Story, photos and video by Annie Wilson
UW News Lab
What started out as a handy way to relieve families of items from deceased family members while also raising money for charity soon grew into something much larger. About two years ago Reuben Sapien opened the Homestyle Mercantile, an antiques store in downtown Edmonds.
The shop is one of several stores Sapien has started over the last 20 years for his special project. This project began when Sapien, the pastor of Sanctuary Church for 36 years, started doing funerals: “Grandma would die and nobody would want all of her stuff,” said Sapien. “And I said, well gosh we can’t throw it all away. … We can do something with it, so then I began to collect it, and we began to sell it and use the money for mission projects and other endeavors.”
Sapien runs The Homestyle Mercantile as a nonprofit. It runs solely on volunteers including him, his son and daughter-in-law as well as Edmonds residents and church members. All proceeds go to several charities including Wounded Warriors; Coalition to Salute America’s Wounded Heroes; Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Parent Television Council; James Robinson (Clean Water Wells); two missionaries in Nepal and Ethiopia; and local needs in the church community, such as rent and food.
Though the volunteers don’t make money, they receive alternative rewards for their work. “We get paid by people telling us they love us,” said Sapien.
Pat Kelly, an Edmonds resident, walks through the shop about once a week to check out the new antiques items and say hi to Sapien. Kelly likes the reasonable prices along with the special shopping opportunity The Homestyle Mercantile provides: “If I’m going to spend my money I think [it’s] a good way to spend it here, locally and especially when it goes to charity,” Kelly said.
Another local, Kristi Larsen, enjoys visiting the antiques store with her 5-year-old son, Gabon. “When Gabon goes into the store he always wants to say hi to Reuben,” said Larsen. “Reuben gives him a high-five and sees how he’s doing.”
Her son likes to check out Sapien’s bin of free toys and is currently on the lookout for antique Viewmaster reels, which Sapien has been keeping an eye open for.
Sapien is often looking for certain items at his customers’ requests. Just last week he helped a young girl find an antique typewriter. She had been in and out of the store about three times in search for one, and on her last visit Sapien had two typewriters for her to choose from.
The shop owner enjoys helping people find items they have been looking to buy or haven’t seen in awhile. “There’s a scripture that says that it is more blessed to give than to receive [Acts 20:35]. So being able to give people that joy, is a real joy for me,” said Sapien.
With retro melodies playing softly in the background, Sapien greets each customer, some by name, as they walk in.
“Hopefully, if people have gone in there they have gotten a really good vibe from him,” said Larsen. “He’s just a very friendly person, you know it’s a shop but he never pushes things on you to buy. He took the time to befriend me and my son and was generous enough to be on the lookout for certain things we were looking for. That’s really what you would want in any shop and it’s really great that it’s right here in our own little town.”
The Homestyle Mercantile is located on 519 Main St., downtown Edmonds. More information can be found on the store’s website.
Annie Wilson, a 2010 graduate of Edmonds-Woodway High School, is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.