“These aren’t shoes you’ll find at Macy’s,” says Nikita Mathis, owner of Platinum Plush, a small fashion and sundries shop located in the Othello neighborhood.
“You won’t even find them at Forever21.”
For more than 20 years, Mathis has provided affordable finds that are the height of trendiness out of a small shopfront just off MLK. In just 700 square feet, she displays more shine and bling that you see at most Hollywood awards shows.
Even before the store opened in 2001, Mathis had a knack for finding items that are in vogue in more cosmopolitan locations and bringing them to a Seattle audience. A single mom working as a medical assistant, she would spend her breaks and off-work hours hustling goods to nail shops and hair salons.
“I was living paycheck to paycheck, but I felt sound in myself, and took a leap to open a brick-and-mortar store,” she said.
It was a move she now says she had no business taking.
“I didn’t have a business plan, or savings, or capital,” said Mathis. “I had good product that I knew I could sell. People just didn’t know that I was here.”
Her first months were spent doing the same hustle she did part time before – selling to other retail shops. Slowly, she built a loyal customer base.
During the construction of light rail, that customer base and business interruption grants kept her in business.
“I got really popular at the nail and hair salons.” That was a practice run for COVID. She had to shut down for two months at the start of the pandemic, and afterwards, she was open only a few hours a day. But her strong social media presence and the community she built over the previous 19 years allowed her to pivot to curbside pickup. She also finally created a website allowing for online ordering.
“I didn’t have to do the foot hustle any more.”
E-commerce is a portion of her business she is anxious to grow now.
“The web is global,” Mathis said. A lot of her time now is spent developing and keeping the website up to date. She has hired a consultant to help her build her brand and wants to get to the point where she is getting online orders daily.
Mathis spends time on two other new business ventures, as well. One, Berry Therapy, does chocolate dipped strawberries that are popular at special events, weddings, and especially Valentine’s Day. She’s also started a fashion business consulting company called Fashionology. Both businesses are new enough that they do not yet have their own websites. And yet, both ventures have started out strong based on Mathis’ community reputation.
Just as her community has supported her in business, so does she support her community. Mathis is active in several community organizations, including as secretary of the newest Rotary Club branch in the south end, as former executive and president of the MLK Business Association, and on the board of HomeSight.
Talking to Mathis, it seems like all she does is work. Asked about hobbies, she continues to list other work-related events: She is the official T-shirt vendor of KUBE-93 Summerfest and Hemp Fest, and is often active in planning and promoting other events. But she insists that she plays as hard as she works, and will find ways to let her hair down during off hours. Pressed, she says she likes to cook and decorate, and enjoys time with her kids and grandchildren.
She doesn’t regret working hard. Her busy-ness feeds her – literally and figuratively.
“I love what I do. My business has taken farther than I could imagine, personally and professionally. My work is fun to me.”