In a world where Seattle-based tech giant Amazon is changing the way we buy groceries and in a neighborhood that can mostly afford it, a group of Capitol Hill food, drink and retail veterans are banding together to create a new “corner market” on Capitol Hill.
“It’s a neighborhood market or mercantile focused on being a big part of the neighborhood,” coffee and pie entrepreneur Dani Cone tells CHS about her all-star teamed project, Cone and Steiner, planned to join the new 19th and Mercer apartment development “before the holidays.”
“It’s a grocery store with some other stuff mixed in,” Cone says, clearly underplaying her hand.
“We want to hit on all the things you’d want if you need a jug of milk. Or a baguette,” Josh Henderson said of the plans for a neighborhood grocery market that provides shoppers with the things they need — and a few of things they didn’t yet know they needed like farm fresh cheeses or a new rolling pin.
Henderson, whose Skillet empire opened its first diner at 14th and Union in 2011, brings his Huxley Wallace Collective to the A-Team assembled to create the new east Capitol Hill market. The collective just rolled out its latest project, Parchment, in SODO.
“It will be a thoughtful, curated collection,” Henderson said. “But we’re not going to have 15 kinds of mustard.”
Also part of the team to help supply the “collection” — and be in charge of little red wagons planned to be available to shoppers who want to pull their goods home — are Hill retail veterans Jon Milazzo and Lori Pomeranz who have operated Retrofit Home for nearly two decades.
“We get restless for a new project about once every ten years,” Milazzo says of her busy partners Cone and Henderson. “These guys get restless about every year.”
Milazzo and Pomeranz said their part in Cone and Steiner is more than popping up a part of Retrofit in a new part of the Hill. “This is a general store,” Milazzo said. Pomeranz said, in addition to the wagons, she’s also looking forward to creating a space where neighborhood kids can hang their art and learn about health foods and recycling.
Keeping prices affordable and quality high when good, organic milk weighs in at $5.99 a gallon will be part of the challenge. But many logistics of the store, supplier relationships and market conditions will fit into the current businesses the various partners run.
Fitting this many big names and ideas into the space, however, will also be a challenge. Cone and Steiner will fill a chock-fulll 1,600 square-foot berth in the still under construction building. Neighbors will be the hotly anticipated, quieter, and, perhaps, more grown up addition to the Linda Derschang empire, Tallulah’s, and the Molly Moon’s/Hello Robin joint ice cream and cookie shop. So you can imagine the Cone and Steiner ice cream and cookie sections might be a little thin. But you will find beer — including a growler station — and wine, produce, dairy products, dry goods, a fun selection of candies and sweets, a few life necessities and a deli counter in the mix. Hours are planned to be more in the 8a to 10p spectrum than 7-11’s.
“You’ll walk in and see a bank of refrigerators full of beer and milk like you would in any market,” Henderson said.
“We’re bringing back the stoop!” adds Huxley Wallace’s Matthew Parker who is providing design guidance for the new venture and is excited about a Brownstone-esque front that will give shoppers a space to perch along 19th Ave E.
There will also be the things you don’t find. The lease forbids the sale of tobacco products and state law won’t let the partners sell hard liquor. No plans to sell retail pot were announced. But a big part of the project is to be open to the neighborhood’s suggestions.
Located in the border zone where eastern Capitol Hill and Miller Park transitions into the wealthier North Capitol Hill, Cone and Steiner will serve a residential Capitol Hill mix that includes a broad cut of economic profiles. Increasingly, thanks to projects like the building the market will call home, the mix will swirl together tenants with the families and wealthier couples that gravitate in the general direction of Interlaken. The partners hope everybody finds what they need at Cone and Steiner.
“Probably the number one thing is to communicate that we want to respond to the neighborhood’s feedback,” Henderson said.
Retrofit’s Milazzo said a sign she once saw in a small grocery store sums it up best — “If you don’t see it, ask for it.”
It’s a model also being employed on First Hill where the local Stockbox chain has opened its version of a city market. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill is fully stocked with national chain grocery stores as well as the legendary (CHS advertiser) Central Co-op and Trader Joe’s. Shoppers looking to take a walk along 19th Ave E will also find small mercantile offerings at nearby Vios as well as just around the corner up E Galer at the Volunteer Park Cafe. Clean-up on aisle 9 might be replaced by clean-up at E Prospect. We suggest somebody add a magazine rack along the way.
At 19th and Mercer, future residents are already taking hard hat tours and will begin moving in this fall. We’re told Tallulah’s is on schedule for a possible November opening while the Hello Robin and Molly Moon shared shop will follow shortly thereafter. Cone and Steiner will be somewhere in that mix — CHS is betting on early December.
For Cone, the project is another investment in the neighborhood where she opened her first Fuel Coffee in spring 2005. By late 2010, she was working on her next big venture, High 5 Pie at 12th and Madison. You might expect to see some pie on the menu at the new market but both Cone and Henderson said the project isn’t about extending their existing brands and products.
Cone says the market is about responding to years of her 19th Ave customers suggesting she sell gallons of milk — and some loftier goals.
“This is that community place.” Cone said. “It’s an extension of the kind of places that we’ve already created. This is of the neighborhood.”