Capitol Hill’s Cairo art, retail, and music space to close

Cairo way back in 2009 (Image: CHS)

Cairo way back in 2009 (Image: CHS)

A small space on Mercer at Summit that made a big impression on Capitol Hill culture will be closing, its backers announced Monday.

When Cairo was founded 8 years ago, it was with a vision to create a platform for underground art by emerging artists, musicians, and curators. We wanted to provide a supportive place for individuals to hone and elevate their craft while cultivating a sense of community and warmth in a city that isn’t always known for its open arms. The goal was never to have a “successful” retail store, rather a store that could support the artists and curators utilizing the rest of the space. Retail-wise, it’s always been a struggle. Cairo is tucked away, with minimal foot traffic, and making ends meet financially over the years has been a profoundly difficult challenge.

The Appendixes play Cairo's Vibrations 2015 in Volunteer Park (Image: CHS)

The Appendixes play Cairo’s Vibrations 2015 in Volunteer Park (Image: CHS)

The message from Cairo owners Aimee Butterworth and Joel Leshefka said they’re still working out logistics of when the storefront will be shuttered.

Born as an art gallery and transitioned to a vintage fashion shop and performance venue, Cairo has been held up as an example of the Seattle nexus of art and commerce. Now, Butterwork and Leshefka say they’ll focus their retail efforts on the Prism shop in Ballard. We’ll have to check in with them about what’s next for Cairo’s annual Vibrations music festival in Volunteer Park.

The funky E Mercer space has a long history of creative uses — some of them were compiled here by CHS readers in 2008. Around the corner, Indian Summer still does the vintage thing on Summit while, across the street, at Bellevue and Mercer, the old Harry’s Fine Foods in the midst of a massive transformation.

Union members throw support behind Central Co-op’s Capitol Hill Station bid

DSC02980Somebody hand you a banana at Capitol Hill Station? They’re part of the #coopthestation campaign to help the E Madison-headquartered Central Co-op win its bid to be the anchor grocery store at the 85-foot development slated to rise around the Broadway light rail station where empty pavement sits today.

Now, a group of members from UCFW 21 — “the largest private sector union in Washington State” and representative for Central Co-op’s nearly 100 unionized employees — have sent an “open letter” to Gerding Edlen partner Jill Sherman calling on the developer to “do better by local workers and choose a union grocer where workers have a voice on the job, and earn a living wage.”

The full letter is below. Central Co-op, by the way, is a CHS advertiser.

Labor groups and District 3 rep Kshama Sawant have already come out swinging against Portland-based developer Gerding Edlen’s consideration of Portland-based grocery chain New Seasons for the light rail project. Continue reading

Central Co-op wants to be center of Capitol Hill Station development

New development will rise to 85 feet along Broadway -- a grocery store will be at the center of the mixed-use project. Will Central Co-op fill the space? (Image: CHS)

New development will rise to 85 feet along Broadway — a grocery store will be at the center of the mixed-use project. Will Central Co-op fill the space? (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill’s homegrown food cooperative wants to return to its roots by doubling down in the the neighborhood with a new store in Capitol Hill’s future gateway development on Broadway.

Central Co-op announced Sunday night it is pursuing the anchor tenant space in the Capitol Hill Station “transit orientated development” — the four-site, mixed-use project that will surround the recently opened subway station. The yet-to-be-built building it could call home along Broadway between John and Denny is just two blocks from where the grocer got its start on 12th Ave in 1978.

“We are the only grocer that was born and raised in this neighborhood, and that means something,” said Central Co-op chief Dan Arnett.

Arnett tells CHS he has already pitched the idea to developer Gerding Edlen. The co-op says it has no plans to close its 16th and E Madison location, where it recently signed a longterm lease.

Central Co-op’s expansion aspirations were announced after it came out that Portland-based New Seasons Market was an early frontrunner to take over the anchor space. A Gerding representative told CHS they were in talks with New Seasons, but the company has not made any final decisions on a tenant. Continue reading

The Nevertold Casket Company back from the dead on lucky 13th Ave

(Images: Nevertold Casket Company)

(Images: Nevertold Casket Company)

Jack and Tiffany Bennett are back in business. Naturally, they are in the market for your haunted goods. Especially if a poltergeist comes attached.

“Last week we bought a haunted carousel horse,” Tiffany tells CHS. “That’s the kind of thing we love.”

“Anything that had a poltergeist attached to it. I want a poltergeist in my house,” Jack adds.

Poltergeists and all, Nevertold Casket Company has risen in a new location not that far from its old haunts on E Republican. Continue reading

Now open: Electric Lady, the Central District’s first e-bike dealership


The ride took a little longer than planned but Electric Lady is now open on E Union just west of 23rd Ave.

Of course Alex Kostelnik ended up with a bitchin’ 206-504-ROLL phone number for the new shop.

The man behind 20/20 Cycle just up the road will now try his hand at addressing the nascent mainstream market for cargo and electric bikes. CHS talked with Kostelnik about his venture last June:

Electric Lady*, inspired by and named in the glow of amazement Kostelnik felt as his wife gave birth to his first child 10 months ago, will feature electric cargo bikes, a full line of new bikes, kits, gear including handmade bike bags and panniers, “and the best touring rack selection in Seattle.” The Lady will also sell Kostelnik’s handmade Kalakala bikes and he’s working on which folding bike and single-rider electric bike brands to feature. The new bike section is set. Italian classic Bianchi, the oldest bike manufacturer in the world, will house its line inside the coming Central District store. *Kostelnik is also a recording engineer so the name is also inspired by Electric Lady Studios, of course, the legendary Greenwich Village studio constructed for Jimi Hendrix.

The Electric Lady showroom is a showcase for cargo “city trekking” bikes designed to carry commuters, and families, and sometimes more than a 100 pounds of stuff plus a rider.

The time for electric has also come, Kostelnik told CHS, thanks to a technological leap forward with new mid drive motors that make for a more natural ride and don’t involve managing a throttle, plus improved lithium ion batteries that squeeze charging time down to a couple of hours.

IMG_0271The new bikes are an investment with price tags ranging from $3,000 to $6,500. Electric Lady also plans to sell kits to help riders on a more limited budget create DIY trekking machines. “I don’t want to be Banana Republic,” Kostelnik told us last year.

What makes ten-year-old 20/20 Cycle work will also be a big part of Electric Lady. Kostelnik said that longtime 20/20 employees Chris Gilliam  and Robb Kunz are part of the Electric Lady ownership. Meanwhile, the shop will also have a new neighbor in The Central building when Squirrel Chops cafe+salon opens next door later this year.

Electric Lady will be open at 2207 E Union Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 7 PM for the next few weeks before celebrating with a grand opening planned for April 24th and expanded hours. You can learn more at

‘Soda pop & candy shop’ Rocket Fizz to open across from Capitol Hill Station

244It’s a good week for candy lovers on Capitol Hill. Prime commercial space directly across Broadway from the neighborhood’s busy new Capitol Hill Station light rail facility will be home to a retailer that has found a sweet spot somewhere in the gooey center of a mix that includes equal parts Archie McPhee and piles and piles of Pixy Stix sugar.

Rocket Fizz, a candy, toy, and gift shop concept that debuted in Washington last year, is preparing to open on Broadway in retail space part of the Hollywood Lofts development next to Dick’s Drive-in.

Here’s how the Rocket Fizz folks describe their venture:

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Shops offers one of the largest and craziest selections of glass-bottled soda pops and retro candies for sale in America. We pride ourselves on carrying unique and fun products for people of all ages. When a customer enters a Rocket Fizz store they are visually overwhelmed by the amount of colorful inventory. We work hard to ensure that all Rocket Fizz stores carry a similar selection and present a similar shopping experience. One of the many attributes that make a Rocket Fizz franchise unique is our soda pop bottling operation. We are not just a franchisor. We continue to create and bottle fun soda pop flavors and labels which we supply to all Rocket Fizz franchisees for resale.

You can also expect a candy selection that will give you access to “classics like Necco Wafers, bubble gum cigarettes and Pop Rocks sit alongside trendy green tea Kit Kats and other hard-to-find treats from Japan and Europe.”

Founded in 2009, Rocket Fizz has expanded to locations across the country and opened last fall in Kirkland. We’re checking to see if the same ownership will be involved with the Capitol Hill location. UPDATE: We talked with the owner of the Kirkland shop — she said the Broadway Rocket Fizz will have different owners.

The company has been expanding with a franchise program that encourages owners to “eventually own more than one location and a larger territory.” The City of Seattle treats franchise businesses as larger employers when it comes to its new minimum wage schedule — a change that has resulted in at least one franchise business leaving Broadway last year.

The Hollywood Lofts building, meanwhile, incorporated portions of the masonry furniture store and office building that stood at the site since 1929 to create a six-story, loft-style apartment project named, yes, for the Hollywood Video that operated there until the video chain departed in the dark of night in 2009.

You can learn more at

Capitol Hill: Land of Seattle’s new ‘marketplaces’

Chophouse Row was full at its June 2015 grand opening (Image: CHS)

Chophouse Row was full at its June 2015 grand opening (Image: CHS)

There’s a nice portrait of two of Pike/Pine’s freshest preservation-friendly developments in the latest New York Times trends piece on Seattle’s new “marketplaces”:

Building on Seattle’s history of farmers’ markets and a strong food culture, new marketplaces are showcasing the local and unique, offering many choices for shopping, eating and connecting. For residents and tourists alike, these vibrant markets have become destinations all their own.

Liz Dunn’s Chophouse Row opened last June on 11th Ave between Pike and Union complete with high-tech office tenants above while here’s our coverage on the early efforts from Jerry Everard to redevelop the Central Agency building at 10th and Seneca which opened in late 2014. Both are now chock full of food and drink options and a few small niches of retail.

Both will also likely face the realities of small business.

The NYT doesn’t touch on the recent coverage of problems at the city and Capitol Hill’s original new-era marketplace, Melrose Market:

CHS spoke with Russ Flint of Rain Shadow and he says he is looking into working with SDOT’s Capitol Hill Construction Hub to address the current problems around street parking but said that he’s surprised the city expects business owners to take the lead on these kinds of problems. “Why are we policing construction workers?” Flint asked.

Dunn’s Melrose Market, of course, is the development that proved what Chophouse Row and Central Agency would work. The issues around small merchants struggling to stay in business inside the development are likely also proof that some tenants will struggle and close even “There’s a synergy by having places play off each other,” as Everard is quoted saying in the Times travel piece.

There’s hope. At Melrose, Flint told CHS last week he was just beginning to wend his way through City Hall’s offices to connect with new services put in place to help existing merchants better navigate the city’s ongoing waves of development. And cheesemonger Sheri LaVigne might be closing her Melrose Market cheese counter but she’s not shutting Calf and Kid down. Watch for her retail counter to reopen inside her 12th Ave cheese bar, Culture Club — located in the street-level retail space below, of all things, a Capitol Hill microhousing development. Watch for a NYT trend piece on that, soon.

Displaced by Broadway Whole Foods, Walgreens pharmacy is relocating to Pike/Pine

(Image: Broadstone Infinity)

(Image: Broadstone Infinity)

It seems even Walgreens must succumb to the omnipotent force of a brand new Broadway Whole Foods.

In order to make way for a 16-story apartment and grocery store development at Madison and Broadway, the national drug store chain is moving its Community Pharmacy to commercial space in new construction at 11th and E Union. The third Walgreens business on Capitol Hill is slated to open in the coming months, a company representative tells CHS.

Community Pharmacy does not have a standard format Walgreens retail store, but provides immunizations, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS support in addition to a regular pharmacy counter.

Walgreens join Renee Erickson’s E Union triumvirate in the Broadstone Infinity building. Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise Coffee and Doughnuts opened in November. The new pharmacy space will be located on the 11th Ave side of the project — mid-block between Pike and Union. Continue reading

Second Capitol Hill pot shop approved for 15th Ave

IMG_5911The owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop may finally realize his aspirations to open a recreational marijuana store in his 15th and Republican building, even if the business itself isn’t his.

A West Seattle medical marijuana entrepreneur has been given the green light by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board to open a retail marijuana shop in the space last home to the Capitol Hill Family Arcade.

The permit approval for Lion’s Heart puts owner Daniela Bernhard one step closer to opening Capitol Hill’s second pot shop in a building owned by fellow potreprenuer Ian Eisenberg. Bernhard was a co-owner of the Northwest Patient Resource Center in West Seattle prior to moving ahead with her Capitol Hill business.

Bernhard did not respond to CHS requests for comment and Eisenberg said he could not comment on the approval. Continue reading

Volunteer Park Cafe and Chop Shop sibling Canal Market shutters in Portage Bay

Part of a ripple of Seattle boutique grocery markets — and a member of a small but ambitious family of food+drink venture — has shuttered in Portage Bay after less than a year of business.

Canal Market, on Fuhrman Ave E squeezed between the north tip of Capitol Hill and the water, closed without fanfare this week due to “business reasons,” a former employee tells CHS. Neighbors wondering about the suddenly darkened stretch of retail asked CHS to check in on the market. A representative for the business has not responded to our inquiry about the closure.

The project from Capitol Hill food and drink entrepreneur and chef Ericka Burke took over the space of a former neighborhood bodega with a vision for a marketplace and cafe as other ventures like 19th Ave E-born Cone and Steiner also were forming to give the small-scale grocer business a try.

(Image: Canal Market)

(Image: Canal Market)

“I want this to be the quintessential neighborhood market, a vibrant hub,” Burke’s press release read at the time. “Canal Market will be a meeting place for neighbors to catch up over a cup of coffee, quickly grab a bottle of wine, and shop for dinner. We’re even going totally old school, offering house accounts to make getting in-and-out easy and convenient.”

Designed by Graham Baba and beset with construction delays, Burke finally opened Canal Market last May as her Volunteer Park Cafe settled in after a dispute with neighbors at 19th and Galer and as she geared up for her largest, most ambitious and expensive project — the centerpiece of Pike/Pine’s preservation-friendly Chophouse Row development, Chop Shop.

State corporation documents indicate the company behind the Canal Market has ceased operations. The companies behind Chop Shop and Volunteer Park Cafe, meanwhile, remain active.

UPDATE 2/8/2016: A spokesperson for Burke has responded to our inquiries with a short, simple reply. “It was a business decision.  Ericka wants to focus on VPC and Chop, and spend time with her young son.” There you go.