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Commentary: The Business

2022 Cool Store Winner Shares How Her Business Benefited from the Competition

WEND’s honorable mention award expands horizons.




WHEN I HEARD of INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores Contest, I eagerly read about people’s visions coming to life, but it didn’t occur to me that WEND would ever exist as a store, or that if it did, it could make the list. By some miracle, I found a small space and moved WEND from online to a brick-and-mortar location on a main street in my community of West Seattle.

INSTORE interviewed me a few times on topics ranging from sustainability to my store’s moss-scape, and I started realizing there were no more excuses to avoid applying for America’s Coolest Store in the Small Category. They make it incredibly easy by asking thoughtful questions, helping people refine their answers, and keeping the competition free.

Since there was no way WEND was going to win or place, I decided to use the application as a learning opportunity. What would we eventually be shooting for?

What could we glean from answering the questions so that someday, WEND could place?

The questions required me to take action I’d been avoiding. I hired an interiors photographer to capture the space (I’ve since used those photos in several other places, including the store’s Google profile and Instagram). I finally got the dreaded head shot as well.

I nailed down a refined mission of the store and brand (thanks to the thoughtfully crafted questions). When WEND opened, we had a mission. But after a year of operation, we had expanded into new territory, and the mission needed refining. I now copy/paste that answer when I need to submit information to other publications.


In a minor miracle, WEND took an honorable mention in the Small Cool category. The validation both in and outside the industry has been incredibly helpful to our success as a small business.

The ensuing article that INSTORE wrote about WEND was so beautiful and impressive that we laminated it and put it up in our window when we are closed. Our window shades don’t allow people to see in at night, but this article is posted to read and provides validation for passersby to come back.

Not only do stores that are recognized earn an incredible multi-page article, they also receive an accompanying press release. To have a public relations agency write a press release (let alone a multi-page article) would cost a bundle, but INSTORE generously provides this as a winning benefit.

I am very grateful to INSTORE for their support of businesses like mine. Thanks to the America’s Coolest Stores contest, WEND is literally more likely to succeed as a brick-and-mortar.

Wendy Woldenberg owns WEND in Seattle, an honorable mention winner of the 2022 America’s Coolest Stores Contest.



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