Front & Center: Pamela Barclay finds magic in owning and exploiting the wonders of the world

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Pamela Barclay has operated a museum where everything has been for sale for almost 30 years.

In 1992 Barclay founded Wonders of the World, a global import shop in the historic flour mill at 621 W. Mallon Ave., Suite 412. The shop contains a massive and eclectic collection of jewelry, artifacts, sculptures, fossils and minerals.

Some of these unique items include Annie, a 50,000-year-old cave bear skeleton, and Sherman, a life-size replica of a T-Rex skull.

Barclay expanded Wonders of the World in 2003 to include a bead shop across from the main store. The store offers a wide variety of pearls, incense and aromatherapy products.

“(Wonders of the World) has been the joy of my life. Not to mention my family – my family is the first and most important in my life, ”said Barclay. “But if you put it in terms of the things you do that make you happy – absolutely love everything about the wonders of the world.”

Outside the corporate world

Barclay was born and raised in Phoenix. She married and moved to Spokane in 1973. Barclay, who has two children, was a housewife until about 1986. After Barclay and her husband split, she got a job with Weight Watchers, a subsidiary of Heinz Corp. the company ranks to become general manager of an 11-state region.

The late Sandi Ashton, Barclay’s mother, was an accomplished Phoenix-based artist who sold thousands of paintings at the peak of her career. In the 1970s, Ashton opened Carl’s Gems and Minerals, which sold jewelry, fossils, and minerals. Barclay often vacationed in Phoenix and worked alongside his mother at the store.

“I found out I liked it,” Barclay said. “I really loved his job.

“During this time, I gradually discovered that the company I worked for was downsizing in 1988. My job was cut and I was sidelined,” she said. added.

Barclay inquired about severance pay from the company.

“It’s my luck that they went to see the vice president of human resources, who said: ‘six months of severance pay and all his stock options’, which were worth enough money to start this business without debt, ”she said, referring to Wonders of the World.

Before Barclay left Weight Watchers, the company had paid her to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication from Whitworth College, now Whitworth University.

The company also provided Barclay with the opportunity to acquire the financial skills necessary to open a business.

“I had to learn to read an income statement to become what I have become with the company. However, I was taught by an accountant, ”she said. “I learned a lot during the years at the company, and all of this corporate training was in my head and available to me when I started Wonders of the World.”

She founded Wonders of the World with her business partner David DeGraff in 1992. Barclay then bought DeGraff and he left the company in 1996.

Wonders of the World underwent an expansion that year. Barclay had also briefly operated Creature Comforts in a space across the hall from Wonders of the World.

“It was about things that represent animals, but it didn’t work,” she said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever done about that kind of failure and one day one of my managers said, ‘Let’s just move all the pearls over there,’ and we moved the store from pearls and it was dynamite. “

When Barclay moved the pearl store, Wonders of the World became two separate spaces again, covering a combined area of ​​2,600 square feet.

“There are now only two places I know of in Spokane that sell pearls,” Barclay said. “We are now the go-to place for pearls and also for incense, and all things related to that particular market.”

Find a hidden gem

At the start of the boutique, Barclay traveled to Bali, Indonesia, where she sourced “containers” of Balinese art.

“At that time it was extremely popular,” she said. “So I made those kinds of purchases. “

Now Barclay finds the vast majority of the store’s items through catalogs or wholesale gems and minerals shows, which typically take place twice a year.

“There is a very big, huge gem and mineral show in Tucson where I buy jewelry, minerals, fossils, crystals and a number of other types of artifacts,” he said. she declared.

Barclay and Andrea Broemmeling, general manager of the store, are also attending trade shows, although this has slowed down during the pandemic.

“We don’t plan to go there, but every two years,” Barclay said. “They are extremely demanding and you have to go through a lot of things that are not of interest to you at all in order to find everything that interests you. While the gemstone and mineral shows are like heaven. They are so fantastic. I have been going to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show for 13 years.

Rare, unique and wonderful

Wonders of the World quickly gained popularity among residents and visitors to the Spokane area for its unique and interesting artifacts.

“They were in awe of the fact that we had things that no one had seen before – the rare, the unique and the wonderful,” said Barclay. “In 1997, I picked up Annie, the cave bear, and put her in the window. No one in Spokane had ever heard of a cave bear or seen a prehistoric creature.

Barclay also showcased Native American artifacts from his mother’s store in Phoenix.

“I sold everything that I myself liked or thought was interesting, and the people of this town turned to that,” Barclay said. “I have often said that I am the best kept secret in town, as about a third of the people who come have never been before.

Barclay’s favorite gemstone is rutilated quartz.

“It’s wonderful. It has a golden sheen, and I love it because it symbolizes multitasking,” she said. “All stones have symbolism, and this particular stone represents how I should. be to be successful. “

Wonders of the World has 12 employees, some of whom have worked in the store for several years, Barclay said.

“My greatest gift is the people I have,” said Barclay, referring to his employees. “I treat them with love. I run the store with love. Love is at the center of everything in my business.

Popularity during the pandemic

Wonders of the World, like many other retailers, had to temporarily close due to the pandemic last year. However, sales skyrocketed after the state lifted stay-at-home restrictions, allowing the store to reopen, Barclay said.

“If you look at the wonders of the world, it’s entertainment,” she said. “You can go and see a 400 million year old fossil. You can go and take your children and there are toys for them. The best thing I ever did was get the toys section. Or if you like fantasy, we have fairies, elves and gnomes.

Jewelry and beads were among the most popular items during the pandemic, with customers looking to indulge themselves or work on bead projects while spending more time at home, Barclay said.

“We’re so grateful to come back, and we’ve had an amazing response. I am aware that it could slow down once we finally get COVID under control and we could see that peak and then a valley, ”she said. “I don’t care because the place is efficient and profitable regardless of its level of operation.”

A creative vocation

Barclay, 77, typically works four days a week at Wonders of the World.

When Barclay is not at the store, she enjoys gardening.

“All spring, summer and fall, I’ll be spending all the time I can tending my garden, and it’s just flowers,” she said. “So it’s the other thing I’m doing that makes my heart sing.” I did things like write poetry. My mother lived with me for 10 years and we wrote poetry together before she died.

Barclay also enjoys spending time with his grandchildren.

“They all live a few miles away, and I love that,” she said.

Barclay said she found her calling at Wonders of the World and that’s what keeps her business going.

“It’s the passion for what I do. Passion to have satisfied customers and to interact with my employees. Passion for the product. I love to buy it. I love ordering it, ”she said. “I don’t know where it came from except it’s a part of me and I fell into it and I knew almost instantly – even at the very beginning of this tiny 699 square foot store – that I was had come home and the more he grew, the better I liked him.


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