With potrepreneurs making plans, 15th Ave E worries about longtime merchants being pushed out

It’s reefer madness on 15th Ave E where, if nothing else, paranoia about the demand for commercial space for I-502 retail floats thick.

It’s not just smoke. Entrepreneur and real estate investor Ian Eisenberg has confirmed with CHS his plans to convert the former veterinary clinic he purchased at 15th and Republican into a marijuana shop. CHS reported on the $1.5 million purchase in February as the CHS advertiser and Uncle Ike’s owner snatched the property out from under another prospective I-502 retailer.

But judging by the volume of emails, text messages, and phone calls CHS has received from worried neighbors and customers, the other side of 15th and Republican is also being lined up for some major changes with many rumors of another retail marijuana operation being planned in the storefronts currently home to Angel’s Shoe Repair and the Postal Plus post office.

IMG_4971Ray Angel, owner of the 100+ year old shoe repair shop, said he couldn’t talk with CHS on the record about the situation but Ed Zhang — the official postmaster and business owner of the US Postal Service outlet — confirmed that though he still has two years left on his lease, he has been notified by the building’s ownership that he will face a doubling of rents.

“A community needs a post office,” Zhang said about the pressure to move his shop and find another location to serve the 98112 population.

Zhang said he doesn’t know why his landlords seem to want Postal Plus to move and CHS found no record of construction permits or liquor board applications indicating plans for an I-502 related business at the address. We also found no record of any recent sale of the building.

Joel Ostroff, who manages the property for Stanley Real Estate on behalf of the real estate investors who own the building, declined to comment.

Plans for Eisenberg's changes at the old Capitol Hill Animal Clinic

Plans for Eisenberg’s changes at the old Capitol Hill Animal Clinic

Across the street at the old animal clinic, Eisenberg said he is moving forward with remodeling the facility “in anticipation of eventually finding a license holder to partner with.” He, too, has heard the rumors about another pot shop at the corner. Meanwhile, construction is moving forward near Eisenberg’s Uncle Ike’s on another I-502 retailer. CHS reported in October that an I-502 lottery winner for a license to operate in the Central District has purchased a property being used as a mosque. According to the Department of Planning and Development, a construction project — “change use of 1st floor from religious facility to general retail sales & services” — has been permitted at the 24th and Union storefront. It appears that Mello Times, is indeed, gearing up to open at 2413 E Union.

The future Mello Times?

The future Mello Times?

The clustering of I-502 marijuana projects in Central Seattle is an outgrowth of the overlaying restrictions on store locations based on state and city rules including the required 1,000-foot buffer from schools, parks, or community centers. The state liquor board that administrates licensing also could have discretion to prevent a Starbucks-worthy kitty-corner pot shop situation that may be playing out at 15th and Republican. Another potential location for a store in the spaces now home to Angel’s and Postal Plus could seriously weaken Eisenberg’s move into the neighborhood. In the meantime, Rudy’s plans for a new barbershop on the street show that not every new investment on 15th Ave E will be marijuana related.

Demand for space might also be shaped by another powerful market force — price. The Seattle Times celebrated 4/20 by sharing the good news/bad news for marijuana retailers: The average price of legal weed in the state has fallen to $12 a gram.

In the meantime, Zhang told CHS last week that he is still talking to his building ownership and knows that if Postal Plus gives up the two years left on its lease, it will also mean the end of Angel’s in the location as the repair shop is on only a month-to-month lease. “It’s a lot of pressure,” Zhang said.

UPDATE 4/22/15 3:10 PM: According to the latest permit information from the liquor board, Samuel Burke’s application to become an I-502 retailer now lists a 1455 E Republican address. We spoke with Burke about his plans for the tōk pot shop here last December.

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59 thoughts on “With potrepreneurs making plans, 15th Ave E worries about longtime merchants being pushed out

  1. I supported the legalization and support having a pot shop here even though I don’t use marijuana. But I hope we don’t become a pot district because it’s one of the few areas that allow pot shops. I know the city and state’s hands are tied to this 1000 foot rule because of threats from the DOJ, but I hope someone finds a solution soon to allow these shops in other neighborhoods. 15th/Republican and 23rd/Union should not have to satisfy half the city’s demand for marijuana simply because we’re the only decent urban/walkable locations where they can open.

    • You mean like the 2.87 square miles of the U District that suddenly had 7 of them? Hard to imagine there are that many potheads in 2.87 square miles. Legal or not, we are still talking about drug dealers and the regular people of LA complained hard to the city council about what they got in areas where pot shops concentrated. First it was bars and maybe a dry cleaners every few blocks on Capitol Hill, is it now going to be pot shops and a dry cleaners and 35 bars within a square mile? And Capitol Hill wants to complain about just what that brings to the neighborhood? What do you expect.

    • What corners of Capitol Hill are you referring to that have pot shops?

      And where are you getting that hallucinogenic weed that makes you see them?

      • I think he’s referring to Mello Times which is supposedly moving in to 24th and Union, one block away from the already controversial Uncle Ike’s at 23rd and Union.

      • Referring to the article. You should read it. It’s about getting potentially two pot shops on the same corner (15th & republican).

        One seems fine but two seems like overkill.

      • I don’t like the idea of 15th Ave E becoming a multi-shop mecca for pot. It’s a very nice, ordinary street with a nice mix of businesses, and this would be negatively impacted if there is more than one pot shop.

        Also, would two pot shops across the street from one another be able to make a go of it economically? They would have to compete against each other in price, which of course would be good for customers, but not so good for their long-term viability.

      • Now you know how those of us who live close to 23rd and Union feel. We’ve got Uncle Ike’s taking up an entire corner, another pot shop going in 1 block away, a liquor store across the street, and a gas station. Oh, and the bar. Yes, it’s a regular diverse economy at Union & 23rd. 2 pot shops? We’ll be lucky if we don’t end up with 4.

      • I always liked the idea of having a pot shop on 15th ave. Two pot shops? That doesn’t bother me. I also don’t think 2 pot shops is going to turn it into a pot mecca or district either. It’s still going to be 15th ave with 2 pot shops. Besides, 2 grocery stores 2 blocks from each other didn’t turn it into a grocery mecca. Several bars didn’t turn it into a pub crawl. And coffee shops didn’t turn it into roasted bean land.

        As for pot shops across the street from each other, why not? We have bars across the street from each other, restaurants across the street from each other and coffee shops across the street from each other. Nothing wrong with choices. And a lot of these businesses do manage to survive economically. And if one doesn’t, then it doesn’t. It’s part of business.

      • @ Jim98122x –

        you don’t speak for everybody who lives near Ike’s.

        I prefer the mixed businesses around there now much more than the decrepit vacant lot.

        Ike’s has been a huge improvement to that corner.

      • “Nah”…. Don’t read into it something I didn’t say. I didn’t say I had any problem with Uncle Ike’s. Actually I think Uncle Ike’s is great. They’ve done a nice job with the building and the operations are clean and bright. It’s the potential of a proliferation of several additional, dumpier pot shops all clustered around Union and 23rd that doesn’t thrill me. We DO need a mix of businesses around Union and 23rd. I just don’t want to see the bulk of them be pot shops– most of which probably won’t do as nice a job as Uncle Ike’s.

      • @ Jim98122x –

        Yeah but in terms of dumpiness that mosque spot on Union where Mello Times is supposed to go is a total crapshack.

        Any business there would be an improvement, I think.

      • I agree. I’m really hoping that dump gets torn down, but that’s what I’m concerned about. I haven’t seen any info referencing that it will be. The last thing we need is a bunch of the current little s**t-hole current bldgs converted to dumpy pot shops.

  2. Angel is a kind and caring individual. He also happens to provide superb shoe repair service. Something to think about not just on “Earth Day”. He indeed cares for the souls of our city…He knows folks on a first name basis and much about building community.

  3. I would definitely NOT want to lose Angels and the Postal station store! The 15th East biz area is an very good, viable, USEFUL neighborhood biz area. We walk to it regularly from the north end of the hill, and shop there multiple times a week. Having a postal/UPS service store is for more useful than a 2nd pot store. Would we use the one new store? Sure! But we use Angles and the the postal store far more than we’d need a second pot store (and right across the street).

    15th offers the kinds of services — and the neighborhood feel & friendliness — that Broadway used to offer. A pot store — great. TWO pot stores? Stupid.

  4. SHAME on the owners of the building where Postal Plus and Angel’s have operated for years! To double the rents for two small businesses, which obviously is a way to force them to move, is really unconscionable. There oughta be a law…..

    • Hey, I’m for small businesses too and ethics are rent raises are awesome. But this is what capitalism is. It’s systemic and things like this happen. Want it different? Upend capitalism. Seriously.

    • I would say this is a classic case of someone slicing up their goose to get more golden eggs. It’s stupid and makes bad business sense in the long run, but you can’t make it illegal for someone to kill their own goose.

      Being a property owner doesn’t automatically make you a sensible person, but that’s the way it is. Let’s drive out two reliable, long-term tenants already paying a lot of money for that space for a chance to double your money on a risky venture. How much blood can you squeeze from a stone? Well, you gotta pay for your second yacht somehow.

      • Have you seen the lines of customers filing in and out of Ike’s? Yesterday was a huge stoner soccer moms scene.

        People around here LOVE weed and are willing top throw down big $$ to smoke it.

      • Have you seen the lines of customers filing in and out of Ike’s? Yesterday was a huge stoner soccer moms scene.

        People around here LOVE weed and are willing to throw down big $$ to smoke it.

    • There is nothing ethical about what’s going on with 15th and E. Republican. Capitalism is one thing and I understand how it works but threatening and intimidating a shop owner by telling him his rent will increase 3 fold is just wrong. I hope the neighborhood really gives all parties involved a good fight.

  5. I don’t think 2 pot shops near each other is a bad thing. I highly doubt they will be on every street corner like your every day coffee shop. And do we really see them as the ones driving up rents and pushing out the mom and pop shops?

    There are 2 sides to every story. We don’t know why this landlord is doubling rents in this location.

    I love 15th because of the variety of shops and retailers it has. In its current state, it has pretty much everything one needs to sustain themselves. I hope the smaller retailers can weather the inevitable changes that are to come as our city continues to grow.

    • “We don’t know why this landlord is doubling rents in this location.”

      In the immortal words of Wu-Tang. Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Cream, Get the money. Dolla dolla bill y’all.

      • That doesn’t answer the question. Maybe the building needs upgrades. Maybe they don’t like the current tenants for reasons x, y and z and when them out. Maybe the landlords operating costs increased. Or maybe they are just plain greedy. Its all speculation until we know the actual reason and we don’t know for certain that its to drive out the current retailers for a pot shop.

      • You’re right, Timmy…we don’t know for sure. But plain ol’ greed is high on the list of possibilities. And it doesn’t help that the property manager (representing the owners of the building) has “refused to comment.” If there were reasonable, legitimate reasons for doubling the rent, why wouldn’t he explain them?

      • Maybe I read the article wrong but it looks like the spokesperson for the owner declined to comment.

        That is different than the actual owner refusing to comment. Perhaps this spokesperson doesn’t know the reasons or plan for the building. There are many factors we simply do not know about and presuming doesn’t help.

  6. This is so depressing. Angel’s is amazing, and with the 23rd/Union post office gone there is a real need for postal services.

    And comparing pot shops to cafes or bars is ridiculous. They are comparable to liquor stores. Absolutely no need for 2 within blocks of each other.

    I support pot legalization but the downright entitlement about access to pot is disappointing.

      • Bars are more gathering places and pot shops are just convenience stores with weed. Hopefully it changes some day. People seem desperate for a place to hang out and smoke in a community-ish environment. I like my couch.

      • But if I fill up a growler at the bar to drink at home or buy a sixer to go, how is that different than buying potshop pot to smoke at home?

      • No different, but you also have the option to drink in a bar. We also get a lot of tourists that can’t smoke in their hotel, or a park or anywhere.

  7. You may want to understand we are at the beginning of an industry. For those of you who don’t like the idea of 2 pot shops on 15th, within the next several years, there may not be just 2 post shops on that street. The street could have a marijuana lounge in the future, if and when they are legalized.

  8. lol @ depressing. Its two stores that sell products people want in a safe and controlled manner. the shit people decide to worry about is crazy. Its the very beginning of a new industry there will be people that rush in, there will be a shake out. Then we will reach an equilibrium based on what the market can bear.

    • And in the meantime, after the shakeout, two long-time small businesses (Angel’s and Postal Plus) will be long gone.

  9. Noooo! I loves me some potshops and have been excited to hear about the vet office being converted, but seriously: Angels and Postal Plus are SO critically important for 15th Ave. I get that they might both be a little dingy, but seriously: they serve such vital functions on this strip! I support both businesses constantly with my business and personal dollars, and will continue to do so for as long as I possibly can.

    • This isn’t intended as snark, but what kinds of shoes do people “constantly” take to shoe repair shops? Or are there other things for purchase there? I’ve never in my 47 years stepped foot in a shoe repair store, though I’m more of a sneakers kind of person.

      I’m not surprised postal stores can’t really maintain a viable storefront business, as the USPS itself is bleeding due to the sharp decrease in mail. (For the USPS, it’s the huge drop in bulk mail, which is now lovingly delivered to your inbox.)

      And seriously, folks, you can’t champion great restaurants and bars and coffee shops in some threads and bemoan smaller businesses getting pushed out for the same audience. Pot stores will serve the same clientele that going to places like Wandering Goose and Victrola; these are all upscale retail, and upscale retail pushes out lower-end retail in what is mostly an upscale neighborhood.

      • I take shoes to the cobbler about once a month. When I pay very good money for boots and heels that wear out once every six months I get new bases or tips placed. It is 20-50 per pair and I don’t need to fork out hundreds on new shoes every year.

      • I think the fact these are two of the oldest surviving shops in the neighborhood shows that they ARE viable businesses. Cobblers get more of my money over time than the retailers or manufacturers of my shoes. Plus, online shopping (and the inevitable returns that come with it) and small-scale online retailing (e.g. etsy) has been a boon to postal stores – which are great because they often offer UPS, USPS, and FedEx services.

        The landlord doubling the rent seems like move intendingto kick them out of their current location – not a sign of their inherent viability or basic (i.e. unrealistic) economics.

        Personally, I’m not at all upset by the landlord making this move if it is indeed for a second potential pot shop on the block. I think the greater tragedy implied in all the negative comments is that we know the cobbler and postal shop won’t likely find any place in the hill where they can move to. The only kinds of businesses that seem to be able to make the rents need to rely on some combo of heavily moneyed customers, a supply of out-of-neighborhood customers, or low overhead costs. Rather than useful local businesses, we’re left with overpriced cocktails, party bars for bros and bellevue wives, and a ridiculous number of $20+/class yoga/barre/pilates studios.

      • ” Plus, online shopping (and the inevitable returns that come with it) and small-scale online retailing (e.g. etsy) has been a boon to postal stores – which are great because they often offer UPS, USPS, and FedEx services.”

        I think you’re living in a bit of a bubble if you think those growth businesses. Etsy and its ilk are used by small numbers of people, in aggregate, and not enough to sustain the incredible drop in standard postal purchases.

        And most returns are paid for by the mail order company; those are convenient drop off points.

    • The vet office had been a part of the 15th Ave E community as long as Angel’s and far longer than most of the other neighborhood merchants including Postal Plus. Although it wasn’t of value to you it was to many people. It was an important member of the 15th Ave E community from the beginning. Here’s the deal girl. Nobody cares about you or what you consider to be important in your neighborhood. Don’t waste your breath. Money is all that is important and that won’t ever change.

      • My wife and I take shoes and boots to Angel’s pretty often. This being earth day, it bears mention that this is a much greener option than driving to the Walmart in Factoria every few months to replace cheap crappy shoes. My wife walks a lot and consequently needs her boot heels replaced every three to four months.

  10. I’ve always wondered how the cobbler and postal supplies store stayed in business. If they are paying under-market rent, it makes more sense. If they can’t afford market rent, they are not viable businesses in this location. Rent is a major component of retail cost, and it sounds as though theirs has been depressed. I wonder what is wrong with their landlord that he has left rent unadjusted for so long and now needs to double it to get to a market-clearing price. Maybe he was being nice to these shops and finally decided enough was enough?

    Separately, it’s interesting that the vet’s old place has been modified so homeless can no longer sleep on the stoop. Did the new pot store tenant request this? Do pot retailers care less about the homeless than vets do?

    • You speculate that those two businesses have been paying below-market rent, but you don’t know that. And if it’s true, the landlord does not have to double the rent….he/she could raise it some, but still be affordable for the present tenants. That’s called “being humane.” Or is that not possible for a landlord?

      • “That’s called “being humane.” Or is that not possible for a landlord?”

        It depends on if the landlord is able to absorb the reduced revenue, as in “are the rents paying for the increases in property taxes you guys keep voting for every election, insurance, maintenance, etc?” Are they covering the projected increases over the next few years? Do they have enough buffer for needed repairs, any code changes that may pop up, etc.? You’re doing the exact same kind of speculating about the landlord’s costs and revenue.

        It’s really easy to vilify most landlords since most are really evil, but in this case it’s not like we’re talking about charity cases. They’re for-profit businesses too, and presumably the businesses (when/if successful) were under no obligation to “be humane” and share their profits with the landlord (or their customers) either.

  11. It’s not like once someone sets up a pot shop that it’s there forever. If people don’t want two of them located across from one another on 15th Ave, then lack of business will eventually push one or both of them out.

  12. Pingback: tōk, Capitol Hill’s first pot shop, to open in longtime home of Angel’s Shoe Repair | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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