Celtic Crossroads NW weathers relocation, rebranding during pandemic

Posted 3/25/20

Relocating and rebranding a relatively longstanding business can be a challenging task under any circumstances, but Celtic Crossroads NW, formerly known as Wandering Angus Celtic Traders, has found …

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Celtic Crossroads NW weathers relocation, rebranding during pandemic

Posted

Relocating and rebranding a relatively longstanding business can be a challenging task under any circumstances, but Celtic Crossroads NW, formerly known as Wandering Angus Celtic Traders, has found itself doing so during a pandemic.

Debbie Sonandre, owner and operator of Celtic Crossroads NW at 2205 E. Sims Way in Port Townsend, said the family business was Wandering Angus Celtic Traders for 12 years on Water Street before they closed up shop and reopened on Sims Way in January.

“We import clothing, jewelry, gifts and heritage items from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall,” said Sonandre, whose own heritage is primarily Scottish, with some Irish and “a little bit” of Cornwall. “We try to represent all the Celtic cultures.”

Regardless of her business’ name, it’s always been a family affair, with Sonandre’s parents, Joe and Fran Ayres, and her sister, Tracy Gallegos, working alongside her, but with her parents now retired and her sister having gone to work at Salish Coast Elementary as a teacher, Sonandre is now joined by her husband and brother-in-law in keeping the shop going.

When it came time to change the store’s name and move it to a new location in town, Sonandre found the name change required her to jump through more hoops than she’d expected, while setting up shop at a new address posed relatively few problems.

“I love the new space, even though our ceiling height before was taller, so we’ve had to reconfigure our displays,” Sonandre said.

Perhaps the chief source of income for Sonandre’s business, however, is unaffected by her location, since her family’s trade goes great guns during the many regional Celtic-themed festivals in which they take part, from the Highland Games to the Irish music festivals.

“It takes a lot of work to get ready for those,” Sonandre said. “One of the largest that we turn out for each year is the Irish Festival Seattle, which of course was canceled this year. We sign up for about 24 festivals each year, and if the current shutdown extends to the start of June, that’s a third of our potential festival income gone.”

At the same time, Sonandre expressed her gratitude to the many local customers who have continued to support her family’s business. While Celtic Crossroads NW had planned to invite the public to an open house celebration at their Sims Way location on March 17, in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the need for social distancing compelled them to cancel the event. But Sonandre reports that people have still stopped by.

“People are very understanding, even when they order something and we tell them it might take a couple of months, since 90% of our Irish vendors have closed,” Sonandre said. “Our Scottish vendors are getting closer to closing, and even before the coronavirus, our Welsh vendors have had to deal with Brexit.”

Celtic Crossroads NW has also been well-served by some cost-savings that were worked into its move well before COVID-19 was even a consideration for its owners.

“We’ve moved into a space with much lower rent, which is huge,” Sonandre said. “We’re paying maybe a third or even a fourth of what we were in rent before. We also all took pay cuts as owners — about half of what we were making before — so that we could sustain our business even if we were only attending festivals. And we’re well-stocked for the time being, so if you’re feeling safe enough to venture out, feel free to come on by.”

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