From one longtime Sequim native to another, Solar City Boutique & Retreat is changing hands.
After more than 19 years owning and operating the downtown Sequim store, Theresa Rubens has sold the business to local real estate agent Cindy Teitzel.
“I’m a longtime customer and this seemed like a really good opportunity for me,” Teitzel said.
“I’m excited (about) having a store I could put my own stamp on. It seemed like a great fit.”
Rubens said she’ll be able to focus more on Forage Gifts and Northwest Treasures, her neighboring business located just two doors down on the same block.
“(Solar City customers are) like a family; they come in routinely. While I’m helping them build a wardrobe, (I) learn about their families.
“I really am a people person. Hopefully they’ll come visit me down at Forage.”
Teitzel said she plans to be fairly hands-on initially at Solar City for any transitions — primarily extending store hours (to 9 a.m.-6 p.m. in November) and days (open on Mondays once again), and price reductions on current inventory and specials for tanning services, she said — while retaining her real estate activities with Town and Country.
Solar City will continue to have clothing and accessories for younger and older generations, from sizes 2 to plusplus, and unique items that locals can’t find elsewhere, Teitzel said.
Born and raised in Sequim, Teitzel has lived in Sequim for more than 55 years with primarily a background in management and real estate.
“I thought this (new venture) would be a great thing to supplement that,” Teitzel said. “It seemed like a win-win for (Theresa) and a great thing for me.”
Solar City history
Rubens said Solar City Boutique & Retreat began as a “pre-empty nest project” following a career in hospitality.
“I never anticipated doing it that long,” Rubens said.
The business was mainly geared toward people with a resort mindset, Rubens said, offering tanning and personal services for people who were vacationing, snow-birding or in town for sports events such as golf tournaments.
Then, Rubens noted, “the retail took on a life as well.”
Demographics seemed to shift over the years as well, Rubens noted. Solar City had always had in mind services and products for the mother-daughter-grandmother set but went from 20-40-60 somethings to 30-50-70 somethings.
“(We catered to) women building a wardrobe; it’d move from season to season,” Rubens said. “It was nice to have that anchoring the store. We’ve done well trying to find brands made in U.S. and Canada, (items that were) sourced well … and thing that are going to last. A ‘Northwest’ wardrobe.”
Solar City came to fit the Sequim shopper: rural but a business professional, from real estate brokers to bank staff and food servers to the everyday mom, she said.
Solar City also got boosts from the community along the way, Rubens noted, from the merchant groups Small Business Saturdays to Choose Local Sequim and other programs that bring awareness to small retail shops on the peninsula.
It comes back around, too, Rubens noted: she said she’s looked to give back to the community, donating to organizations such at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula to events such as the Olympic Medical Center Foundation’s Red, Set Go luncheon.
“We’re approached weekly, if not daily, to donate to causes,” Rubens said. “We try to stay really focused on that (local effort).”
Making a change
She said she’d actually put Solar City on the market “under the radar” a bit in 2015 — around the time she launched Forage Gifts and Northwest Treasures.
“I anticipated downsizing my life and focusing on a smaller business,” she said.
But the business didn’t sell initially, and then the Snowmaggedon snowstorm in 2019 hit.
“A lot of us in the, (Sequim Downtown) Merchants Group were thinking, ‘How we’re going to recover?’” Rubens recalled. After slogging through a tough fourth quarter in late 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“You can make the best laid plans, but then life happens,” Rubens said.
COVID-19 slammed the door shut on a number of businesses and Solar City was no exception, shutting its doors for about 90 days, Rubens said. She tried doing non-contact orders but “ladies don’t want to buy clothes unless they could try it on.”
The business lost its entire spring season, Rubens said.
It was difficult re-opening Solar City; it wasn’t the same thing,” she said.
Rubens officially announced the business was up for sale Labor Day weekend.
“(I thought) It’s time to make that choice and that change’,” she said. “I’m fortunate to have someone who is deeply rooted in the community as well who wants to take that on. I didn’t have to liquidate or anything. There’s a following, a clientele (and) she’s going to put her stamp on it as she goes.”
Jumping into a new business endeavor during the COVID-19 pandemic did give Teitzel some pause, but didn’t keep the real estate agent from buying the business.
“Obviously that’s a concern (but) as time goes on it’s getting better,” she said. “Hopefully we’re a little bit over the hump.”
The move gives Rubens a chance to focus entirely on Forage’s Sequim-centric items that vary from consumables to art and photography.
“I always felt so obligated to be here (at Solar City; now) I won’t feel so pulled. I’ll be able to focus directly on the other small business.
“we’re going into our fifth Christmas,” Rubens noted. ‘Time just flies by.”
Rubens’ is a third-generation Sequim resident whose family sees its roots track back to her maternal great-grandfather, to a dairy farm and local businesses. Her grandchildren attend the same schools she and her husband Jeff, a contractor, once did.
Teitzel’s father owned and operated a wrecking yard/auto body shop in Sequim. She has two children, a 23-year-old and 17-year-old, and said she’s stayed in the area for a number of years because of numerous amenities and facets of small town life.
“The school system is good, there’s not terrible crime,” she said. “I’ve been involved with the (Irrigation) Festival board, chamber involvement … you can’t get that so much in the city. Plus, Seattle is just two hours down the road.”
That being said, Teitzel said, Sequim is changing — and that’s a good thing, she said.
“I think Sequim has a changing environment. I’m real excited about people coming into town, meeting their need. Hopefully we can accommodate them.
“I love it; I love the diversity, new people coming in with and the new ideas.”
For more about Solar City Boutique & Retreat, 135 W. Washington St., see www.solarcitysequim.com or www.facebook.com/Solar-Citys-Boutique-Retreat-135013264613, or call 360-681-7299.