By Ben Olson
Sometimes you just can’t keep a good thing down.
When Ranel Hanson announced she would be closing her Zany Zebra store down last September, many people lamented the potential loss of a fun, vibrant downtown business. In a fortuitous turn of events, the store was purchased by a new owner, who not only is keeping the name, but is also interested in continuing the sale of off-kilter fun items that has made Zany Zebra a favorite shopping destination in downtown Sandpoint.
New store owner Julie Martin will feature a grand opening for Zany Zebra on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. It will be a great time to check out the new items, plus see many of your favorites. Shoppers will be able to enter a drawing for a gift certificate, with winners drawn both Saturday and Sunday.
Martin recently relocated from Seattle, Wash. to open the storefront in Sandpoint. The decision, as is the case in life, came all of a sudden.
“My daughter turned 18 and moved to Florida with her boyfriend,” said Martin. “My mom and sister had moved to this area, so I was feeling stagnant in Seattle. This store felt like a good fit for my personality.”
Previously, Martin worked as a financial director for a nonprofit organization.
“It was a high-stress, demanding environment,” she said. “It was high pay, but it wasn’t doing it for me anymore.”
When Martin’s mother retired to the Priest River area three years ago, plans began forming to move this way eventually, but when Martin saw Zany Zebra for sale, she was immediately taken by the store’s funky style. This is her first experience owning a business.
“This store fits my personality,” said Martin. “I like stuff that is different. Different is good. I wanted something that was really fun.”
Martin plans to feature much of the same boutique items that Zany Zebra has been known for over the past decade, including fashion, funny gifts and cards, and truly oddball items you can’t find anywhere else.
However, she is planning to add her own flair to the store’s inventory with items like lava lamps, handmade Native American crafts, Native jewelry, quilts, potholders, ethnic items like African candles and lots of fair trade items. She’ll also feature items from Etsy wholesale, such as screenprints and casual styles.
“We’re also going to be featuring plus sized clothing for women,” she said. “I have some ideas about adding shoes soon, too. We truly want to have a little bit for everyone.”
Martin lives in Priest River near her mother and sister and is getting used to having more trees than buildings around. She enjoys arts and crafts and reading, and also has a Lhasa Apso and two cats that are adjusting to the move.
In the past, Martin has housed over 50 foster children from all walks of life: “I’ve seen all kinds of different scenarios. Sometimes I’ve even had to take kids during the night to get them away from the situation they were in. I’ve had kids live with me for a few days, and some that have lived for over a year at a time. You have to be flexible.”
One pleasant surprise Martin encountered is the relationship with Zany Zebra founder and former owner Ranel Hanson: “She’s been great, mentoring me through this transition. She didn’t have to do any of that. I’m really thankful for the help.”
As far as transitioning goes, Hanson said she couldn’t be happier with how it has gone: “I feel great about having the store continue on. I love the idea that I’m going to drive down First and see the Zany Zebra sign. I really feel good about the fact that Julie seems to be the perfect proprietor of Zany Zebra. She’s got a funky side, she’s got a sense of humor and she has a good eye for things. She’s bringing new enthusiasm to the store, so I’m happy.”
Come down and meet your new downtown store owner on Saturday, Nov. 19, while also satisfying some holiday shopping needs early. Zany Zebra is located at 317 N. First Ave. in downtown Sandpoint.