Tom Kleifgen and Lei Ann Shiramizu, owners of MOMO, a boutique store in the Chinatown – International District, celebrate closing their store in Seattle, Washington, September 27, 2020. While they loved running the business, the couple plans to retire in Hawaii. Photo by Karen Ducey.

The final days for bittersweet for Tom Kleifgen and Lei Ann Shiramizu, owners of MOMO, who recently closed their doors for good on Sunday, September 27, 2020. Fashion designer Kaitlin Uemura will take over the space and turn it into something new.

The couple had owned the store on the corner of South Jackson St. and 6th Avenue South since 2007. Prior to that the building was occupied by a popular variety store named the Higo 10 Cent Store run by Masako “Masa” Murakami from 1909 to 2003. 

Shiramizu and Kleifgen moved in the corner space and followed a similar vein selling a mix of goods for men and women including clothing, jewelry, home accessories and Asian collectibles. “One of the things that we’ve come to be known for through the years,” says Shiramizu, “is for Omiyage, the perfectly presented gift, because we always love to gift wrap here.“ 

“This corner has been a pretty important corner to reestablish in Japantown,” added Kleifgen. “We don’t want to see that energy lost or forgotten. It’s interesting that of all the people that have come to support it, it’s the young people that identify with this neighborhood.”  

The couple plans to retire to Hawaii. 

Uemura, 28, originally from Hawaii, says, “We still want it to be a retail shop, but I am a fashion designer. I make my own clothes like what I’m wearing right now. We plan to expand our collection, use some of the space to make the items in-house and also bring on a lot of the handmade designers that we know. Not only clothing, but jewelry, home goods and local artists to help do art installments and make it a place where the community can see what’s fresh in the neighborhood with what artists are doing.” She is hopeful she can open before the holiday season.    

Tom Kleifgen and Lei Ann Shiramizu (right), owners of MOMO, celebrate the closing of their store, MOMO, with Kaitlin Uemura (left) who will be taking over the space, in the International District in Seattle, Washington on September 27, 2020. Photo by Karen Ducey.

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