There’s nothing general about downtown’s new hub aimed at fostering community
written by Shirley A. Hancock
Even Before you step inside, Walla Walla General Store winks that it’s no ordinary home decor-and-kitchen shop.
Outside the whitewashed storefront sits Matilda, a Wimbledon white, 1973 Ford truck. Canine mascots Gracie and Buddy greet you at the door of the 4,000-square-foot open space that delights the senses. You could drive a tractor through the place. (In fact, when it first opened in May, Matilda, brimming with peonies and lilacs, was parked inside the shop in celebration.)
Part gallery, part dog-friendly store for home, kitchen and gifts, it’s also part collaborative space where tourists and locals mingle for art classes, knitting groups and thematic pop-ups. It’s also a resource hub for anything related to Walla Walla. That’s the realized vision of owners and friends for fifteen years, Peggy Frasse and Jean Bender.
The former Seattle residents have always shared a love of fostering a beautiful home. They mused about how they could bring that to Walla Walla. Using their collective real estate and luxury retail expertise, they renovated a 70-year-old building and began curating their version of “Oprah’s List”—legacy items chosen for “purpose and elegance.”
You’ll find Floral Society candles, Simon Pearce glassware, Jacquard Francais linens, Walter G pillows, classics from Riedel and Staub, treasures from local artisans, such as Zac Merten’s ergonomically designed benches and tables, Peter Clark’s hand-spun carbon cookware and local “tinkerer” Mike Wallace’s hand-turned pens made from locally sourced wood including Osage orange from trees planted by homesteaders.
Walla Walla General Store also elevates souvenir buying, with bottle stoppers fashioned from pioneer-era fence post tops, farm-grown herb smudge sticks, Rhodia brand notebooks and Sandra Simonson’s rocks clad in leather and beads.
You won’t find items carried by other stores in town, but the proprietors are happy to send you there, too.
“We can tell you where to find a perfect cup of coffee, crisp white wine, artisan cheese and sandwiches. We created Walla Walla General Store because we wanted to help people get to know our town,” said Frasse.
Their goal is to become a resource. “We want to connect our customers to other businesses and foster the whole community,” said Bender.