For years, Diana Naramore admitted that even she struggled to define Sip and Ship, the business she owns with her husband Steve.
Imagine if a post office had a coffee shop inside, so customers could grab a cup of joe and a snack while they wait in line. Or a gift store, attached to a shipping service, so it would be easy to mail a recently purchased present to a friend.
Enter Sip and Ship—part boutique, part shipping center, part coffee shop, plus a notary, copy, scan and print service.
“We’re the quintessential one-stop shop,” Diana said. “We’re the modern day general store with a post office inside.”
She simply wants to take care of people, mail and packages all in one spot. “We try to take the complexity out of the shipping world,” she said. “That’s our goal. We just want to make it easy.”
Diana and her husband met while working for a luxury cruise line in California. She worked in customer service; he was in marketing.
The couple had just welcomed their first son, when they decided to make a move to Seattle. Steve had a job waiting and the Naramores were ready for a change.
They were loaded up in the U-Haul when 9-11 happened. Soon after, jobs in travel faded away.
Steve commuted for a while and did some consulting. In the meantime, Diana was eager to get back to work.
“I worked since I was 10 or 12,” she said. “I had a paper route. I babysat. I cleaned out dog cages, worked at McDonald’s. I’ve never not worked. I’m addicted to it.”
One day, she was walking in Queen Anne with her stroller. “I wheeled into Queen Anne Mail and Dispatch and begged for a job,” she said.
The owner Jan Paolini took notice of how much Diana was enjoying the work, even the challenges she faced at her post. She encouraged Diana to consider starting her own business.
“I love mail,” Diana said. “I love the magic of mail. There’s so much sweetness in mail. I literally tripped into my passion.”
Still, she had never considered opening her own business, especially one dedicated to shipping. “It was daunting,” she said.
Steve is a coffee aficionado, and the couple started plotting ways to combine their passions. “We merged it together,” Diana said.
Sip and Ship was born.
The Naramores found a location in Ballard, 1752 NW Market St. They completely remodeled the space into their dream business.
Diana was pregnant with her second child at the time. She gave birth at Swedish Hospital across the street the day before the shop opened in 2002. She was brimming with excitement about her new son and her business baby.
It turned out to be more of a struggle than she expected. “You think if you build it, they will come,” she said. “That didn’t happen. It was crickets. It took a long time to build from the ground up. It’s not easy. It’s not overnight. But it sure is fun.”
The couple had business experience and the know-how to get going. “We had a strong foundation,” Diana said. “We knew how to build a team.”
Sip and Ship started with five crewmembers and now employs about 25. The store expanded and evolved with time. In 2005, the Naramors opened a second location in Greenwood.
“We thought, we figured this out, let’s try another neighborhood,” Diana said.
Then, the recession hit. “We almost lost our business and our house,” Diana said. “It was heartbreaking. But we didn’t want to give up. We’re not quitters.”
The couple persevered. “It did teach us some valuable things, like how to run a lean business,” Diana said.
They also moved their Greenwood store a few blocks south to 7511 Greenwood Ave, which turned out to be a better location.
These days, Diana is thinking about expanding to a third shop or possibly opening a franchise.
“The reward I get is just knowing I’ve touched someone every day, whether it’s coffee, conversation or collaborating with someone,” Diana said. “We serve a lot of unique customers and businesses. I love hearing what people are doing, and it’s wonderful to be involved in some way.”
Jennifer Weber is one of the regulars at Sip and Ship. She’s been a customer for about 15 years.
“I consider Diana and her staff to be integral to the success of my small business,” Weber said. “The quality of service and care they provide is unparalleled. There’s such a spirit of kindness and a spirit of service that’s missing in today’s age.”
Weber said Diana and the Sip and Ship team make her feel valued as a customer. “It makes a really big difference,” she said. “It really is very special.”