Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Then & Now

It has been a little over a year since we took ownership of 425 NW Market Street and in the anniversary of being new tenants it seemed only fitting we share a little more about this historic address.

One of our amazing neighbors, Sue Pierce, gifted us a great narrative on our little corner property.  Her inquisitive nature leads to all sorts of discoveries on our West Woodland neighbors and is documenting stories and photos wherever possible.  


Our property dates back to the 1920’s and the original two story structure is the first account of our lineage.  The Brower family owned our land and a significant amount of property in the area. In the photo above, you can almost see Lowell Brower in the wagon and his son is standing near the back of the horse.  His son attended West Woodland grade school and would deliver groceries with his father after class. Rumor has it that the Brower family was willing to gift the land West Woodland sat on to the city if they named it after them.  I guess that wasn’t a deal the city was willing to shake on.

A little fun fact: We have a studio that sits to the rear of the property and was originally housed under the Ballard Bridge.  Evidently it was going to be demolished or given away to the Brower family if they moved it. So, it found a new home a few blocks east of its original location. 

The brick structure we currently call home was probably rebuilt back in the 30's or 40’s and spent much of its life as an IGA Grocery Store.  This alone is an interesting fact because the Independent Grocers Alliance was started in the mid 20’s when a group of 100 independent retailers in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Sharon, Connecticut organized themselves into a single marketing system.  The group experienced rapid expansion and within a year there were more than 150 retailers nationwide.


Other interesting facts as our building was erected include:

·        Don Ibsen, a senior at Roosevelt High School, screws a pair of tennis shoes onto a cedar board and becomes one of the co-inventors of water-skiing
·        Bertha Landes is elected mayor, the first woman mayor in any major US city
·        Fisher's Blend Station Corporation is formed, and KOMO-AM radio station goes on the air
·        Seattle’s population was roughly 365,000


Stand-alone grocery stores were typical of the 20’s when the city was expanding.  Our building remained a grocery store well into the 60’s.  Most of these neighborhood stores were built along a trolley line, including this building.  The trolley had been serving the West Woodland Neighborhood for 14 years by 1926, and came to us through the Fremont and Halibut Flats Neighborhood.  The trolley travelled along 6th AVE until reaching West 55th (now Market Street) where it went east and then immediately north again onto 5th AVE NW.  I sure wish they were still part of the local landscape. 


Leonard’s Barbershop was located on the south-west side of the main building and eventually relocated across the street to where Slate Coffee is combining hair cutting and gun sales. I can only imagine the social interaction and public discourse that would happen within these walls.  In some instances throughout history, the barbershop was the location for open debates, voicing public concern, and engaging locals in discussions about contemporary issues.  Not to mention had an influential role in helping shape the male identity.  Can you believe that in much earlier times, barbers (aka barber surgeons) performed surgery and dentistry?


The building has seen only a few businesses in its tenure. After the grocery stores and barber shop, The Handy Saw and Ribbons Pasta Company held down the fort at 6th & Market Street until the early 80’s when Bruce Naftaly had a vision for creating a “destination dining experience”.  Having come from the Bay Area where diners wouldn’t blink an eye to travel from San Francisco to Napa for lunch, Bruce knew the 10 minute commute from Seattle to Ballard would catch on.  


An amazing discovery was learning that Bruce came to Seattle in the late 70’s in hopes of becoming an opera singer after graduating from Berkeley.  He came to study under Carlisle Kelly, a well known coach in the area with ties to the Rossellini family.  This family introduction got him a job as dishwasher at one of their restaurants and perhaps opened the proverbial door to his inspired path in food.  Bruce helped shape the culinary landscape in Seattle and those that worked within his walls have gone on to do remarkable things.



Nearly 100 years later, our corner remains an outpost for community connection and inspiration.  Brimmer & Heeltap hopes to continue building relationships and serving as a vessel for community engagement for years to come.  We are incredibly honored to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors. 


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