what the message of Jesus is all about."

Said Stipp, "As I told my children, it's not enough to just be in the world, you must do something for the world."

Cloud 9 used to acquire clothing from Nordstrom because family members belonged to the parish.

Eventually, the shop became so popular there were lines outside the door waiting for it to open, Sack said.

The annual fashion show, where church women modeled clothing from Cloud 9, was an event not to be missed.

Sometimes the latest designer fashions, scarcely worn, were on the Cloud 9 runway.

Women's Wear Daily and Vogue wrote about the shop. And the society pages always carried news of the Cloud 9 benefit teas and lunches.

Over the years, the consignment trends kept changing: prom dresses hot then not. China in and china out. Silver — plate, no; sterling, yes.

Household goods, rather than clothing, have been the mainstay of the shop for years now, Sack said. Customers like Babs Rodieck have been regulars. Rodieck completely decorated her historic Roosevelt-area home from Cloud 9 — from the squashy footstools and antique photos to the rugs and pottery.

"It's because I'm frugal,"she said.

Other lifestyle trends affected Cloud 9 as well.

While the first volunteers at Cloud 9 were mainly the wives of doctors and lawyers who didn't work outside their Laurelhurst homes, today's young women — wealthy or otherwise — usually have careers and less time for volunteering, Sack said.

With the core group of volunteers 60 and older, it was time to sell the shop and use the investment for a new kind of fundraising — one not involving pots, pans or pictures.

"Don't cry because it's over," says a sign in the window. "Smile because it happened."

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com.

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