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Three of a kind
Don’t think you’re seeing triple inside Sequim JCPenney, just three sisters — Katie Smith, 28, Austin Barnes, 23, and Audrey Barnes, 17.
Audrey, who has worked there nearly two years, said friends approach her about long-lost sisters who work there.
“They say they saw a girl there with short blond hair who looks just like me,” Audrey said. “Yeah, that’s my sister.”
General Manager Paul Quinn said having three sisters in one store is unusual for the chain.
“At least I haven’t seen it in my career,” he said. “We’ve had parents and children and two siblings but it’s the first time to have three sisters.”
He said policies within the company changed in the 1980s allowed additional family members to be hired, especially in the summer.
Austin was the first hired at the store before moving to Bellingham for college. Her positive reputation helped get Katie hired, who has been on staff almost three years. Audrey was hired a year later. After Austin graduated with a graphic design degree, she moved back home and was rehired.
“It’s been great,” Quinn said. “Each have their own individual personalities and skill levels. There’s no question, all three have been wonderful.”
“It pays to have siblings who work hard,” Katie said.
All three work part-time, with Katie spending a lot of time with her three children, Austin splitting time at another job and Audrey finishing up her senior year at Sequim High School.
The sisters’ mom Tracy Barnes, a Sequim Middle School history and leadership teacher, thinks the trio working together is unusual, too.
“The fact that they can work together is unusual for sisters,” she said. “But they all work really well together. They can all depend on each other and enjoy each other’s work ethics.”
Tracy was the first to move to Sequim in 2008 from Westport for a job at Sequim High School as a teacher. Austin followed soon after to start at Peninsula College. They lived together in a single-wide mobile home in an alley off Washington Street before moving to a duplex on River Road.
The next year Audrey moved in to start eighth grade and Katie moved with her children to the duplex next door. Tracy’s husband, Doug, recently moved after getting a job in Port Angeles.
The girls’ fourth sister Karlie Elwess, 26, lives in Spokane, but “she’d work (at JCPenney) too if she lived here,” Austin said.
Daily department grind
Tracy said working together has been positive for all the sisters.
She said with Audrey, JCPenney is her first job and it’s helped her come out of her shell because she’s never really done customer service before.
All three sisters have worked in different departments with Katie the only one seeing time in the jewelry department so far.
Austin has split her time at three JCPenney stores including Sequim, and finds shoes her favorite department. Audrey and Katie like zoning, which is a jack-of-all-trades job roaming the store to help out in the fitting room, picking things up and folding.
But who is the fastest folder among the sisters is up for debate. They do agree that they’re all good at catching crime in the store.
Austin said they catch thieves often and sometimes it can be quite obvious such as petite people with large bags looking conspicuous.
Katie said she caught a woman with clothing stuffed in her jacket that was pouring out.
Recently, Austin saw a shoe thief and signaled to Audrey to follow him. The man circled the store before going back to shoes and putting them back from underneath his jacket.
But for every bad customer, the sisters agree there’s plenty to love in the customers who come in, which helps make their jobs great.
“There’s only love for them,” Katie said.
Sequim JCPenney, 651 W. Washington St., is available at 681-2833.