We’re staying right here in the US of A for this month’s Design Store(y) but headed up to the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, specifically to virtually visit Click! Design That Fits. Owned by jewelry designer Frances Smersh and her husband John Smersh, who both take on the curatorial duties that make this unique shop a modern design destination and a must-visit (and a must-shop!) on your next trip to Seattle. We chatted with John about how they became retailers, supporting the local community they so love, and the new challenges they face:
Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?
Picking the neighborhood was easy. West Seattle is where we have lived for the past 20 years, and we absolutely love it. A bit of background about why we decided to open Click! in the first place—in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, we were attending wholesale shows with (co-proprietor) Frances’s concrete & silver jewelry line. We were seeing so many beautifully made products at these largely handmade, design-centric shows that weren’t available locally, and theorized that the people who live near us would probably love them as much as we do!
In 2004 we opened Click!, which was originally a small storefront connected to our jewelry studio. It was mostly intended as a retail outlet for our jewelry, with a small collection of complementary products. We moved to our current location in 2010, which is right in the heart of West Seattle’s downtown, the “Junction.” The airy, open space where Click! now resides has enabled us to expand our offerings and also has a loft for offices, special events, and workshops, plus a studio space for Frances. We love it.
Seattle in general (and West Seattle specifically) has a history of being very supportive to locally based, independent businesses. We are surrounded by other great, independently owned businesses including a record store/cafe, award-winning French bakery, and Seattle’s first sustainable sushi restaurant. Our concept would not have worked just anywhere – West Seattle is the perfect fit for Click!.
Where did you get the name for the store?
We are makers, and like the notion of physical objects joining together. Click! has a sound to it; it’s an onomatopoeia. It’s the sound of things fitting perfectly as they are made.
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
As mentioned, when we first opened Click! was in a very small space on the fringe of our local business district, and our main product was our in-house jewelry. Now that we are in a larger, more central location we are able to carry a broad range of home goods and small furnishings. The move allowed us to expand into lighting, rugs, more local art, and we have grown our jewelry offerings to include other makers that we love.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
The biggest challenge is our favorite one: curating new lines to keep the store fresh. We love the hunt for the perfect objects that match our aesthetic, our customer’s needs, and fit within an accessible price point. We strongly believe that good design should be available for everyone.
What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?
We came to retail from the wholesale side of things. Neither of us had much retail experience, but we have always viewed that as a benefit: we aren’t locked into ideas of how things should be done. We follow our instincts to create the experience we would want if we were customers in our store, and have worked hard to create an upbeat, genuine environment that people enjoy.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
You KNOW that’s such a hard question! We are totally in love with Yamazaki – a Japanese line that is the perfect blend of beautiful, useful, and accessible. All of the girls at the store are obsessed with our Seattle-made Herbivore Botanical products, and we also love these handcrafted planters from LA-based Boyce Studio.
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
Yes! We are really excited about the brand Five Ply Design, which is a Seattle-based, one-man design house who recently launched the inaugural Five Ply lighting collection. We’re proud to carry these gorgeous, thoughtfully designed floor and pendant lamps that are made just six miles from the store!
What’s been a consistent best seller?
Given our history with jewelry, our jewelry lines have always been heavy hitters. Seattle-based Sarah Loertscher has been a decidedly consistent best seller since we picked her up in 2010, and Karen Konzuk’s commitment rings have been a perfect fit with our clients aesthetics and needs. SF-based Julia Turner is our latest find, and we are loving the color and diversity of materials she has added to Click!’s jewelry collection.
Since Frances is a jewelry designer, does the store have its own line?
Yes! Frances started Smersh Design Jewelry in the late 1990s. Her jewelry began as a groundbreaking collection of tinted concrete and sterling silver. The collections have shifted over the years, incorporating a variety of materials: concrete, sterling silver, cork, pearls, 18k gold, and currently, stainless steel and powdercoated forms that have been pulled straight from Frances’ sketchbooks. Frances has circled back to drawing and painting in the last few years, and you can always find her newest 2D work adorning our walls and our loft gallery.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
Since our story began in the arts, including art in the store is very important to us. Click! is very active in our community’s monthly Art Walks, and reserve space in the store to serve as a gallery. We rotate our artists monthly, and are really excited for an upcoming show with Nobel Neon, a Seattle-based company creating neon art and functional lighting. Image is of our current show, screen prints by NH-based Brainstorm Prints.
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
Of course! We absolutely love the products in our store, and want to live with them just as much as our clients do. Our home is a comfortable mix of family heirloom pieces from our parents’ and grandparents’ homes and our favorite products from Click!.
What’s next for you and your store?
Our next chapter has a bit of a plot twist. Last year, at age 48, Frances was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Obviously, this has been a huge challenge for us personally and also impacts how we run our store.
Owning and operating an independent business in a tight-knit community means that we are highly visible in our West Seattle neighborhood. Last Fall, we decided to share Frances’s diagnosis through our email newsletter, social media, and through our neighborhood blog. By sharing her diagnosis we’re raising awareness of the disease in hopes of removing stigma and educating people about what living with dementia looks like.
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive; it’s clear that we’ve touched and inspired many people with our story already. Going forward we’ll be working with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in their outreach and awareness efforts, but most importantly we’ll be staying engaged in our community. Click! gives us a place to do that. We plan on staying connected with friends and neighbors while we continue to share our design sense and vision through our storefront. We would have never imagined that opening a design shop would put us in a position to receive so much love and give us a platform to do so much good.
Photos by Lisa Town.
Visit Click! Design That Fits at 4540 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116 or online at clickdesignthatfits.com.