Rebuilding a 15th Ave E house with a bookish history, Ada’s prepares for next chapter on Capitol Hill

David and Danielle Hulton (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

David and Danielle Hulton (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Built with the bones, heart and soul of the old bookstore that called the 15th Ave E house home for more than 30 years, Ada’s Technical Books will celebrate the official opening of its new Capitol Hill location on Saturday.

“It feels like the space is different and new — but at the same time, there’s a lot of really cool things that we reused,” owner Danielle Hulton tells CHS. The overhauled 1922-built structure was the location of Horizon Books for more than three decades before it closed its 15th Ave E shop in 2009.

Bits and pieces of the old place including repurposed doors and salvaged wood fixtures are mixed in with the rebuilt store and new cafe space. There will be one checkout line for the entire experience — cafe and books. A central open “spine” aisle runs through the center connecting it all, Hulton says.IMG_6768

Another significant change for Ada’s will be the introduction of Crystal Blaylock-Gee to the team. The cafe manager is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute and has worked on 15th Ave E before at the neighboring Coastal Kitchen before her latest stint at Cafe Lago. Expect a seasonally changing menu with breakfasts like a juniper berry/rosemary granola or cinnamon rolls with lunches and light dinners of soups, salads, sandwiches and specials like mac and cheese.

Ada’s Grand (Re)Opening party Saturday will include giveaway bags and a raffle featuring prizes from the store and the businesses that worked on the project. There will also be free samples from the cafe and discounts.

Designed by Board and Vellum and built by Model Re-Model, the project included overhauling the 1922 house and creating a new adjoining structure behind it. There is space for more books, plus the new cafe and also room for events, community gatherings, and workshops.

“One of the biggest things that we wanted to do in moving was expand our community,” Hulton said.

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Hulton’s success creating a shop dedicated to its culture and to making its space an environment that fosters reading and creation might remind you of another Capitol Hill book seller that has hung in through the retail upheaval caused by the Internet. Ada’s early storyline is not far from what Elliott Bay Book Company has done in its 40 years in Seattle. The Stranger’s books editor Paul Constant talked with Hulton about Ada’s success as a bookseller here.

The shop, a CHS advertiser, leaves behind its birthplace in the Loveless Building where it opened in the summer of 2010 as Danielle and her husband David Hulton created Seattle’s first bookstore dedicated entirely to technical literature — ranging from computer engineering to architecture to science fiction. You can peruse Ada’s online shop here.

We first reported on a new “mystery” buyer for the Horizon Books house in spring 2012. With a fantastic yarn bombing that went viral, Ada’s announced its planned presence on the street. You can read more about the design and work required to overhaul the building in this May 2013 CHS post.

The same whimsy and creative geek energy that inspired the yarn bombing and elements like Ada’s popular lock picking classes is at play inside the new shop where tables are filled with gadgets and gear and there are enough power outlets to keep every laptop in the cafe happy.

Success and growth plus a good business plan and support from their own successful careers outside of the book industry have enabled Ada’s to make a great leap into an even bigger place in Seattle’s book-selling world. The property alone cost more than $900,000. The buildout’s construction budget pushed the investment well past $1 million. Ada’s employees have also tripled — from five to fifteen.

For a little technical book shop, that’s big business.

The new Ada’s Technical Books is located at 425 15th Ave E. It will open on a “holiday hours” pace 8a to 10p. You can learn more at seattletechnicalbooks.com.

Saying goodbye
A sad footnote to the new venture on 15th Ave E is the final day of business for the North Hill Bakery. CHS wrote about the longtime bakeshop wrapping up its last Halloween cookies Thursday before closing its doors to make way for what we’re told will be a new bakery.

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12 thoughts on “Rebuilding a 15th Ave E house with a bookish history, Ada’s prepares for next chapter on Capitol Hill

  1. I’m super excited to see this place open. I peeked in the window last night and it is all nicely done. Horizon books was a mainstay on 15th but it was run down and a bit depressing. Ada’s looks to be a nice improvement.

  2. It is unbelievably gorgeous! I had no idea how much of a remodel was going on behind the wall, but I can’t wait to see the inside of it. I’m still mourning the loss of City People’s (moment of silence) and this is a great addition to 15th.

  3. Great, I’m so excited it will finally open. Good luck. I used to hang out in the dingy old store, and can’t wait to have a new and improved hangout. The people at Ada’s are so awesome. Anyone remember that bookstore across the street on 15th? It’s so nice to have a bookstore cafe again.

  4. I’ll be sure to check it out, Horizon Books was the first store that I went into when I moved to Seattle in 1980. Bought many odd books there over the years, very glad that the house lives again.

  5. Model Remodel is so grateful to have been a part of this unique project. We know the bookstore will be an asset to the always-happening Capitol Hill. Working with the terrific architects of BOARD and VELLUM (http://www.boardandvellum.com/), along with the owners Danielle and David, has been a real treat. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the community enjoy the space now!

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