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Business spotlight: Frills brightens downtown Gig Harbor

Posted on July 11th, 2022 By:

Frills, the little store in downtown Gig Harbor known for its bright seasonal displays, exists to brighten peoples’ day.

So says owner Tammi Barber, whose latest work of public art is a celebration of summer featuring pool noodles, beach balls and pool floats.

Tammi Barber outside Frills by TLB Events, her store on Harborview Drive in downtown Gig Harbor. Frills features exterior installations, celebrating holidays and seasons. The latest installation, celebrating summer, features colorful pool noodles, beach balls and pool floats. Vince Dice

That might sound mundane. But arranged and arrayed by someone with a knack for design and a sense of fun, they put smiles on the faces of the hundreds of people who pass by 3126 Harborview Drive every day.

And that’s the point of the display, and the store itself.

“This store was built mostly to remind people to celebrate the small moments in life,” Barber said. Citing societal polarization and conflict, she added, “So many people have forgotten how to laugh.”

Big in an industry few think about

The full name of the store is Frills by TLB Events. Frills is the storefront and retail arm of TLB Events, which is a big name in the events planning industry.

Founded by Barber 18 years ago, TLB helps clients big and small stage events. Clients range from couples celebrating weddings to nonprofits hosting fundraisers to Fortune 500 companies throwing parties for employees or investors.

A Halloween installation at Frills. Courtesy of Frills

Microsoft, Amazon, State Farm Insurance and Alaska Airlines are among the big companies that have employed TLB’s services. Its nonprofit clients include regional biggies like Tacoma Firefighters Local 31, CHI Franciscan, MultiCare Health Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

TLB produces about 50 events per year, with Barber and her employees traveling all over the country to help clients with selecting a site, developing sponsors, lining up entertainment and lots of highly detailed design work.

Frills born during pandemic

Of course, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, practically nobody was holding events that would necessitate an event planner. Thus was Frill’s brought into existence.

Barber always planned to launch a retail outlet associated with TLB. The pandemic shutdown moved it up the to-do list.

Many of Frills’ products cater to people throwing their own events. It’s also a spot where people can pick up gifts with a more personal touch. Customers will find decorations, food and drink, keepsakes, flowers and more.

A Valentine’s Day installation at Frills. Courtesy of Frills

Real estate agents work with Frills to provide gift baskets for people buying new homes. The store also puts together “grief products,” gift boxes for people who have lost a loved one.

Such a gesture was meaningful for Bonnie Daydell, who was shopping there last week. Several friends sent her flower arrangements from Frill’s recently following the loss of her spouse.

“Every one of them was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Daydell said.

A passion for event planning

Barber’s background in design and planning events reaches back deep into her childhood.

She has lived in Gig Harbor since preschool days. Because of her dad’s calling, she ended up attending a lot of events.

“My father was a minister,” Barber said. “I went to more weddings and funerals than any kid ever should have to.

“We would always help, be there to assist with the family. As I grew up, it was something I gravitated to.”

A Christmas season display at Frills. Courtesy of Frills

As a younger adult, she volunteered for the American Heart Association. In that capacity, she learned what she called  the “back end” of staging events. And she made lots of contacts.

That experience and networking, combined with innate artistic talent and a knack for marketing, made this line of work a natural fit.

‘Is that a pool noodle?’

The eagerly-anticipated exterior displays at Frill’s are an extension of that experience and talent. They draw curious passers-by into Frills and serve as a life-size example of the work TLB Events can do.

They’re a lot of fun, too. Both for people driving or walking past and for the creative people who put them together.

“I just think it’s so welcoming,” said Mary DesMarais, executive director of the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance. “It sets the mood before you even enter the door. It’s a great example of creating curb appeal for your business.”

The whimsical summer display, which went up on July 7, is a good example. 

“I just wanted to use conventional summer items in a nonconventional way,” Barber said. “Keeping it fun and giving people a reason to stop and say, is that a pool noodle?”

The displays change every couple months or so and are typically celebrate a season or a holiday. 

A Valentine’s Day installation in 2021 featured an over-sized heart framing the front door, through which viewers could see a smaller heart inside.

An installation celebrating spring at Frills. Courtesy of Frills

A spring-themed display included a fake cherry tree. It looked real enough that many people attempted to smell the silk blossoms.

All part of the store’s mission.

“We want to provide people with things they could just brighten someone’s day,” Barber said.

Normal summer items — pool noodles, beach balls, deck chairs — combine to brighten the exterior of Frills by TLB Events on Harborview Drive in Gig Harbor. Vince Dice