By Alicia Arter and Jan Hadley
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.
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 it a pleasant coincidence that at the same time the Mulhollands started welcoming grandchildren to the family.