Comic shop owners nurture LGBT community

Wives started local drag show, now host open holiday parties



“Kathy and I have kind of been gay moms for long enough that it’s scary,” says Safari Pearl co-owner Tabitha Simmons about her wife and her role in the community.

ALANA LACKNER, Evergreen managing editor

Safari Pearl expanded past its reputation as a place to buy comics and costumes, as it has also become known as a place for patrons to be themselves, thanks to the store’s owners: married couple Tabitha Simmons and Kathy Sprague.

“Yeah, Kathy and I have kind of been gay moms for long enough that it’s scary,” Simmons said.

Sprague said their store was like an unofficial queer center before there were offices on Pullman and Moscow’s university campuses. Simmons agreed.

On top of running their store, the pair also started the TabiKat drag show.

“Many years ago, on my 18th birthday, my friend David and I came out to each other,” Sprague said. “My 28th birthday was his funeral. And so for my 30th birthday, we threw the first drag show as kind of a celebration of his life and to get me over that depression, try to associate my birthday with something pleasant instead of a funeral.”

The drag show started small, but grew to become the celebration that Sprague and Simmons said they knew it could be.

“It has become far more streamlined,” Sprague said. “It was very chaotic in the early days. I sobered up 10 years ago, so that helped it become a better event.”

The drag show began as an almost totally queer event, but Simmons said the crowd has changed to become more “straight” and more generally inclusive.

“There are two straight couples that met at our drag show back in the day that are married to this day,” Simmons said.

Sprague said the event still continues with its message to honor her friend who passed away.

“It’s probably the best way to remember David,” Sprague said. “I think people [are just] comfortable with themselves and celebrate who they are and just have a great time doing it, and that’s what David was all about. He, I’m sure, would approve.”

Simmons added that the drag show offers something beneficial for everyone, no matter the gender or sexual orientation.

“Being there and knowing that someone has your back and no creepy dude is gonna get in your space because we’ve got your back,” Simmons said. “It’s a good place for more than just queer kids.”

The pair hope to become even more involved in the community beyond the drag show. They host annual events as a way of giving back to the community, though they said they’re more localized to the store.

“We’ve provided Thanksgiving meals for, oh, the last 10 years?” Simmons said. “It’s just a free Thanksgiving Day feast that’s open to anyone.”

The couple provide the meal, while diners can bring desserts. People play games at the store all day to celebrate Thanksgiving. But this isn’t the only holiday event they host.

For New Year’s Eve, they throw a party also centered around board games, Simmons said. They have some alcohol, but it’s an alternative to heavy drinking, she said.

“And we had a proposal this year,” Simmons said. “A couple drove up from Lewiston and proposed to her during the board games.”

There is more charity involved in their business than the couple sometimes let on. They’ve helped out with various charity events, including Mardi Gras. They sold tickets at their store, and the drag show was one of the venues.

They’ve also been supporters of the Humane Society of the Palouse, and have sponsored films at the Kenworthy. This year they also helped out with Mardi Bras, which helps give women who can’t afford them access to feminine products and garments.

“They asked us if we would promote the event and I said, ‘Bring me a donation cup,’ ” Sprague said.

The couple tries to nurture people in need outside of their business, too.

“When someone’s house burned down, we would offer help whether they were part of the queer community or just the community in general,” Sprague said. “We’ve been involved my whole life and I’ve always felt it’s important to be part of the community and help your neighbors when you can.”