“Business Around the Hill”
by Marina Gordon
So, the streetcars are gone… the little neighborhood grocery stores have given way to supermarkets, and Baskin & Robbins satisfies the ice cream cravings once treated at the corner soda fountains. And Queen Anne Hill as we knew it then persists mainly in the fond memories of those of us who were there.
Long-time Queen Anne resident
Van de Kamp’s bakery, topped with a big windmill, opened at Mercer Street and Queen Anne Avenue in the 1920s and kept the neighborhood well-supplied with baked goods until the mid-1960s.
Queen Anne’s topography has been a major influence on the development of its business community. Much of Queen Anne developed in the pre-automobile era and businesses sprang up along streetcar lines, which began snaking up and over the hill just after the turn of the century. These routes were determined as much by engineering skills of the day as the geography being developed.
Business growth on the hill in the first half of the twentieth century followed some general trends. A few large centers attracted shoppers from throughout the hill and the city, but it was the small, neighborhood-oriented shopping enclaves that met the residents’ daily needs. Almost every neighborhood had its own grocer store, and many had a butcher shop, bakery, drug store, and beauty shop. Three smaller neighborhood centers could be found at Fourth Avenue N. and Boston Street, near John Hay School; at Galer Street and Second Avenue N., the Queen Anne High School area; and at the intersection of Tenth Avenue W. and Howe Street.
Before World War I, most stores usually made deliveries of groceries by horse and wagon. Drugstores made deliveries by bicycle, and others used foot delivery. In the 1910s and 1920s, most businesses, grocery stores in particular, were smaller than they are today and often could survive by providing for only the people who lived within a few blocks. As the popularity of the automobile (but not its reliability) rose in the 1920s, service stations sprang up and prospered.
The hardships of the Depression forced local business people to rely more on ingenuity and customers’ loyalties. In 1933, Queen Anne News editor Clyde Dunn wrote, “Queen Anne is virtually a city in itself…. Just think what an outstanding business section we could build here … if the buying power of this vast number of people were concentrated in the community. Buying at home is the quickest way to prosperity.” Business owners did not rely solely on devotion to neighborhood stores to entice people to shop locally. They came up with contests, drawings, and prizes to lure customers who might otherwise shop downtown.
Although businesses had to compete against each other to survive, they also banded together for strength and formed such organizations as the Queen Anne Merchants Club, the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce, and the Progressive Grocers Association. The latter was a group of eleven businesses who shared purchasing, marketing, and advertising. As the Depression came to an end, participation in these associations dwindled. The war economy helped most of Queen Anne’s retail businesses, just as it did those nationwide, but rationing was difficult on some merchants.
PRIMARY ENCLAVES AND LONG-TERM BUSINESSES
Since the turn of the century thousands of businesses have opened and closed their doors on the hill. Many businesses areas can be identified, but only the six primary ones are discussed here: (1) Queen Anne Avenue between Galer and McGraw Streets; offshoots of Queen Anne onto (2) West Galer Street and (3) Boston Street; (4) McGraw Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue W.; (5) the Uptown area, bordered by Queen Anne Avenue, Mercer Street, and Denny Way; and (6) Nickerson Street from Queen Anne Avenue to the Ballard Bridge. Each has grown and shrunk with the vagaries of population and cultural trends that endure to this day.
This chapter chronicles the history of long-term businesses on Queen Anne Hill, both past and present, that have operated for more than 35 years in the six business areas identified above. Every effort was made to identify and contact all qualifying businesses, even those closed at the time of writing. However, many businesses indicated that they were not interested in participating in this effort and did not submit a history. Those histories which were submitted for Queen Anne businesses are presented here.
QUEEN ANNE AVENUE N. — TOP OF THE HILL
If Queen Anne is like a small town, Queen Anne Avenue is its Main Street. Since the early 1900s, the top of Queen Anne Avenue from Lee Street to McGraw has been the backbone of the business community on the top of the hill. The streetcars that were inaugurated soon after the turn of the century afforded people easy access to the hill’s main business artery. Offshoots of the growth occurred on West Galer and Boston streets, coinciding with the arrival of the streetcar lines. When strolling along Queen Anne Avenue in the early 1920s, one could see a fully developed, medium-sized business community with two pharmacies, three plumbing shops, Elchey’s Candy and Ice Cream store, a grocery store on almost every block, a number of bakeries, a beauty shop, and the Queen Anne Theater.
In the early years of Queen Anne’s growth, grocery stores on the hill were usually small, family-owned shops with the exception of Augustine and Kyer. This posh store on Queen Anne Avenue and Galer Street employed many of the hill’s young men to deliver groceries. The half-block-long store between Galer and Garfield Streets on the west side of the block catered to “all the people who had money,” claimed Fred Betts, a former delivery boy. He described his job in the following manner: “I would make about three trips a day delivering all over Queen Anne Hill. I was the swamper part of the team. A swamper stood back on the runner below the bumper, and the driver would stop near the house where the delivery was, and you’d grab ahold of the box and fun up to the house. Then you’d turn around and run back and get back on the truck and go on to the next place.” Augustine & Kyer closed during the Depression.
The Counterbalance Barber Shop began as the Queen Anne Barber Shop in 1910, later becoming Mike’s Barber Shop. In 1980 Len Hagardt bought the barber shop and renamed it Counterbalance for the old counterweight trolley system that had run past the shop for 35 years before it was replaced in 1939. Occupying the same space at 1424 Queen Anne Avenue since the building opened, the barber shop is an 80-year-old landmark business and one of the oldest barber shops in the city.
The Hilltop Tavern opened at 2129 Queen Anne Avenue N. in 1933, the year Prohibition was lifted, and was a Queen Anne source for spirits until its 1993 closing. Above the bar hung a photo of the first Christmas the bar was open, revealing that though the neighborhood changed a great deal, the neighborhood tavern had not.
Among Queen Anne’s longtime residents, two defunct movie theaters, the Queen Anne Theater and the Cheerio Theater, hold particularly strong memories. The Queen Anne Theater at Queen Anne Avenue and Boston Street was advertised as “the first neighborhood theater in the country,” recalled Paul Mooney, “and this was not disputed from any quarter. It opened Christmas day, 1911, with a French hand-colored religious picture (probably Pathe). It was afterward operated by William Shaw. Opening prices were ten cents for adults; five cents for children and take off your roller skates!” The theater moved in the late 1920s, replacing the Cheerio Theater, 1929 Queen Anne Avenue.
Dolores Graham Doyle added her recollections: “Saturday theater programs, cowboy serials, and cartoons at the two Queen Anne theaters kept many of the Magnolia kids off the street most of the day. We went in groups and had a great time for just ten cents each! Best of all was the post-show treat of double-dip ice creams for only a nickel.”
QUEEN ANNE AVENUE AND BOSTON STREET
Dr. Sam Standard owned much of the property on this corner when the hill was developing in the 1920s. One of the centers on the top of the hill, the nearby shops offered most of life’s necessities, and many of the luxuries. The corner boasted popular groceries, as well as two drugstores, many doctors, and a movie theater. The Queen Anne News office was right down the block.
Salladay’s Drug (formerly Standard Drug) was founded by Dr. Sam Standard at the northeast corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Boston Street. Elmer Salladay bought Standard Drug in 1956 after it had passed through a number of hands. Salladay built the present store in 1968 and sold it in 1978 to Lois Roby. Salladay has claimed that over the 20 years he owned the drugstore, his business got better and better every year, although he saw many other small pharmacies close.
Nick Muscynski, who owned and operated Standard Bakery, on Boston Street east of Queen Anne Avenue in the 1920s, was the shop’s earliest known owner. In 1930 the new owner, a Mr. Anderson, earned a loyal following among the neighborhood children, whom coincidentally he always treated to donuts and cookies. In 1993 Standard Bakery’s current owners, Mark and Dan Pavlovic, continue in that tradition, with the neighborhood’s children still very much involved in bakery commerce. In addition, students of the Seattle Country Day School have brightened up the back rooms with large murals of Queen Anne.
Charles M. Brod moved the Standard Grocery to Boston Street near the drugstore from its location at 2132 Queen Anne Avenue N. Retiring in 1963, Brod had been in the grocery business on Queen Anne for 50 years. Paul Mooney characterized Broad as “the very last in he city of the ‘old telephone-order, deliver, 30-day-billing corner grocers’ and quite a man.” Morris Mezistrano was one recipient of his kindness. When he opened his own grocery, the S&M Market, at the corner of Boston Street and Queen Anne Avenue, he asked Brod for $50 to help get his business started. “He lent me the money and wouldn’t let me pay him back. He said this was my wedding present.”
Aasten’s Grocery, 300 Queen Anne Avenue, was a typical family-run corner grocery store — with a difference. The Aastens sold very fresh produce all season long from their own store garden. The large garden was behind the store and next to their home. Molly Aasten, who worked in the store as did everyone in the family, recalls that the milk came from Kristofferson’s Dairy, Turner & Pease provided the eggs and butter, potatoes and onions came from Dahlgren’s on the waterfront, and most of the canned goods came from Schwabacher Bros.
WEST GALER STREET
Location has meant everything for businesses along W. Galer Street. At the northern end of the old Counterbalance, business spilled in two directions, down Queen Anne Avenue N. and down W. Galer. Businesses flourished along W. Galer to Fourth Avenue W. because of the streetcar line that ran from Sixth Avenue W. to Queen Anne Avenue N.
In 1925, a local could have had a suit pressed at the Queen Anne Pressery, shopped for groceries at Cook, Gregory & Company, gotten a haircut at Mr. Carter’s (after which , according to his ad, “She will think more of you and you will look better”), and picked up repaired shoes at Austin Banks (“Mender of Bad Soles; Surgeon to Old Shoes”).
M. J. Nelsen and his sister Elizabeth opened Nelsen’s Quality Grocery on the south side of W. Galer Street and 4th Avenue W. in 1919. In the 1930s and 1940s M.J.’s sons, Fred and Don, joined the family business, which was moved across Fourth Avenue W. Fred Nelsen retired in the 1980s and Don has continued to operate the store. Nelsen’s Quality Grocery has the distinction of being the oldest family business on Queen Anne Hill.
HIGH SCHOOL HANGOUTS
There were many hangouts for Queen Anne High students on W. Galer. Among the most fondly remembered was Al’s Hamburgers, located on W. Galer and Queen Anne Avenue N. First opened in 1926, by the 1950s Alexander Gordon had moved his business to 1517 Queen Anne Avenue N. Paul Mooney described Gordon as “a man of great resistance, contending with those generations of high school characters, and a friend and confidante to all of them” Others are more apt to remember the 15-cent hamburgers.
The Grizzly Inn, across the street from Queen Anne High, was a home away from home for many students. Dee Simmons Hopworth recalled that in the early 1940s, “The Grizzly Inn was north of the school and became our headquarters. George Lammereaux owned the Inn and was good to the students. He employed them, sheltered them from the attendance office ‘spies,’ and allowed the bricks in the fireplace at the west end of The Inn to be painted with our names.” Such an honor was not free. Another Queen Anne student remembers paying 50 cents to have her named painted on the bricks over the fireplace.
WEST MCGRAW STREET AND FIVE CORNERS
By the 1920s the enclave along West McGraw Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues W. was a thriving district. Mary M. Bauders remembers, “We had our own little district between Sixth and Seventh W. on West McGraw — a drug store, shoe repair, dry cleaners, gift store, bakery, service station, grocery stores, a dime store, barber shop, and at one time a florist and hardware store.” The grocers were guaranteed almost daily visits from the local homemakers.
James Kildall opened Kildall’s in 1938 at 820 W. Halladay Street as a real estate business. He later moved to 510 W. McGraw Street and expanded the services to provide insurance, safety deposit boxes and money orders. His son Tom now runs the business. May M. Bauders vividly remembered that “the sight of the large steel door at the back of the establishment was very awesome to the eyes of a child.”
Rex Miller opened the Laurel Beauty Salon in the 1930s at 1529 Queen Anne Avenue near Galer Street. By 1960 Miller had moved three times and was settled at 623 W. McGraw Street, where the beauty shop has survived four changes of ownership. Since 1987 Litsa Polychronopoulos has operated the salon as Litsa’s West McGraw Street Salon.
At the corner of W. McGraw Street and Seventh Avenue W. for more than 40 years, Maughan’s Pharmacy was originally part of the Jamison chain of drug stores. Maughan sold the store to Bernie Hoover, who changed its name to Queen Anne Pharmacy and moved it t the corner of W. McGraw Street and Sixth Avenue W. Chuck Paulson is the current owner.
The ovens in the McGraw Street Bakery have been in almost continuous use since 1924, the dated that is stamped on them. The original founders of the bakery are unknown, but in 1930 the bakery was operated first by Chris Anderson and then by Frank and Virginia Mock, who changed its name to Banks and Mock Bakers. Mary Bauders remembers, during the years of World War II, “We would stand in line for bread during the rationing period, because of the scarcity of ingredients such as eggs, flour, shortening, and especially sugar. The bakery had lots of goodies after the rationing ended.” In the 1950s the Mocks sold the bakery to Chuck Sylvester and his wife who renamed it Sylvester’s Queen Anne Bakery. Jessica Reisman currently operates the old landmark as the McGraw Street Bakery.
Chuck Gerrish and Bob Garrison opened Quality Fruits and Vegetables on Sixth Avenue W. near West McGraw Street in 1932 with an investment of $500 between them. Gerrish recalls that opening a business in the middle of the Depression did not yield much profit and that grocers could not charge much for food. In 1940 they moved to 600 W. McGraw, replacing Ben Franklin Grocery and Meats. The new store was three times larger than the previous one and the new partner was Ing Taigen.
A&J Meats opened at the corner of Sixth Avenue West and W. McGraw Street in 1951 inside Quality Market and was named for its owners, Al Ploe and Jerry Friar. Rick Friar, the current owner and son of its co-founder, recalls that the clientele grew so large over the first 20 years that A&J’s original location was no longer adequate. In 1970 they moved to their current location at McGraw Street and Queen Anne Avenue.
Reliable French Cleaners opened in 1920 on the north side of W. McGraw Street. Early ownership records are lost. However, a Mr. Clark acquired it in the early 1940s and moved the establishment into a bigger building across the street. After two changes of ownership Charles and Anne Hoen, former employees of the shop, bought the business in November 1952. The cleaners had become more than just a business to the Hoens; it had sentimental significance. In 1946 Charles and Anne became engaged and were married in the shop. After Charles’s death in 1973 Anne ran the business alone until 1971, when she sold it.
Down the block, at the five-way intersection of W. McGraw Street, W. McGraw Place, and Third Avenue W., sits the tiny Five Corners enclave, which developed as a convenient midpoint between the larger business areas at Queen Anne and Sixth avenues. Five Corners Hardware has been an anchor store here since 1940, when “Uncle Sam Jr.” Jensen began business with $500 in insurance money he had collected in compensation for losing a finger. Sam Jr. joined the business in 1944 and, after World War II, two sons joined the family business. In 1961 Jim Forkey bought the store, and his daughter Jean has operated it since 1987.
Since the 1910s Nickerson Street has been lined with light industry. Scattered along Nickerson east of the Ballard Bridge have been businesses in boat moorage, construction and repair, milling and wood products, and others.
Northwest Millwork began producing cabinets, doors, and other wood products in 1958, under the direction of Frank Stipek, whose son Ronald is a co-owner today. The commercial demand for their products has not diminished since the booming 1950s, when the University of Washington, hotels, resorts, banks, and schools made up the bulk of their clients. Since the early 1990s many of Northwest Millwork’s products have been exported to Pacific Rim customers. Nordquist & Engstrom, which has been in business for one hundred years, began at the corner of Third Avenue W. and Nickerson Street, which is now the site of Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion. The business is not a part of Northwest Millwork.
ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE HILL
After owning a number of garages along Fifth Avenue, weathering the Depression, and having to close up shop during World War II, Frank Pantley opened Frank Pantley Auto Rebuild at 113 Dexter Avenue North in 1946. He remained in this building until 1968, when Virg Fuhrman, who bought the shop from Pantley in 1957, relocated the business to 225 Roy Street, where it closed in early 1993.
In 1955, when Dag’s first began serving hamburgers on Aurora Avenue N., hamburgers were 19 cents; fries, 11 cents; and shakes, 14 cents. Brothers Boe and Edmund Messett founded Dag’s, with the Dag Beefy Boy logo, on the grounds of the Sunset Monument Company, which the Messetts owned. Named in honor of their father, Boe Messett recalls that their philosophy of a quality product delivered with fast, friendly service delivered from a neat and clean kitchen won immediate support from Queen Anne residents and all of Seattle, as well as set an industry standard. Dag’s closed in 1993.
The company would send out its service car to help troubled motorists.
LOWER QUEEN ANNE
The south slope of Queen Anne in the twentieth century has become known as the Uptown district and is something of a satellite to downtown Seattle. In the late 1880s, following residential migration from the center of Seattle to the hill, businesses that served the home quickly sprouted along lower Queen Anne Avenue N., First Avenue N., and Mercer Street. Polk’s Directory reveals that by the 1910s grocery shops, butchers, a restaurant, a dry cleaners, and a dye works were operating in the area.
There is consensus among longtime Queen Anne residents that Uptown has been a transitory neighborhood in the twentieth century, one to which these people often do not have close ties. Those who were raised in the Uptown district are likely to recall a great deal of class-consciousness; rich people lived on top of the hill, workers closer down. Those who grew up on the top of the hill tend to disagree. They acknowledge social stratification but do not feel that this created problems. The young people had opportunities to play and interact with each other without worrying about their parents’ positions, geographic or otherwise.
July 1 has been a lucky day for the Smiths. Preston and Frances Smith opened the Five-Point Cafe on Cedar Street on July 1, 1929 and The Mecca Cafe at 526 Queen Anne Avenue North on July 1, 1930. Their son Dick Smith took over on July 1, 1974. The end of prohibition saw The Mecca boom, with sales as high as 75 kegs of beer a day. In 1991 Preston Smith, then 86 years old, recalled the depression era struggles and World War II shortages and noted, “I didn’t have enough sense to quit.”
Green’s Tavern is probably best remembered for having occupied a well-known Queen Anne landmark, the historic Denny Real Estate log cabin on Republican Street and Queen Anne Avenue. Green’s had opened in the same building as the Uptown Theater in 1927 before later moving to the log cabin.
In 1920 the Marqueen Garage, then known as the Kuay Garage, opened, claiming to be “the largest single garage in the city.” For more than 50 years, the garage and its “doctors of motors” serviced cars from the Queen Anne location between Roy and Mercer streets, in the building of the Seattle Engineering School which operated the garage. The building is now the Marqueen Apartments. The school was begun to retrain blacksmiths to work at the Ford assembly plant at the south end of Lake Union. Hugo Hustwayte and Fred Myers bought the garage in 1950, took in partner Kurt Arnold, and changed the name to Marqueen. Upon retirement of his partners, in 1977 Arnold became the sole owner, and in 1979 moved the garage to the top of the hill.
Edwin and Josephine Anderson opened the Olympic Grocery on Queen Anne Avenue south of Mercer Street in 1928, where it shared a building with Busy’s Meat Market. At that time a Seattle city ordinance forbade selling meats and groceries in the same establishment. Thus, if a grocery store customer wanted meat, the Andersons would call the order over the half-wall that divided the two shops, and Busy would toss the wrapped meat over. There were many other grocers in the area, so the Andersons kept the store open from noon to midnight, seven days a week, whereas most of their competitors closed at five or six o’clock. Olympic Grocery moved twice, to Mercer Street between First Avenue N. and Queen Anne Avenue in 1937, and then to 118 W. Mercer Street. The Andersons closed the store in 1965, when they leased the space to Brownie’s Tavern.
Lou Bunich opened Scissor’s Place Barber & Style Shop at 10 W. Mercer Street in 1945, and it has remained there to this day, though the business has been renamed Bert & Lou’s Barber and is co-owned with Tony Romero.
Rudd Paint, at 1630 15th Avenue W., on the west side of lower Queen Anne, began life in 1912. It was bought out by Donald M. Cummings in 1942 and subsequently operated by Alan M. Park in the mid-50s. As the Rudd Co., Inc. it continues today with Alan M. Park, Jr. as president.
Along Elliott Avenue Blackstock Lumber made its appearance at 545 Elliott Avenue W. in 1930. It had been located at 2325 Western Avenue between Battery and Bell streets since 1912 when Carl Blackstock purchased the old Lee Lumber and Mfg. Company. A major fire in September 1941 required extensive rebuilding. In December 1988 they moved to their current location at 1039 Elliott Avenue W. The old lumber yard, empty and no longer Blackstock’s, was swept by fire in September 1989, claiming the life of a Seattle firefighter. Carl’s sons, Ray and Carl, operated the store for many years. Since 1988 it has been owned by Ray’s two sons, Jim and Scott Blackstock.
The Queen Anne Stationery & Office Supply, 524 First Avenue N., was originally a portrait studio owned by Frank and Josie Pomeroy. In 1950 the Pomeroys opened the first formal office supply store on Queen Anne, eventually expanding to include a Hallmark card and gift store. Harry and Irene Tenneson purchased the store in 1976 in partnership with Chris and Jane Bihary. It is now owned by the Biharys and Keith and Sally Brooks.
QUEEN ANNE’S BUSINESS DISTRICTS CHANGE, 1950-1990
Marion Parker, who grew up on Queen Anne, left the community in 1944 and returned in 1958 to find that drug stores had consolidated and more large grocery stores had been built. In addition, several small grocery stores had consolidated or closed, and the movie theater had become a popular bowling alley. Queen Anne Avenue N., although a strong business magnet since the inauguration of streetcars, was fully coming into its own in the 1950s when centralization was the order of the day.
The Safeway store was first opened at the corner of Blaine Street and Queen Anne Avenue N., and then moved to First Avenue N. and Mercer Street in the 1950s. In 1961, the supermarket moved back to the top of the hill, to its present location on Queen Anne Avenue N. between Boston and Crockett streets. A second Safeway at First Avenue W. and Mercer Street opened in 1952.
The Zorich brothers — Joe, Marty, and Sam — opened their 12,000-square foot Thriftway in 1960, but the next year it was dwarfed by the new Safeway nearby, which had more than twice the square footage. Dick Rhodes bought the store in 1974, and maintained a commitment to the basics: a clean store, pleasant employees, and lots of service. In order for Thriftway to compete with its larger neighbor, Rhodes remodeled and expanded the store in 1981. He kept a close ear to the customers, feeling that the store would compete best if it responded to changes in the community.
Don Nelsen, owner of Nelsen’s Grocery, thought the World War II and post-War years were the most prosperous for West Galer businesses. During the 1940s, he remembers numerous small groceries, a pharmacy, two gas stations, and a garage on the street. Then, Nelsen says, business declined in the 1960s. He offered two reasons: “Everything centralizing on Queen Anne Avenue North, West Queen Anne and Queen Anne High School closing hurt us more than anything; there are hardly any kids around here anymore.”
Down in the Ross district the loss of the small business community came early. By the early 1930s most of the small businesses clustered around Nickerson Street and Third Avenue W. had closed, never to reopen. Most businesses that continue to line Nickerson are light industries geared toward the construction trade — same as in the earlier days. Since the 1980s professional office buildings have been built along the Ship Canal from the Fremont Bridge to Cremona Street.
The Uptown area has been a busy district for almost a century, and until the World’s Fair, was composed of “mom and pop” stores and small businesses catering to residents in the immediate area. To make way for the Fair, many homes and a school were torn down. In the years since, apartment buildings have increased and the area has become high-density, with many restaurants, theaters, shops, and parking lots. Although many long-time residents dislike the crowds and crime that come with group, as a business district it is thriving.
Marina Gordon is an editor, freelance writer, and newcomer to Queen Anne. She often amazes friends and relatives with her ability to recite the location and history of almost any business on the Hill.
Remembering Queen Anne’s Neighborhood Grocery Stores:
*Mulholland’s Cash Grocery
*Augustine & Kyer
*Dick’s Drive-In Predecessor – the Motor-In Market
*Nelsen’s Grocery (1919-2001)