By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“50 years is enough.”
That’s the simple reason Gregor Terjung gives for the decision to close his West Seattle Junction gift shop, Terjung’s Studio of Gifts.
He and wife Gloria Terjung took over the storefront at 4547 California SW in 1968, after 10 years of previous ownership. Their lease runs through this October, and they’re planning to stay open until then – depending on how long the merchandise lasts! – but they wanted to make the announcement now so you’ll know they’re having a big sale during West Seattle Summer Fest (July 13th-15th).
They aren’t selling the business itself, just closing it. Daughter Gail Spores – who’s been working there 40 years – doesn’t think anyone would buy it, given how the retail business continues to shift more and more onto the internet.
In the meantime, all these years, the shop has been a family labor of love as well as livelihood.
Gloria worked for the Seattle Housing Authority for 30+ years and is now focused on bookkeeping for Terjung’s Studio of Gifts. Gregor and Gloria’s daughter Gina comes in once a week.
Gregor is 88 but has continued to work seven days a week. Those aren’t short days, either – 7 am to 6 pm.
“I love what I do,” he explains. What exactly he does has evolved over the years. Along with running the retail operation, Gregor used to have a thriving hot-stamp printing operation with major customers such as Frederick & Nelson. The retail has been a constant, though. “I’m going to miss my customers,” Gregor acknowledges. And he knows they’ll miss the merchandise that they can’t find anywhere else.
The shop is small but has a big collection – from cards (half a dozen suppliers) to candy to candles to cups to crosses.
They also sell toys – people who came in with their parents as kids now bring in kids of their own; as we stand talking by the front counter, a stroller-pushing mom comes in to browse.
The candy, by the way, is in a classic glass case, sold in bulk – candy you might not have heard of before, like cashew grizzlies, watermelon rock candy, Boston baked beans.
An old-school gumball machine stands right next to the candy case.
Toys that have been popular over the years include Beanie Babies. The family remembers the craze in the 1990s. “We couldn’t keep them in stock,” Gail recalls. There’s still a shelf in back, and other types of toys in the store.
Seasonal items, too:
The shop’s draw has been its people as much as its merchandise, Gail believes. “People come back because of customer service.” Gregor adds, “I guess we’re doing something right.”
Gail says closing is “going to be hard even though we know it’s time … we’ve made so many friendships over the years.” And yet the retail business has changed in so many ways, not just the increasing dominance of online sales. The family recalls scouting merchandise at gift shows, which themselves have now consolidated and generally require a trip out of town, to someplace like Las Vegas.
While the family’s been West Seattle through and through for a half-century-plus, Gregor is from Chicago. He was stationed at the Fort Lewis Army base when he met Gloria, who was working for Boeing at the time. (Gregor’s four years in the Army also took him other places, including Fort Bliss, D.C., and California.) His family roots in Chicago are echoed in the store – particularly the candy counter; his grandmother had a candy shop in Chicago, and an inspirational work ethic, too – she made her own ice cream and sold hot dogs, too (“the best ones ever!”) and worked on strawberry farms in Florida during the shop’s seasonal closures.
“Quite a businesswoman,” Gregor says. Clearly, she would be proud of her grandson.
Now, about the everything-must-go sale that’ll start at Summer Fest: They’ll start with 50 percent off items outside (Summer Fest has its roots in a big sidewalk sale, after all), 25 percent inside. “Maybe more over time,” Gail says – they’ll see how it goes.
Once Terjung’s Studio of Gifts closes, what’s next? Gregor isn’t sure yet, though he admits, “I love woodworking. I have a wood shop where I can do stuff … though I’m getting to the age where my kids don’t want me around power tools.” Maybe classes, maybe volunteering. “It’ll be a big change after all these years.”
As it will for the West Seattle Junction.