Lacey will soon be home to a “high-end” Danish apparel importer and distributor, thanks in large measure to the efforts of the Thurston County Economic Development Council.
“When we outgrew our facility in Dublin, Calif.,” says Blue Willi’s USA Inc. President Troels Engholm, “we explored a number of options for our company up and down Interstate-5 and decided that the Commerce Place light industrial park in Lacey was the ideal location for us.”
Only two independent South Sound stores carry the line of handmade garments that range in price from about $150 to $350. They say they are, pleased by the prospect of Blue Willi’s becoming part of the region’s lifestyle.
“I’m excited that they’ve come to the area, says Phillis Olson, owner of Galerie by Design on North 30th Street in Tacoma. “I’ve just begun to carry their merchandise. Now that they’re moving to this area, I believe that’s going to make shoppers much more aware of this product line.”
Blue Willi’s lines of women’s and men’s apparel is sold through boutiques and department stores—including Nordstrom—throughout the United States. However, the company grants exclusive availability to each retailer in any specific region. Currently, the only other South Sound retailer carrying Blue Willi’s lines is Bon Ton Fashion on North Columbia Street in Olympia.
“We’re thrilled to be exclusive carriers of Blue Willi’s,” says Bon Ton owner Toni Weaver. “I believe we’re their only retailer from here to Portland.”
Factors that played a role in Willi’s decision to relocate in Lacey included Thurston County’s educated, cost-effective labor pool and the low cost of space compared to elsewhere in the western United States, Engholm says.
“Blue Willi’s is the stable, job-creating kind of company the EDC wants to help get established in Thurston County,” says EDC President Rob Kildow. “We are pleased they decided to locate their operation in our community.”
Blue Willi’s plans to move its operations into a 7,800-square-foot warehouse, office and showroom at Commerce Place by Memorial Day. The company believes the new facilities will accommodate anticipated short-term growth, Engholm says. Blue Willi’s expects to create up to nine new jobs in Thurston County, primarily in customer service and accounting.
It also will look into the possibility of taking advantage of the fact that efforts by the Vicwood Partnership to incorporate Commerce Place into South Puget Sound Foreign Trade Zone #216. Blue Willi’s list of requirements for its new home included a site within a FTZ. Blue Willi’s already has begun meeting with the Port of Olympia and its foreign trade zone consultant to identify the benefits the FTZ could provide the company.
“The Economic Development Council was very helpful in supplying us information and putting us in contact with everyone we needed to see,” says Engholm.
Blue Will’s apparel features natural fibers such as cotton, wool and flax. The simplicity created by nature’s colors allows for both elegance and comfort, according to company promotions.
Initially, Blue Willi’s will occupy temporary facilities constructed by RSS Management but eventually will relocate in more permanent quarters in a building being constructed RSS on adjacent property.
“Blue Willi’s is a valuable addition to the new companies we hope to see setting up operations in Northeast Lacey in the near future,” says Lacey Mayor Nancy Peterson.