Peggy Wenham and one of her customers started reminiscing about Enumclaw’s past as Wenham rung her items up. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Peggy Wenham and one of her customers started reminiscing about Enumclaw’s past as Wenham rung her items up. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Enumclaw losing an (almost) necessity

After 25 years, Almost Necessities is closing shop.

After 25 years, Peggy Wenham, owner and now sole employee of Enumclaw’s Almost Necessities, will be closing up shop by the end of the year.

It’s just time, Wenham said; she’s tired of missing her grandchildren’s extra-curricular activities because she’s got to run the shop.

The story of Almost Necessities is the quintessential American Dream — Wenham started very small, making wooden reindeer crafts to sell in order to raise money for her husband Tony’s nephew’s liver transplant.

“We started doing that, then got into doing craft shows, and then [Toby’s] sisters talked me going in with them into a craft mall in Gig Harbor,” Wenham said. “And then we decided we wanted our own store — I didn’t want to be in Gig Harbor anymore, that was a long drive — and I ended up here.”

However, her business back then was called Country Heart, and doesn’t figure into Almost Necessities’ quarter of a century in downtown Enumclaw.

Only Enumclaw’s older residents may remember Country Heart and its two storefronts, the first where the Rainier Hills Young Life building is now on the corner of Griffen Avenue and Garrett Street, and the other where the Plateau Athletic Club resides.

Now, Almost Necessities lives in the old Enumclaw National Bank building, which was awarded county landmark status in 2017.

“Before I opened, I didn’t actually have a name for the store. I had a friend and was talking to her, and she was asking me what I was going to put in it,” Wenham recalled. “I was telling her the things I thought about doing, and she said, ‘Necessity sort of things,’ because I was doing bath and kitchen [things] and the time, and I said, ‘Almost,’ and she said, ‘There’s your name.’ And it stuck.”

Like how Wenham’s craft businesses kept shifting and growing, so did Almost Necessities’ style.

“We’ve changed a lot from when we started,” Wenham continued, from soaps and kitchen appliances to collectibles (“Nobody wants that anymore”) and now to baby clothes and jewelry.

And, like her store, Wenham has watched Enumclaw evolve.

“It has changed a lot, but it hasn’t changed a lot,” Wenham said, noting how J.C. Penny’s and Sears used to be in town, both businesses that used to dominate the country but are now scraping to get by.

A customer then starts making a small pile of purchases at the front counter and joins the conversation, and the two laugh for a minute over their memories of the the old Montgomery Ward Catalogue Store and an old radio station across the street.

But the feel of Enumclaw is mostly the same, Wenham added. The biggest difference is there’s more people now; you can’t know them all by name anymore, but they remain Wenham’s favorite part of running a business.

“It’s fun to talk to them,” she said. “It’s fun to talk to people that come back all the time and make new friends, but it’s also fun to talk to people who are just going through to the mountain or are from other places.”

Like it appears how she’s lived the rest of her life, Wenham is going with the flow when it comes to retirement — she doesn’t have a set date, just knows she won’t be coming back in the new year.

She and her husband do have someone who is interested in opening their own business in the bank building, but Wenham said it could be 9 months to a year before anything happens, due to the fact the building is a historical landmark.

“We’re going to re-do the front of the building, put it back to what it was, or as close to what it was originally,” she continued, noting some walls and windows are going to need to come out and some masterful plastering needs to go in to keep with the original design. This is required by King County’s Landmark Commission, which gives grants to historical buildings to keep them looking like they did.

“We’re excited,” she said. “The 100-year anniversary for the building is coming up in a couple years, so we’re hoping to have it all done by then.”

In the meantime, Almost Necessities is having a large sale between now and the new year, so head on over while the business is still open.

And if you ask her what she’s going to miss about being business, she’ll be quite blunt.

“Honestly? Nothing,” she said with a laugh.

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