eTc Tacoma/eTceTera is a boutique retail experience offering limited edition, independent apparel, and accessories brands alongside a private label brand "eTceTera." The brick-and-mortar location at 116 S 9th Street is also a space for community engagement. Events include, but are not limited to, business development panels, financial seminars, city programming and consulting engagement, art shows hosting artists from local and abroad, open mic night and several listening parties.
The private label "eTceTera" is produced locally and has gained a cult-like following over the five years that eTc Tacoma has been established and opened as a brick and mortar in downtown Tacoma. The private label products range from T-shirts and hoodies to outerwear and accessories.
We asked co-founders Perris Wright & Umi Wagoner how they met and first envisioned their brand—and how they dealt with successes and challenges along the way.
Tell us about how the eTc Tacoma co-founders, you and Perris Wright, got together and how the company came to be.
Perris and I met the summer going into 9th grade. We were both style-conscious and studious, and that bond helped us start a brand in high school. We kept our fire for building brands and developed a sock company we ran throughout our college term. The funds from that company are how we started the brand we own today. It's been a long and unpredictable journey—this is literally our life's work.
eTc Tacoma originally sold brands from all around the world, but has since morphed into the in-house streetwear brand, eTceTera. How did that transformation happen?
We started eTceTera as a way to fund the shop and simultaneously market the name. We were worried if we opened a store no one ever heard of we would not obtain the first day turnout we needed to make some real noise in Tacoma to attract early adopters and local believers of the shop's ability to correctly identify and sell "cool".
It was also what we saw early on in our lives. GOODS was a boutique in Seattle that held international acclaim for its ability to cull and curate streetwear brands and footwear and our earliest mission was to offer that in Tacoma.
But GOODS also produced an in-house brand with its namesake and that quickly became our favorite product. The exact same thing happened with eTceTera, we put cool brands from around the world in the store and still the in-house brand became all our shoppers wanted, so it was an easy decision—the demand was simply too high.
In 2019, eTc had to give up their retail location on Pacific Avenue in Downtown Tacoma. Now eTc has a thriving retail space and online store on 9th Avenue.
Will you tell us about that experience? What advice would you give to a creative who wants to launch their own brick-and-mortar business?
In 2019 the owner sold the Pac Ave building and we really did not have much of a choice about whether or not to move. The other option was to pause the business entirely until the construction was finished. That did not make sense and so moving had to happen.
The thing about Pac Ave was the historical value it added to the business for us. Car clubs cruise it, tour buses take it, and on the weekends in the summer the optics it gave a lively business like ours was almost unreal.
For the transition itself, we had to make a celebration. We couldn't let it get us down that we were losing the first home we built within the community. We had to focus on the solution and how to make ourselves better because of this situation. Our advice to any creative wanting to open a brick-and-mortar or who just wants to work for themselves full-time is: focus on solutions, do not focus on the problem.
What are the pros and cons of founding a business as a partnership?
It's hard for us to give advice here or even see it from the perspective of pros and cons because we have been partners for close to 20 years. Here's our attempt:
Pro - You never lose alone.
Con - It’s easy to become overly agreeable.
Where do you find inspiration in your community?
We are constantly inspired by our community because there is a ton of talent here and it is always fun to uncover or discover what the people of Tacoma have to offer. Social media is a no-brainer and it's easy to spot who will mesh with the brand or who won't and sometimes that is exactly who we want. Sometimes you need a little juxtaposition.
The eTc website is under construction but take a look at the new site later this month.