The Real Deal

Retail with care and intentionality? Yep, it's still happening in fine independent shops around the northwest. We recently spoke with Pamela Barclay, the proprietor of the famed Wonders of the World in Spokane's Flour Mill.

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In this day and age, you can sort of imagine what a small retail store owner does all day. You know: help customers, manage employees, and order merchandise online to keep the inventory up. And then you meet Pamela Barclay.

She's the proprietor of Wonders of the World, and she doesn't mess around. She is simply all about her rare goods, from stones and minerals to large upscale items for the home to small fossils for the kids. In fact, she's spent the last quarter century building up the most interesting and eclectic import and bead shop in Spokane. And she still makes a point of traveling with staff members to major wholesale events, so she can actually touch the jewelry, gems, and other merchandise with her own hands, making sure she is only getting one-of-a-kind items. In fact, she just got back from a major buying trip.

"In September every year, we go to the second largest wholesale gem and mineral show in the world. It's in Denver, Colorado," Pamela says, standing in her store on a recent October day. "People come from all over the world with container loads of beautiful things. And we go, and that wonderful woman over there drags all our treasures back to Spokane in a trailer [points to Andrea Broemmeling, her second-in-command]. And in January, she drives them back in the snow!"

Pamela goes on to explain how these every-so-often buying trips are the most exciting times of the year, and the importance of choosing each item by hand. 

"In October, we are just rich with the incredible things we get in Denver. And no, we can't simply shop online. There really isn't any other way to do this. In the rare cases when I have ordered items without touching them myself, I've almost always been sorry," she insists.

"It takes guts to do this sort of buying. But this is how we get those stunning items to maintain our identity as a one-of-a-kind shop. And people notice: I can't tell you how many visitors say to me, 'I wish I had a shop like this at home.' Even people from big cities tell me they can't find this sort of hand-picked variety and quality of rocks, gems, minerals, and jewelry."

As I look around, I can tell she's not just giving a marketing pitch. Her passion gives it away: she's highly energetic, she's no-nonsense, and she is no liar. When it comes to finding that rare item that is sure to become a conversation piece, WoW is the real deal.