Socks of all shapes and sizes adorn the surfaces of ModSock, including more than 50 cat socks alone. When asked what it’s like to run a successful business selling niche items, owner Urania Shaklee said socks aren’t a niche, they’re a need.
ModSock thrives selling solely socks because anyone can be a potential customer, Shaklee said. The value of socks comes from their utilitarianism as well as their creative patterns. Socks are both personal and universal.
The idea of selling socks came to her after the recession, Shaklee said. Socks could be a small, useful, and inexpensive gift for a friend, or a personal pick-me-up.
Shaklee started selling socks in New York state in 2010. At the time, the idea of a sock store wasn’t as widespread, she said. She moved to Bellingham in 2011 and opened ModSock and the community took to and supported her sock store.
“Here in Bellingham, there’s an adventurous spirit,” Shaklee said. “Back in New York it took some coaxing.” She said customers were eager to express their personalities through unique styles of socks. The colder weather helps too, she said.
The window display outside the store, with an expansive spread of socks, is always in flux, changing with the seasons and styles. Shaklee said one of the best parts of selling socks in Bellingham is getting to know the community through the socks they buy for special events and holidays.
“I like helping people with holiday shopping,” she said. “Even if it seems trivial, silly, or even materialistic, it’s something fun.”
The winter months are the most successful for ModSock, while business slows down in the summer. Shaklee uses the downtime to work on the store’s own brand of mostly cotton-blend socks, which are shipped to stores across the country.
Since the inception of the brand ModSocks (the store is ModSock; the brand is ModSocks), Shaklee has taken cues from staff and customer interactions to create new designs and patterns. She also keeps one eye on what’s happening in the sock world at large to stay in the game. “I want to have the best graphically designed socks with more color detail,” Shaklee said. “I think we’ll make the best socks.”
The world can be a stressful place, as of late and throughout the course of human history. ModSock wants to offer simple pleasures, like a pair of cat-mermaid (“catmaid”) socks, to help add color, warmth, and fun, and make life just a little cozier.