Tag Archives: Lakewood

Ukulele Teacher Works Out of Consignment Shop

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.

Ray Alonzo Sr. with one of many ukeleles

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.

Lakewold Gardens: Serene and Beautiful

View of Gravelly Lake from Lakewold Gardens

Recently my daughter-in-law and I took a drive to Lakewold Gardens in Lakewood. Although it was fall and not much was in bloom, the gardens still took your breath away. The breathtaking fall colors, the peakaboo lake view and the quiet serenity all blended to make this experience one I’d like to take experience more regularly.

One of the leading landscape architects of the 20th century, Eulalie Wagner, made this garden her personal life project and left it for all of us to enjoy. In 1958 she commissioned Thomas Church, a noted landscape architect, to help. His design included a curved drive that winds guests through groves of native trees underplanted with Rhododendrons (our state flower). Church created outdoor living spaces like the elegant quatrefoil pool, the medieval knot garden and the rose-covered gazebo.

Church made sure the garden reflected Wagner’s personality. He completed the design framework and she created the gardens. Wagner’s keen interest in rare and native plants seems to blend into the garden’s natural displays effortlessly.

Note the Rock Garden which took Wagner 20 years to complete. Her eye for detail and love for all seasons make this place a unique visual display throughout the year.

My favorite table setting all done in electric blue

On our foray, we were destined to see the table setting competition. You know stemware, dishes, centerpiece – all with a theme. The settings, which were displayed in The Wagner House, gave us lots of ideas for our own tables.   

The Wagner House, built in 1914, is often a venue for weddings, meetings, retreats and other events. Once you’ve seen the spacious sunroom or sat on the Wisteria-covered verandah, you’ll know why brides choose to say their nuptials there. Inside the spiral staircase, Italian-marble floor in the grand foyer and the crystal chandeliers all beautifully accent the character of the house.

Our fall colors are nothing to sneeze at

When you visit, plan to spend some time just relishing the quiet, picnicking on the grounds, enjoying the gardens and don’t forget to visit the Garden Shop. What a wonderful gift shop. It’s filled with all things garden – many tools I doubt you’ll find anywhere else.

Lakewold Gardens, www.lakewoldgardens.org, is located at 12317 Gravelly Lake Drive SW, in Lakewood. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, students and active Military, children under 12 are free.