If you’ve strolled through downtown Bellingham lately, you may have noticed a new sign resting above a familiar shop. Although its vibrant window display featuring hundreds of socks is still intact, the store itself recently underwent a rebranding. Modsock, Bellingham’s beloved purveyor of novelty socks, is now Cute but Crazy.
Urania and Ben Shaklee are the masterminds behind both Cute but Crazy (the retail store local to Bellingham) and Modsocks (the sock design line sold worldwide). Modsocks is a separate sister business and carries forth the legacy of the shop’s original name.
The socks from Cute but Crazy are far from ordinary, and wearing them is an act of self-expression. They could be described as funky, artful, or unique; however, Urania notes that the word customers most commonly use is “crazy.” Rather than fight against the usage of this term, the staff realized they could be more productive as mental health advocates.
“Mental illness is something that impacts our entire community and has certainly impacted our staff and our customers,” says Urania. “And we just decided that, as a business, we want to be of help.”
Urania hopes that the rebrand will be a catalyst for conversation. Beyond its name, Cute but Crazy walks the walk: 1% of sales benefits the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They also work with NAMI as a stigma-free brand partner.
Cute but Crazy has been in business for nearly a decade, providing the community with color and much-needed coziness during the winter months. When asked about the evolution of the store, Urania told me an anecdote about her first-ever sale. It didn’t go as planned: Their credit card processor caught fire internally, began smoking, and had to be taken outside.
“Every business starts somewhere, right? Well, that’s where we started,” she says with a laugh. “We had a much smaller inventory than we do now. We didn’t have a website at that time, but now we have quite a robust online business.”
The sock shop has grown substantially since those early days, expanding into a sister design company in addition to a brick-and-mortar retail store. Modsocks can now be found all over the United States as well as Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Shaklees started their business with the goal of providing the most beautiful and artistic socks on the market. As a result, the company has succeeded in raising the bar for what’s possible with sock designs. Spotting Modsocks “in the wild” is a common experience, but despite this success, Ben and Urania agree that it’s always satisfying to see their creations being worn around town.
Many original ModSocks designs, such as last spring’s lineup featuring cherry blossoms, are inspired by their customers and life in the Pacific Northwest. They note that this community truly cares for its local businesses, and fun and colorful socks are an excellent compliment to Bellingham’s adventurous spirit. Even in the dreariest of seasons, a visit to Cute but Crazy is sure to make your day feel brighter.
1323 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham, 360.746.6255, crazysocks.com