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Danny Kaopuiki's

Kama`aina Profile

September 2007

Alonzo Ohana

At the intersection of “M” and 41st Streets in Tacoma sits a little store with a Big Heart. In the past, no one would dare park in the first parking space in front of the store because everyone knew that the spot was used by drug dealers who frequented the area. The space is now open to any and all.....due, in great part, to the efforts of a Hawaiian family who have brought new vitality, high values, a sense of improved security and a great big Heart into the Whitman area neighborhood.

Meet the Alonzo Ohana.....owners of the “Queen’s Closet”, the little store with a Big Heart which just celebrated it’s first anniversary in August 2007! “Queen’s Closet” is the dream project of Sandra Lee Clouse Alonzo, Kamehameha Schools 1968 graduate who now lives in Olympia, WA. The “QC” is much more than a place where women can find quality plus size clothing. The store has an aura of Aloha and warmth which makes every visitor feel very welcome and comfortable. Sandy and Ray Alonzo want to make a difference in the community.

Professionally, Sandy has worked for over eighteen years as Assistant to the Manager of the Pierce County Human Services ALTC program where every workday is spent serving the needy! After every full day working for Pierce County, she spends another 4-6 hours plus weekends at the “Queen’s Closet”. Sandy does not deny that “QC”is a for-profit “Upscale Plus Size Consignment Store” but her greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the happy faces of her plus-sized customers who have no difficulty finding quality, affordable clothing that fit at the “QC”. Many of the items unsold after a ninety day consignment period are donated to a number of charities that serve women in need. Some of the women helped are survivors of domestic violence while others are returning to the work force and need appropriate clothing for job interviews. “QC” also supports a non-profit group which provides clothing to previously incarcerated women as they return to their respective communities.

It has been said that “behind every successful man stands a great woman”. In the case of the “Queen’s Closet”, Raymond John Alonzo is the “great man behind the successful woman”. Ray, a native of the island of Lana`i, is a retired Command Sergeant Major (E-9) who had been working at Ft Lewis following his retirement from a twenty three year career in the US Army. He admits, thankfully, that Sandy was always by his side, a “steadfast rock and safe harbor” during his long and often dangerous military career!

When she came home one evening about a year ago, she said “Hi Honey...guess what I bought today? It’s a clothing store and boutique for plus sized women”. Ray’s first comment (after awakening from his fainting spell) was “Okay, you helped me in my US Army career, how can I help you fulfill your dream?” Ray soon gave up his job at Ft Lewis and became the full time Manager at the “Queen’s Closet”. Ray says he enjoys the work but sometimes (like when customers try on clothing and then ask him how it looks) he thinks it’s scarier than his combat duties in Vietnam were. Fortunately, Ray is a smart guy (he is from Lana`i after all) and a gentleman and always has the right responses (meaning he has not been slapped alongside the head.....yet). With the help of his wonderful (female) staff members, he has even learned to refer to a size 20W as a “20 Women’s”, not a “20 Wide”!

Sandy Alonzo is an amazing woman in many, many ways! She was one of the key players in the founding of two of the largest Hawaiian “clubs” (the Lokahi Ohana and Kamehameha Schools Alumni Assn/Washington Region) in the Pacific NW area.

In spite of often having seven day workweeks, Sandy and Ray still find time to do the job they love most.... being Mother/Father/Grandma/Grandpa of: Ray Alonzo Jr (who resides in Vancouver, WA with his wife Raena and their five children), Sean Alonzo (who lives in University Place, WA with his daughter) and Melanie Alonzo Panui (who lives in Tacoma, WA with her husband Ellery and their three sons).

It does “take a village (or at least a lot of people) to make a business successful” and Sandy Alonzo says that the “QC” staff are the real reason for the success, so far, of the store with a Big Heart! To Sandy and Ray, all their staff are “ohana”.....some are related by blood (like son/part time Manager Sean Alonzo and niece Tracey, the bookkeeper) while the remainder (Anna Maria, Diane, Savannah, and Taniesha) are related by the camaraderie they share!

The “QC” specializes in size 12 to 6X apparel, many of which are often designer brand name items. The “QC Tropical Zone” features Hawaiian clothing and accessories. Sandy stresses the fact that “QC”is not a “thrift shop” as she is very selective about items she allows to be sold in “QC”. Items are of the most current styles and many have never been used!

The next time you stop in at the “Queen’s Closet”, walk back into the little kitchen area and look at the pretty little quilt hanging on the wall......six embroidered hearts shout out everything you need to know about this place....that it is the little store with the Big Heart! Mahalo Sandy and Ray Alonzo........your beautiful dream project the “Queens Closet” helps so many people in so many different ways!!!!

Until next time, be kind to each other.....me ke Aloha pumehana...........Danny


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