You wouldn’t expect to find ukuleles for sale in a plus-size consignment shop, but that’s exactly what’s going on at Queen’s Closet in Lakewood. Ray Alonzo Sr. gives ukulele lessons and sells instruments as well as any supplies you might need to play it and his wife, Sandy, runs the consignment shop. I sat down with Ray Alonzo to find out more about his thriving business. Here’s what he said.
What brought you to Tacoma?
Ray: My wife and I met when we both lived in Hawaii. When I joined the military, I was stationed at Fort Lewis and Sandra found a job with Pierce County. Sandra frequently shopped at Queen’s Closet when it was located on Tacoma Avenue, so when the owner asked if she wanted to buy the business, she jumped at the chance.
How do you happen to sell ukuleles in the consignment store?
Ray: I’ve played the ukulele for years now. People began inquiring about learning to play Hawaiian music so I offered my place at Queen’s Closet and it kind of morphed into both teaching and playing the ukulele there.
I needed to stay close to Sandra’s business because I do all the computer tasks and everything on the honey-do list.
What else do you sell besides ukuleles?
Ray: I give private and group lessons Wednesdays through Saturdays and we sell all the accessories like tuners, music stands and more.
What is Monday Ukulele Ohana?
Ray: Ukulele players get together and practice every Monday. We started with four or five people and now it’s grown to more than 70. One woman even comes all the way from Spokane, although she comes just once a quarter. I teach the first hour (5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) then we have a potluck, and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. we have a song circle. People bring in music and if we can, we play it. If we can’t, then we learn it.
Is learning to play the ukulele a popular trend right now?
Ray: I see a lot of teens taking up the ukulele and I’ve also gotten inquiries from school programs who want to buy ukuleles, so yes it is.
How long have you been playing the ukulele?
Ray: I started when I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and played at church. I continued to pluck away and fell in love with the instrument so my mom bought me one. Learning wasn’t formal then, so I picked it up by ear – I hear the sound and progression of the chords. I’m basically self-taught.
Please tell me a little more about Queen’s Closet.
Ray: Our store is for the community. We keep items on the floor for 90 days and if they haven’t sold by then we donate them to the Purdy Correctional Facility or Washington Women’s Employment & Education. Nothing ends up in the landfill. We also have consigners who bring items here to be sold and they give all that money to a charity.
Queen’s Closet is located at: 9614 40th Ave. S.W. in Lakewood. You can reach Ray or Sandra at: 253-475-9576.
I’m fascinated by teens taking up the ukulele! What a great trend. I used to play, before getting a guitar and have fond memories of my ukulele days. I love the photo of all the ukuleles on sale!
I love the happy sound a ukulele makes, and have purchased a couple of my ukulele’s from Ray. I also have taken some private lessons from him. The MUO gathering is a great place where you can come and learn, or just come and play. They have people who you will enjoy playing with whether you are a beginner or an expert. Just a good time and place to share the joy of ukulele music with great folks. Mahalo everyone..
Sounds like a really fun shop! I love it when two unseemingly connected businesses come together in one place. Our yoga studio here also doubles as a guitar lesson studio!
Joining the Monday Night Ukulele Ohana is a great way for beginners to learn, and there is a lot of helpers that if you are a little slow at “getting it” like me.., they are always happy to help you along.. and the pot luck dinner is great too… you never know what’s going to be for dinner…!! People from Hawaii and all over join in on those Monday nights..!!
Playing the Ukele is great fun – I especially like the ukele holder / palm tree in the picture!
So proud of my brother Raymond and my sister in-law Sandy. From Waiehu, Maui…Aloha! <3 Leimomi
I was unhappy with the string choices at the Tacoma big box stores for baritone ukuleles, and found these Lakewood folks on the web… I drove right down, explained to the staff person what I was looking for, she called the owner at home, who actually asked to speak with me, and after a few questions selected the perfect strings for my needs… amazing service, he even inquired if I would need help putting them on my Uke! I am a fan, the Hawaiian spirit lives in this shop, support these folks please! And besides, who else has Aquila and Worth strings you can walk in and look at before you buy? The cost was the same as online, except no shipping costs, no waiting… and all that Aloha spirit you can’t find enough of… Thanks, Ray. I’ll be back.
So glad you connected with Ray. He’s a real treasure.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you or your wife. But, I have heard many and amazing things about both of you… Ive seen your shop a few times, but have never gone in worrying about spending money I do not have on an amazing ukulele. Hope to meet and visit you and your shop soon! All the best wishes for you and your family!
I have lots of size 3x shirts and pants that I would like to consign. None are expensive and I am not interested in being paid much. I’d like to place them in a store that is frequented by large size women looking for great deals on everyday attire. Are you the right store for my goods and is this of interest to you?
Queen’s Closet, in Lakewood, Wash., would be the perfect place to take your clothing. However, about a month ago, an impaired driver drove through the store, injuring five people, and the building is currently in the process of being repaired.
Hi Barb, if you haven’t heard yet, the store is open again. There are still some residual efforts going on, but clothing is on the floor & tagged & ready for purchase. Come on down & check out the store! If you’d like to consign still, just call them to make an appointment.