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.