Staying True to its Vision

By Jann Wiswall

“The Purple Doorknob is an organism unto itself,” said Rachel Northrup, who recently purchased the business from Urania Shaklee. “It is a great business with strong growth potential and a loyal following,” she said. “I will stay true to its vision.”

The Purple Doorknob, also known fondly as the “sock shop,” has been a thriving business at 9 Monroe Street in Ellicottville since Shaklee opened it in 2010. It sells an eye-popping variety of men’s, women’s and children’s socks in every style and material to appeal to every sense of fashion, humor or adventure.

But Shaklee lives in Bellingham, WA, owns a shop there (ModSock) and creates her own line of socks under that brand name. So she has her hands full and was quietly seeking someone who shared her vision to take over the Ellicottville shop.

Enter Northrup.

“I had been in the shop for the first time to buy a small gift,” Northrup said. “I walked out with six pairs of socks and marveled at the experience. I immediately posted a note about the shop, the experience and the business concept on social media.”

Shaklee saw that post and contacted Northrup soon after. “She’d been looking for a good ‘mother’ for her business and couldn’t get me out of her mind.”

After talking and learning about each other, Northrup made the decision to buy the shop from Shaklee this summer. She’s not making changes – the shop works as it is – so she’s retained all the staff and is building relationships with Shaklee’s long-time suppliers. She’s also keeping the upstairs “Alpine Attic” section of the store, which has great significance to Northrup and her family.

“There’s antique art, decor and memorabilia available for purchase from my grandfather’s era during the time he was helping to start Holiday Valley,” she said.

Northrup is well-suited to the job. She was trained by the “crème de la crème of Ellicottville’s retailers” while growing up in Ellicottville. She worked at Mud, Sweat & Gears and the original Adventure Bound. In fact, the giant stuffed gorilla that now models socks outside the Purple Doorknob was purchased with earnings from working with Adventure Bound during Fall Festival when she was just 10 years old.

For a dozen years, she lived in Colorado where she worked with Ellicottville native John Rounds, who is (re)opening Adventure Bound onthefly in Ellicottville on Oct. 10, as well as for an outdoor equipment manufacturer and a women’s outdoor apparel retailer.

Since returning to Ellicottville in 2011, she co-founded the Bike & Bean burrito shop and started a personal organization consulting firm that uses Feng Shui philosophy and principles to help people declutter their lives.

Having the opportunity to own and operate the Purple Doorknob was the perfect next step for Northrup, who emphasizes that the shop is not about her.

“Walking into the Purple Doorknob is an experience in itself,” she said. “I want to nurture that and offer the same fun, wacky, practical and memorable shopping and gift-buying experience people have come to know and love.”

For more information, visit www.purpledoorknob.com.