When Tammie Krist was looking for a place to set up her French Toast & Co. Mercantile store one year ago, as an Olympia resident, she didn’t have any connections to the Centralia area. But when she saw her present location on South Tower Avenue, she knew she wanted to set up shop there.
“I saw pictures of the inside and just thought, ‘I could do something with that,’” Krist said. “When I saw the building, I fell in love. That’s kind of when I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
Setting up in a new place, Krist didn’t know what to expect. She said she’d heard about a lot of festivities in Centralia but didn’t know much else about the town. So when it came time to open, she was surprised by the welcome she received.
“People we didn’t know just came in and welcomed us and brought us flowers,” Krist said, reflecting back during her store’s one-year anniversary celebration on Saturday.
Krist opened her vintage store one year ago in an old building on South Tower Avenue, next to a Lewis County Coffee Company stand. She said she’s enjoyed building her business in a new space.
“It’s been cool how you can take an empty space and have your imagination and make it something amazing,” Krist said.
Krist, who has been a vendor in the vintage market for many years, said the name of her store comes from her childhood and the traditions she carried on from her mom with her own children. She explained how french toast was her favorite breakfast her mom made for her growing up and how she made french toast for daughters and grandson.
Krist told The Chronicle the reference to french toast in her business name represents her desire to care for and support others and create a place where women can come and have a community where they can buy “the sorts of things women love.”
Krist said her favorite thing about her business is the community she’s helped create.
“I love how people come in and you create these relationships and friendships and people meet each other in here. It’s like a home away from home,” Krist said. “Once people get to know each other in here, it just creates this kind of community.”
For Krist, opening up a store would allow her to use her knowledge of the vintage market to advance her desire to support others.
“When you have gifts you want to be able to use them,” Krist said. “This just seemed like the next step. It’s been kind of like a dream that’s flourished into this.”
Krist sources the vintage goods she sells from all around the western U.S., from Idaho to California. She explained her selection of vintage items is focused on the sorts of “vintage home decor” folks want in their homes.
Krist said she changes the arrangement of her store every month.
“We change things out with the seasons to get a different look. We try to give people a visual of how to decorate,” said Krist, whose daughters, Amberly and Staci, assist her with her business, which she described as a “family adventure.”
A year since French Toast’s opening, while Krist has received a warm welcome and helped build a community, her store has faced some challenges, primarily getting their name out.
“We’re on South Tower Avenue, away from the hubbub, so the difficulty has been getting people to know us,” Krist said. “Some people just go along and don’t even know this nugget is here.”
Krist told The Chronicle the difficulties of being a new small business, like the ones French Toast has experienced, are why she goes out of her way to support other business owners.
“The vendors that are here (at our anniversary celebration) are all small businesses, so we love to support other businesses.” Krist said. “We invited all those vendors here because we’ve gotten to know them and it’s nice to be able to help them. It all goes back to small businesses rallying around each other to support and encourage one another.”
She said getting to know other small business owners and supporting them has been part of building her business’ community. For Krist, getting to know other female entrepreneurs and working with them has been a meaningful experience.
“We just met these gals who started small businesses, to see what they’ve done and what they’re doing is amazing,” Krist told The Chronicle. “And that’s their journey so that becomes part of my journey.”
In explaining her dream for her store, Krist emphasized the process of creating a business.
“I want to grow to say that I made something from scratch. To see something that was nothing become something,” she said.
Krist offered her appreciation to the community for its support.
“We really appreciate the community that welcomed us, encouraged us and prayed for us. And I want to say we should support small businesses in the area,” Krist said.
French Toast & Co. Mercantile opens for a couple days once a month. Upcoming dates the store will be open are Sept. 9 and 10, Oct. 14 and 15, Nov. 4 and 5 and Dec. 2 through Dec. 4. On Fridays, it is open from 2 to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A special ticketed event will be held on Nov. 25 with hours to be announced at a later date.
French Toast & Co. Mercantile
404 South Tower Ave.