by Jessie McKenna
This article first appeared as the first part of a series of blog posts for Rainier Ave Business Coalition (RainierABC).
Hillman City’s Karl Hackett, of Jacob Willard Home, started his mid-century collectibles business out of his home in Seward Park in 2011 after leaving the mortgage business. He caught the collecting bug early, while still a boy, but it wasn’t always vintage mid-century furniture and the like that struck his fancy. In fact, he grew up in a mid-century modern style home and was inspired by his father’s taste in home decor, but Karl says he didn’t appreciate the unique look and feel of the style at the time, it was just what home looked like.
Karl’s early collections were of stamps, marbles, silver coins, pretty much anything a kid can collect. He started collecting vintage furniture in his 20s. Pondering his taste in mid-century modern as an adult, Karl wonders if it has something to do with his childhood home. “Some of my best memories as a kid,” he said, “were when we lived in that house,” speaking of the mid-century-style house he and his family lived in. Karl thinks that perhaps the aesthetics of the house, its original finishings and the like, inspired his affection for the period and style. Jacob Willard Home is named after the Hackett’s son, Jacob, whose middle name is Willard (Karl’s father’s name).
While the Hackett’s son Jacob was in his infancy, the home business made for a good side hustle and outlet for Karl’s perennial need to collect rare items. Karl stayed home with Jacob during the day and ran the small business while his wife worked and he went to work in the building maintenance industry at night. The Hackett’s sold vintage furniture, bicycles, lamps, and more on Craigslist, posting some smaller items on Ebay. “We did anything and everything I had an interest in,” says Karl of the home business.
The family leveled up when they decided to host a series of yard sales one summer. The sales were an instant success. They hosted the sales again the following summer and they were met with the same eager customers and connoisseurs of vintage modern items. During this time, Karl says their home turned into something of a warehouse. Taking the business to the next level with a brick and mortar shop was the obvious next step. Karl stockpiled his goods for over a year before leasing his shop on Rainier Avenue in April, 2014. The family moved to Hillman City to be closer to the store. On living and working in Hillman City, Karl says, “As a resident and a person of color, it’s hard to understate the value of the diversity of culture that exists here and what that means for my family.”
Five and a half years later, Jacob Willard Home is still going strong and the business model has evolved to include a variety of services. The store not only offers an eclectic stock of primarily mid-century modern furniture, but also lighting of the same era, and even some art and other fun stuff. Additionally, they offer upholstery and refinishing services. When customers come in looking for specific, hard-to-find vintage items, Karl makes it his job to probe the market, using his connections to scout out and acquire rare pieces. The store also has a vintage record store annex and sells record players and home audio equipment. There’s even a sound booth. Jacob Willard Home is the sole retailer of hyper-local custom audio gear made by Sick Tree Audio who build their custom audio gear out of an in-home workshop in Columbia City.
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