By Amy Young, November 2018 issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2018 here.
It was the early 1990’s when Doug Klinge, an Arizona transplant from Michigan, decided to walk away from a bad situation and follow a new path into a good one. He left a job that found him working for a toxic manager and opened Unique on Central, a fun boutique packed with LGBTQ-oriented merchandise that remained a popular destination until it closed in 2010.
“I worked for J Riggins, a men’s clothing store at Scottsdale Fashion Square where I was the manager for more than two years,” Klinge recalled. “After that first couple of years, I was assigned a new manager for our region who wanted me to fire my assistant manager. When I asked for a reason, she told me it was his lifestyle that she didn’t approve of and that she ‘didn’t want anyone like him working for the company.’ He refused, and two weeks later she tried to fire him for the same reason – being gay. When he confronted her and asked her if his being gay was indeed the reason why, she confirmed his assumption.
With Arizona a right to work state, Klinge didn’t have much legal recourse. With the help of some supportive friends, he determined his next move. They suggested that he take his retail experience and open his own store; one for the LGBTQ community. “They were confident that I’d be successful and that I’d also find a sense of justice in this new adventure, along with having a way to give back to the community.”
He didn’t hesitate. “I sold everything I had to make it happen,” Klinge told us. “I even sold my car so that I could move forward on this venture. I met with the landlord of the spot Unique started in and scheduled it to open on October 4, 1994. In February of 1995, I took over the space next door so that I could expand Unique.”
Those who remember Klinge’s colorful boutique – and there are many – can tell you that it was a great place to go when you wanted to laugh. The greeting card section alone was a draw; it teemed with hilarious options. We’re talking about a card section that won “best of”-type awards. Filled with sarcastic and perfect one-liners, the card racks inspired lengthy browsing sessions as patrons picked their favorites.
If you needed a place to grab your rainbow jewelry or pick up some sexy spandex, Klinge had you covered. CD’s, t-shirts, candles, and even a tube of lube, this was your destination. Upbeat music kept the house rocking. Between that and the friendly, helpful staff, it was like walking into a shopping party.
Creating a shopping destination was just part of Klinge’s mission. Adding that welcoming vibe was another. “I wanted a place that could be fun but also full of information about our community. My main focus was to bring unity to our community and raise awareness about all of the non-profit agencies here to provide support, and also to raise funds. I wanted to be an information resource – my hallway was filled with flyers and business cards for the community.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Meet the rest of the inductees here.