Archibald Sisters: 40-plus years of sass and fun

Archibald Sisters still selling sass at 42 years and counting

Always active in the downtown Olympia business community Phil Rollins' eclectic and popular Archibald Sisters' store has been a fixture since 1975.
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Always active in the downtown Olympia business community Phil Rollins' eclectic and popular Archibald Sisters' store has been a fixture since 1975.

Sassy, funny, quirky. That might best describe the downtown Olympia retail institution known as Archibald Sisters, which opened its doors in the 1970s and is set to turn 42 in October.

The year was 1975. Phil Rollins, along with two Archibald sisters, one of whom, Susie, he married, and her sister, Shelley, opened the store. The storefront got its start on Fifth Avenue, but later moved to Capitol Way in 1991.

Rollins went from co-owner to eventual owner in 2008, he said.

Why downtown Olympia? Rollins said he loves the general vibe of downtown, the people and “what’s offered here for the size of town is pretty incredible.” He also lives downtown.

From eye-catching window displays, to the bright interior and catchy music playing on the turntable — and the toys, cards, candies, masks and other novelties — it might be easy to overlook the backbone of the business: Its fragrances, lotions and colognes.

Archibald has more than 150 fragrances and allows customers to sniff-test a number of them to create their own. Some popular fragrances for women include “OlyGirl” and “Vanilla Coconut,” and for men, “Hero” and “OlyGuy.”

Rollins, 64, highlighted some popular items at the store, such as Bigfoot and Olympia-themed creations, and so did employee Alithea O’Dell, who has worked at the store seven months.

O’Dell grew up in Olympia and grew up shopping for perfume oil or lotion at Archibald Sisters, she said.

“Someone will walk by and I’ll think, ‘Hey, that’s what I wore in high school,’ ” O’Dell said.

Rollins praised his loyal customers and his “incredible staff,” two of which have worked at the store for 10 years, he said.

O’Dell pointed out a line of socks that are popular with customers. One pair reads: “Hark! To the microbrewery. At once!”

You can also find fun candy such as Air Heads, and a selection of enamel and embroidered pins have been popular, she said.

Or, perhaps Procession of the Species — a parade distinct to Olympia — is around the corner and you need a mask to wear.

O’Dell recalled seeing a boy put on the horse mask and startle his mother.

Archibald Sisters introduced a mail-order business in 1979, Rollins said, and the store has had a customer in Chicago for just as long. Rollins also has been active in downtown over the years. He is a past board member of the Olympia Downtown Association and the Parking and Business Improvement Area board.

Archibald Sisters

Owner: Phil Rollins.

Location: Since 1991, Archibald Sisters has been at 406 Capitol Way S. Before that, the business was on Fifth Avenue. Archibald Sisters also has a location in Portland that opened in September 2012.

Years in business: Archibald Sisters is set to turn 42 in October.

Type of buisness: A retailer perhaps best known for its fragrances, it also sells cards, fashion accessories, candy, toys and novelties.

Employees: 11 between the two stores.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Online: You can find Archibald Sisters at or Facebook or Instagram.

Did you know: In the early 1980s, Nordstrom made a onetime purchase of lotions and body washes from Archibald Sisters, Rollins said. Daughters Hayley and Lucy are involved with the Portland store.