Unreliable Safeway and Thriftway memories prove you don’t always get what you wish for!

Metropolitan Market Goodbye Sign.

Memoirs retell important experiences in human lives, but I think they are unreliable history. This story is my memory of efforts to stop the construction of an expanded Queen Anne Thriftway in 1990 and to block a new Safeway megastore on its nearly full block site in 1993. As sure as I am that these events actually took place, I worry about the details.

First a couple of facts: I live a bit east of both sites on First Avenue North. In 1990, I was the director of the Seattle Children’s Museum, and the Queen Anne Thriftway was a major donor. Talk about conflicts of interest! During this period, the state passed the Growth Management Act which prompted the city’s first 35-year master plan. That plan encouraged new zoning requirements and created urban villages including one on upper Queen Anne that runs west on Galer and stretches alley to alley on either side of Queen Anne Ave. N. except at Safeway where it extends to my street. I love the master plan. It called for increased density in the ‘village’ while protecting the surrounding single-family housing we cherish. The property owners of both the Thriftway and Safeway sites may have been trying end runs around the master plan before it became law in 1993.

Looking northeast at The Towne across the old parking lot.

In about 1990, the Cox family, that owned the Thriftway site, collaborated with Dick Rhodes, the store’s owner, to replace the building with a low-rise structure covering the entire site. The idea to build a store with underground parking and a much bigger footprint on the land provoked neighbors who, while loving the Thriftway, had no desire for a larger store with apartments plunked on top of it. Ours was an anti-density push that reeked of nimbyism and an unwillingness to see the neighborhood change. I was among the people who prevailed at public and design review meetings. I was also among those who cheered when the ownership abandoned the project. Seattle’s up and down economy along with national busts in both 2001 and 2008 helped preserve the existing fabric of the neighborhood. At that time, we didn’t worry about preserving the Elfrieda at Crockett and Queen Anne Ave. or either bungalow on Crockett which shared the same ownership.  Later the Cox family working with Kroger tried again to redevelop the site for a big QFC. That idea failed mainly because Kroger didn’t have the resources to buy into the massive undertaking. Ultimately developer Joe Geivett of Emerald Bay Equity acquired the site along with the Elfrieda and the bungalows. Tearing down everything on the half-block for a multitude of shops below and 140 apartment units above, Joe tried to lease the store in his new building to Thriftway under its new Metropolitan Market banner, but the numbers didn’t work. After closing its doors in 2012, Met Market abandoned the top of the hill focusing on the new store down the hill where it had taken over the bankrupt Larry’s Market. No laggard, Trader Joe’s snapped up a part of the space.

Looking east at what’s left of Elfrieda.

The Safeway’s 1993 redevelopment ideas struck me as even worse than those for Thriftway. Safeway touted the construction of a megastore which would attract shoppers from around the region. I don’t remember how many floors of apartments Safeway and its architect Val Thomas proposed, but we hated it too. The idea of a massive influx of automobiles choking our pleasant hilltop neighborhood appalled us. We didn’t look at the quality of Val Thomas’s design, perhaps because we were conflicted. We all knew Val as the architect of the marvelous preservation project at West Queen Elementary. Indeed, Val lived there in a fantastic condo he converted from the gym. Val also impressed us with his work at Capitol Hill’s Broadway Market. In the end, Safeway relented adopting an addition by Thomas that obscured its historic rainbow roof (it is still there) and the under-scaled clock tower at Crockett and Queen Anne Ave.

Safeway Bell Tower looking northeast.

Alas, when you try to protect the fabric of your neighborhood, you never know what you are wishing for. Now I see that our hostility may have been a mistake. If Metropolitan Market had built a modest building on Queen Anne Ave. N., we’d have been spared the huge development that sits there now, and we might still have our cherished supermarket and Elfrieda with her two bungalow sisters on Crockett. Now comes Safeway this year with a scheme to build out and up. We don’t know what it will look like, but our success in 1993 left the parking lot fallow ground awaiting Seattle’s next big boom and Val Thomas’ sensitive design unbuilt.

My tale is a cautionary one. Think big when you oppose increased density or up-zoning and don’t forget you don’t always get what you wish for.

Now you have my memories and the opinions they shape. They may be false. I sort of hope they are, for the errors will prove the unreliability of memoirs.  I promise to follow up with new information from folks who correctly remember these grocery store battles. Better yet, I could research the facts!

Remembering Queen Anne’s Neighborhood Grocery Stores:
Mulholland’s Cash Grocery

Owner Esther Mulholland and daughter Shirley in front of the Mulholland Cash Grocery, courtesy of Leslie Pannell Stockdale

Mulholland’s Cash Grocery was in the Uptown area of lower Queen Anne Hill, between Harrison and Thomas Streets, near the old Aasten Grocery, and a block from the Key Arena.

The store was purchased in 1939 from local grocer Rae Nakamura for $1,000 when Esther Mulholland’s husband John was dying of cancer, leaving her to raise three children. Oldest son Bob was 14, and her daughter Shirley and youngest son Jack were still in elementary school. They worked together as a family at the store, with each having a job to do.

It was located at 335 Queen Anne Avenue N. and had been operated as a grocery store since 1910 according to Polk’s city directories. When she bought it, Esther Mulholland paid $15.00 a month for rent. The first year she replaced the linoleum, and purchased a cash register for $51.00, a Burroughs adding machine for $35.70, and vegetable and fruit stands for $3.20 according to her carefully kept store ledger.

How hard was it to run a business in 1940? Given that the rent was $15.00, and total salaries were $4.00 a month the “bad” customer accounts that were long overdue were $12.78. By the end of the year the unpaid customer accounts had grown to $23.12. That is nearly six times the amount spent on monthly salaries.

The store sold fresh produce from the Pike Place Market, and bread and baked goods from Hanson Sunbeam Bakery. Beer came from Olympia, Rainer, and Lucky Lager because it was cheaper than the big Eastern brands. They also carried all the basic canned staples for customers’ convenience.

Page from Mulholland Cash Grocery journal courtesy of Leslie Pannell Stockdale

Oldest son Bob was allowed to miss a lot of class in high school so he could run the register for his mom. Eventually he was drafted into World War II and fought in the Pacific for two years. At that point Shirley was in high school and picked up the slack while Bob went to war.

The youngest son Jack went to Queen Anne High School and the store became a hangout “for young well-behaved boys,” according to the family. Soda pop and candy was very popular. Jack’s job was to sweep out the store inside and out each day.

The Mulholland family lived in a duplex home at 532 – 1st Ave West and because Esther didn’t drive, each night after closing they would all walk home.

According to granddaughter Leslie Pannell Stockdale, “the grocery store enabled the Mulholland family to survive at a very tough time losing their husband, father, and breadwinner to cancer in 1940. It was their livelihood and glued them together as a family. It was a lot of hard work but was always seen as a fun and social center for the family.”

The Mulholland family ran the store until the early 50’s when it was sold. Leslie Stockdale finds a pleasant coincidence that at the same time they started welcoming grandchildren to the family.

Remembering Queen Anne’s Neighborhood Grocery Stores:
Augustine & Kyer

1507 Queen Anne Avenue: 1908 – 1938, 30 years at Queen Anne location

Augustine & Kyer was a grand, upscale grocery store with origins in Seattle’s early years.  It was Seattle’s “Pure Food Purveyor”, selling food and merchandise of the highest quality.  It also provided superior order and delivery service to its customers.  Its stores flourished from 1907 until the 1930’s when, unfortunately, it succumbed to the Great Depression.

The history of Augustine & Kyer begins with an English grocer named Charles Louch.  In 1885, Louch opened a wood frame grocery store on Front Street (later renamed First Avenue) in what was eventually to become downtown Seattle.  The sign above the entry read, “Cigars Tobacco Groceries & Provisions”[i].  The 1885-86 Polk’s City Directory listed Louch as one of only 22 Seattle grocers.

M.B. Augustine circa 1888. Photo courtesy of MOHAI.
M.B. Augustine circa 1888. Photo courtesy of MOHAI.

In 1892, Louch formed a partnership with Manual Brock Augustine.  Before settling in Seattle, M. B. Augustine lived in Silver City, Nevada, where he owned a general merchandise and mining supply store, and in Oakland, California, where he was a salesman for J.A. Folger, the coffee company.

In 1893, Louch, Augustine & Company moved its store to the new Colman Building at the corner of First Avenue and Marion Street.  The store prospered in the late 1890’s during the Klondike gold rush, aided by Augustine’s experience as a mining supplier.  The years 1907 – 1908 brought major changes. Louch and M.B. Augustine sold the company to Henry Kyer, Augustine’s son Julius was promoted to Vice President, and Kyer changed the company’s name to Augustine & Kyer.  Kyer had been married to Alice Augustine, M.B. Augustine’s daughter, but they divorced in 1908, two days before Kyer purchased the company.[ii] …Continue reading “Remembering Queen Anne’s Neighborhood Grocery Stores:
Augustine & Kyer”