“You could describe Monster as a gift shop, for sure, but I think it’s always been more than that,” said Rosalie Gale, co-owner of Monster in Ballard (and Ugly Baby in Pike Place), when asked how she would describe her eclectic shop. And she couldn’t be more right.
As a local shop that supports and features the work of over 60 regional and independent artists over the span of three different owners, whether it be in the form of visual art, clothing, gifts, accessories, greeting cards or socks, Monster is indeed so much more than a gift shop.
“The foundation of Monster has always been a place where independent artists can sell their work and where people can find things that you are just not going to find anywhere else,” said Gale. As an artist herself, she uses her connections in the art industry and community to meet unique artists to feature.
“A lot of [the featured artists] are personal friends of mine, but I have been selling at shows and doing these kinds of things for a very long time, so there are people who I’ve met along the way or whose work I admired--that’s the main way that I find people,” she said.
However, things at Monster are not always sunshine, color and rainbows. Like most businesses, Gale had to pivot in order to combat the challenges accompanied by the onset of the pandemic.
“It had been particularly difficult because we spent six months renovating a new space," Gale explained. “We weren’t even open a whole month before we had to close down for COVID, so anticipating having higher sales and being in a place with more traffic, and then actually having COVID happen instead has been really tough."
While the reality of COVID was difficult, Gale turned her attention towards generating a web presence. While most changes were strategic (like getting as many products listed on their website and being active on Instagram), one just so happened to be a happy accident.
Monster has always been owned by visionary women, and Gale is no different. Between issues and setbacks caused by the pandemic, posting (viral) TikToks as well as a lot of renovations, Gale is transforming this Ballard shop into a creative space that extends beyond the greater Seattle community.
“We just moved into a space that’s about three times the size of where Monster was born,” said Gale. “The backroom is going to be a space where we can teach art and craft classes, kind of bringing it back full circle and teaching people in the community how to do some of the things that our artists do.”
This includes renting out button makers for a day (or three) as well as crafting classes. Back when Monster was still in the historic part of Ballard, they offered a monthly class called “Tiny Stabs” with the vision that they could make some sort of crafting school once they moved to Market Street. While they weren’t able to host these classes due to COVID, Gale started offering them online in the meantime.
“I don’t think I ever would have thought to offer the classes online - I would have just focused on doing them in person - but you can teach that many more people if you operate online because there are no restrictions on your location,” Gale said. “It’s been pretty cool, and I think that we’ll continue that even after we’re allowed to open again.”
From waterproof shower art to embroidery kits and a whole ton of socks, Monster is a deep rabbit hole into the world of diverse art and expression.
“I think what makes [Monster] unique are all of the artists whose work we sell,” Gale shared. “We wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for the folks whose work we sell--they are the ones who really make it an interesting place to shop.”