[6/21/22] “All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change,”
This quote from Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, Parable’s namesake, reflects much of the space’s philosophy.
Parable started as an idea between three family members. Le’Ecia Farmer, LaKecia Farmer, and Deatria Williams are sisters and cousins who co-own and operate the space in Tacoma’s McKinley Hill neighborhood. Parable is Black-owned, woman-owned, lgbtq-owned, family-owned, and community-owned.
The three had always wanted to start a business together. Walking around in the McKinley Hill neighborhood where they live, they were inspired by a retail space available for rent.
“We passed by the windows of the empty space day after day and allowed ourselves to dream. We envisioned neighborhood youth popping in and out for a story circle. We could see people singing, dancing, and sharing stories over a warm cup of tea. We imagined elders resting in a big comfy chair with an old book.”
Originally, each had their own idea of what the venture should be. They looked around their community and saw many different needs. Neighborhood youth needed a place to hang out without having to worry about spending money. Diverse small businesses and entrepreneurs needed a space to stock and sell their goods. Families needed somewhere kid-friendly to bring their children to experience the outside world. Artists and teachers needed a space to host workshops and events for the community. The neighborhood needed a space to come together to share stories and grow with each others’ knowledge. With all these different needs, the co-owners eventually decided: why not just incorporate them all?
And so Parable was born.
Well, not entirely yet.
The three co-owners leading this ambitious project faced the unique challenge of starting a business during the middle of a pandemic. However, rather than be disheartened by the struggles of COVID-19, the family members were inspired by many of the issues and disparities that this global crisis highlighted.
“In the midst of racial and health pandemics - opening a business seemed risky but also imaginative timing. The more we thought about it, the more we remembered all of the exploratory solutions that arose during times that felt chaotic and unjust.”
They pushed forward in their mission to build a community space “that could offer events and products that affirm the members of the diverse neighborhood in the Mckinley Hill area and beyond.”
They worked to bring this space into reality throughout the pandemic by holding fundraisers, collecting books, and selling at local markets and online. They also participated in the Pierce County Busines Accelerator program through Pierce County administered by the Tacoma-Pierce Chamber and were able to fundraise through a Kiva small business loan with the help of Spaceworks Tacoma. During the midst of the pandemic, the three owners delivered books and plants all over Tacoma, every bit of work going towards making their dream a reality.
Then, finally, on August 21st, 2021, Parable officially opened its doors.
Since its opening, Parable has received a positive reception in the McKinley Hill neighborhood and been embraced by the community. It has hosted food pop-ups, open mics, educational events, workshops, storytimes for children, and more. With tea, books, chess and checkers, Parable looks to be accomplishing its goal of providing a calm, affirming space for people to simply hang out.
The retail side of the businesses seems to be thriving as well. While the owners curate some aspects of Parable such as the books, when it comes to retail, they have a tendency to welcome everyone with open arms. Such was the case when a group of 11-year-olds asked if they could sell their handmade potholders in the space. You can now find the potholders on sale alongside Parable’s other goods like records, apparel, plants, and jewelry. This ties into a goal the owners have to make partnerships less intimidating for creators and entrepreneurs just starting off. In regard to style, the owners embrace maximalism most of all. They are interested in curating an environment that reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the community and prioritizes Black and minority creators, women, and members of the LGBT+ community.
As graduates of the Pierce County Business Accelerator program, they have also formed partnerships with other program grads including minority-owned businesses Civic Roasters and Jan Parker Cookery. Both of these small businesses have already hosted pop-up events at Parable.
At the end of the day, however, Parable’s heart is still its events and programs. In addition to giving other small businesses a space to sell, the eclectic retail offerings help Parable pay its bills and grow future program opportunities. The vast majority of Parable’s events and workshops are free and the owners want to keep it that way. In the future, they hope to fund more programs through grants and fundraising. They also hope to get more older youth engaged in what Parable has to offer.
If you’re in the McKinley Hill neighborhood, make sure to stop by Parable. Enjoy a cup of tea, buy a book or record, or simply pause for a moment in an armchair in this affirming community space. Make sure you say hello to the store’s parakeets, Angelou and Morrison, while you’re there.
This Member Feature story is part of a series by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to promote stronger connections and increased engagement between the Chamber, its members, and the local business community. Member stories are non-promotional opportunities to share members' business stories with the community. If you are a Chamber member interested in being featured for a story, please contact Digital Marketing Outreach Coordinator Audrey Widner at firstname.lastname@example.org
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