Charley + May owner Lauren Formicola said she is trying to “fail fast” after four break-ins and slow sales. Photo by Sarah Radmer 

Charley + May owner Lauren Formicola said she is trying to “fail fast” after four break-ins and slow sales. Photo by Sarah Radmer 


The door on Charley + May never quite seemed to close last week as patrons came in to wish owner Lauren Formicola well or to take advantage of the sales. 

After nearly three years in business, the Queen Anne gift shop (2225 Queen Anne Ave. N.) is closing. 

Formicola announced the closure last week by email to other Queen Anne retailers and residents. The business wasn’t self-sustaining, she said. 

“It just wasn’t enough transactions per day to make me feel like I was using my time wisely,” she said. 

Charley + May was named after Formicola’s grandparents; her grandmother had four businesses. Formicola called the store her “project,” and her goal was to learn something. 

“There’s a book out right now that says, ‘If you’re going to fail, fail fast,’” she said. “So that’s what I’m doing.” 

Retail is struggling everywhere. With people consuming less, the growth of online shopping, the cost of goods and people giving gifts less than they used to, it’s a surprise, but “it’s not exactly shocking,” she said. She also wasn’t pulling from other neighborhoods, and there wasn’t enough local traffic. 

“You hear the stories, but I thought, ‘I used to do PR and marketing — I can do this,’” she said.

Formicola said her hat is off to Queen Anne’s established retailers like Four Winds and Stuhlbegs and to the retailers like Queen Anne Dispatch and Video Isle, which sent customers her way. 

“There are retailers who have figured it out; I just wasn’t one of them,” she said.  

A customer walks into Charley + May, sees Formicola and says, “I’m so sad.” Another store owner brings her a gift and wishes her well. 

People are upset, she said: “They want to see the little shops survive.” 

Formicola was president of the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce for a while, and director Charley Shore knows her well as both a colleague and a friend. 

People are going to really miss the shop, Shore said: “Any time a store so great closes, you go, ‘Oh, my god,’” she said.  

Moving ahead

Formicola was nervous to tell people — afraid how they would take it. But she’s also relieved, especially after the four robberies, the most recent just a few weeks ago. Those definitely played into her decision, she said.  

“I feel like I can breathe again,” she said.  

Each day, children come to the store for candy, and dog owners stop by for dog treats. It became a place for people to check in and feel connected with their neighborhood, Formicola said: “I think people are going to miss that.” 

“When I go out, something new and exciting will come in,” she said. 

Formicola already has plans for the future. She’s thinking about Charley + May pop-up shops and a bar that sells craft beer. She plans to take some time to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but she says she will announce something within the next six months. 

In the meantime, Formicola is clearing out merchandise and selling all of the displays. Customers can expect markdowns from 30 to 75 percent off. The sale will end when everything is gone or when the doors finally close on Jan. 31. 

Formicola is going to miss the great parties, the creative window displays, working with local artists and connecting with customers. She knows people are worried about the other independent shops in the area, too. 

“I would say, ‘Vote with your feet. Don’t just check in and see how [they’re doing],” she said. “You’ve got to support and think about the shops on the Ave first, before you go downtown. Without this corridor of the Ave, you’re going to lose the flavor of living in Queen Anne.”

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