By Kelli Samson
Lela Cross and Sandy Hall, the dynamic duo who brought us Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen, are packing up a little of their signature swank and bringing it down the street to their new shop, Blackbird Mercantile and Trading Company. Blackbird is now open for business.
The high-ceilinged space, formerly occupied by its beloved predecessor Red Door, still focuses on repurposed furniture and unique home goods, but Cross and Hall are putting their own spin on things.
They’ve painted the interior a stately shade of blue, for one thing. “We’re going for a bit of a vintage, industrious feel,” says Hall. “I want it to feel fancy, old, and approachable for everybody.”
They’re also planning a full line of products for men.
“There aren’t a lot of things out there for guys, either for us to buy them gifts or for them to shop for themselves,” explains Hall. “We’d like to be able to cater to them, as well as a younger crowd.”
As a nod to the gin-joint Dillingers, Blackbird will carry barware and a collection of boutique wines, in addition to beer, vermouth, sherry, and bitters. Hall has studied viticulture (the study of grapes) and enology (the study of wines), and Blackbird gives her another opportunity to showcase her knowledge and indulge in her hobby.
“This shop is full-circle for me,” says Hall.
The other connection to Dillingers is that the shop is named for bank robber John Dillinger’s girlfriend, who notoriously served two years in prison for harboring him as fugitive.
Billie Frechette said in a letter she wrote from prison in 1934, “Only one big thing ever happened to me in my life. I fell in love with John Dillinger.”
Rumor has it that Dillinger gave girlfriend Frechette the nickname of “Blackbird,” either for her raven-colored locks or as a nod to the first song they danced to together. Whether it’s fact or fiction, the name carries weight with the location.
“People love blackbirds in Olympia, and I thought it would be a nice connection,” says Hall.
Fans of Red Door can still purchase the genius RD Shady lampshade at the location. “We are so grateful that they’ve trusted us with their product and with their space,” says Cross of RD Shady inventors Kathy Lathrop and Lara Anderson.
Cross and Hall were shocked and saddened when Red Door, an Olympia institution for the past nine years, went up for lease.
“At the time, I was looking for space for a cooking school. Sandy and I were sad that one more downtown business wasn’t going to be here, so that motivated us. Red Door gave so much to downtown. They were pretty interested in us taking over the space, and suddenly the opportunity came up for us to purchase it. From there, it just went like a boulder downhill, really fast,” recalls Cross. “We’re excited to keep things going, but also about the changes we’re making.”
“It’s such a beautiful location, and right in the heart of downtown,” adds Hall.
Leave it to Cross to come to the rescue. She believes in a vibrant downtown so fully that she can’t help but continue to spread her sparkle around. She is persistence and perseverance embodied. From her days at the romantic restaurant Capitale to those spent at the vibrant Cielo Blu, Cross has never given up her dream of welcoming people into downtown Olympia. She’s had to change how that dream took shape over the years, but she’s never let it go.
It’s truly the visionaries like Cross and Hall who keep us coming back. Next time you’re downtown, pop in for a visit. You won’t be disappointed
Blackbird Mercantile is hosting a grand opening event that kicks off on the first day of Autumn, September 23 (11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.), and goes through September 27. Naturally, there will be drinks and appetizers. But there will also be trunk shows featuring various artists and merchants stocking their goods in the shop.
“Each night we’ll feature someone who has something in the store,” says Cross. “They’ll be present.”
Downtown Olympia is ever-changing, and this is one change you’re not going to want to miss.LC’s Blackbird Mercantile and Trading Co.
430 Washington St. SE in downtown Olympia
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.