Shining a Light: Seattle Philanthropist Lee Rhodes

The founder of glassybaby shares her favorite spots in Seattle.

Officially founded in 2001, glassybaby devotes 10 percent of every purchase to charities. Currently, glassybaby is also on the road: its glassroots tour is bringing glassybaby across the country. Founder Lee Rhodes spoke with Where about helping those in need, where she travels and her favorite holiday traditions.

How did glassybaby start?

In a nutshell, I had cancer and I was trying to find ways to get beyond the day-to-day and look forward to the future and positive things. We dropped a tea light into this hand-blown little cup, and it lit up. Everyone around me wanted it, and everyone started lighting extra ones we had for me. We started making more in Seattle, and it started out of my garage. It really is just that story.

How much have you given away at this point?

We’re almost at 2.5 million dollars. We think we’ll reach 3 million on our glassroots tour going around the country right now. We went from being a really sweet little company that did this sweet little thing and this messaging and all of the sudden, these little warriors of ours are going out into the world and doing great work. We really are affecting people’s lives. It's kind of exciting. It really has nothing to do with me anymore, and that’s the most exciting part.

glassybaby vessels

What kinds of charities do you donate to?

We’re really looking for healing, and healing comes in a lot of different packages. What I really had a personal experience with was people who didn’t have a holistic healing recipe because they came to chemo, but then they were completely stressed about parking a mile away because they couldn’t afford the parking. Or they couldn’t get there at all because they couldn’t afford the bus fare and didn’t have childcare. So we really try to dedicate our giving to anything that has to do with healing. Whether that’s the environment, whether that’s animals that then turn around and help people get unconditional love, or whether its food, food banks. And then, of course, uncompensated care is our favorite. It’s no questions asked. We’ll give you money. If you need blue jeans, a pack of cigarettes, or vodka rocks—I can’t tell you what it’s going take to get you well. We’re hugely supportive of the VA hospitals as well. Our drinkers [another product line] all go to the VA.

What is your fondest Seattle memory?

I came out here to row with the University of Washington, and my first real memory [is] going to the Logboom during Seafair in the early ’80s. It was crazy and I mean, if you’re from Seattle, you know how crazy it was. It’s nothing like it was now. It was crazy. And I think that’s my fondest memory. I would never do it now. Then it was just different.

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

We usually leave Christmas Day, so the pre-holidays, I really like going to Lowell’s at breakfast in the Market, and then just walking around Seattle and getting last-minute gifts. So when the kids get home from high school or college, we’ll do something like that. I love being home with my glassybaby Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve that’s probably the best thing.

What about a favorite restaurant?

I have three. I have Nishino, which is in my neighborhood. It’s Japanese, and they’re like family to us. I love it. I have Monsoon which is on 19th. [Owner] Eric’s just amazing, and their food is amazing. Sometimes I find myself saying we have to go now. I need that food today. That’s how Monsoon is for me. And then I love Mamnoon, which is kind of new. It’s new, but it’s really nice to have a totally different ethnic food group offering. So we’re really excited to go there when we can get there, too.

Washington Park Arboretum

What is a must-do for a visitor to the city?

The arboretum. For sure. It’s a must-do and a must-see. Don’t keep it to one hour. That place is enormous and there are so many paths and there are so many ways to see it. There’s nothing like it. It’s the most under-utilized city park. I cannot believe how many days I am alone there. It’s crazy. I can let my dogs off-leash and I don’t see anyone the entire time I’m there. And it is the most beautiful park ever.

What do you think makes Seattle special?

I don’t think we take ourselves that seriously. And I hope we never do. It’s like it’s always OK to not put it together. It’s still OK to think of other people first here. It’s OK to be nice here. I think we’re pretty high-powered. Not so much glassybaby, but there’s some high-powered worlds out here. And I still feel like it’s OK to show your underbelly.

Where do you like to go on vacation?

I like Jackson Hole. We’re big skiers and then big hikers, so Jackson Hole is perfect. We travel all over the world. I love to go to exotic places. We went to Peru and Brazil this summer. I like to get out and get away.

glassybaby vessels

What is a must-pack item for any trip?

Glassybaby. Can’t carry lighters so I don’t bring those. I do bring tealights. Umm, probably my husband.

What’s the No. 1 destination on your travel wish list?

India. I haven’t been there and I really want to go. We’ve covered a lot of territory but I’ve never been there. I'd like to go there and bring a lot of [glassybaby] reds and light them. It seems like a natural affinity for me with glassybaby. It’s on the bucket list, I’ll get there sometime soon.

Window or aisle seat?

Aisle. Oh, my god, I’m up all the time.

glassybaby vessels

My Perfect Day

Early Morning

My favorite breakfast is leftover Brussels sprouts with a fried egg on top. That would be my perfect start-out.

Mid-Morning

I love to go across the bridge; it’s interesting, I don’t go to the Eastside ever, really, but if you just go to the Eastside all the way to the end of Marymoor Park, I have dogs—I just lost a 14-year-old, which is devastating. But then I have this really obnoxious 7-month-old and then I have an 8-year-old. Its great, we go to Marymoor. Two hours over there with some other weird people who are dog-crazy is just heaven to me. We talk about our dogs; we show pictures of our dogs. Most people don’t like it, but that’s a really heavenly place for me.

Lunchtime

Lunch at Ba Bar. It’s the best place ever.

Afternoon

If I come to work, I love messing around with colors with Raya [Friday, R&D Manager and glassblower]. That would be a top-notch day.

Late Afternoon

Then maybe go to the arboretum or swim in Lake Washington. If it’s summer, swim in Lake Washington in the afternoon. It’s the best thing ever. The perfect temperature—that lake never gets too warm.

Dinnertime

Probably dinner at Nishino, if I wasn’t going to cook. I have a pizza oven, so sometimes we cook outside, so if I’m going out, I’d probably go to dinner at Nishino. But my perfect day would be to stay home and cook a pizza.

Evening

If my kids are home, we can hang out with them. Sit around the fire and have some red blend. They all play music; they can play their guitars.

Stacy Booth
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