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15th Ave East Merchants Association gets real to help unique neighborhood businesses stick around

The 15th Ave East Merchants Association is ready to become a more noticeable presence.

“I always liken Capitol Hill to the united neighborhoods of Capitol Hill,” said Ross Kling, director of the nonprofit and owner of 15th Ave’s Rainbow Natural Remedies. “All these neighborhoods have a uniqueness.”

For Kling and his group of merchants — open to anybody with a physical storefront along 15th Ave E and a one-block radius from Denny to Galer — it’s the association of the area with Volunteer Park and the historic Conservatory and, Kling says, a customer base more dependent on local shoppers, diners and drinkers.

“We created a Washington state non-profit whose purpose is to act as a leader for the improvement of the economic vitality of the 15th Avenue East,” read the flyer for the group’s first big meeting held in October as a reception at Coastal Kitchen.

The board of directors probably includes a few of your favorite 15th Ave businesses:

  • President: Ross Kling, Rainbow Natural Remedies
  • Vice President: Jeremy Hardy, Coastal Kitchen
  • Treasurer: Mike Burke, Hilltop Service Station
  • Secretary: Bob Brenlin, Hopvine Pub
  • Director: Ray Angel, Angel’s Shoe Repair
  • Director: Tom Spangler, Spangler Insurance

The nonprofit’s first step after incorporating over the summer and naming Kling director is a simple effort in old-school marketing — association window stickers. Kling says more association marketing and branding around holiday or coupon promotions could be part of future plans. The formal organization also opens the doors to city grants and gathers the business district’s clout as City Hall issues like parking come along.

In 2012, CHS looked in on the early plans for the 15th Ave group as other similar efforts were growing around the Hill. The 15th Ave organization is the only of the bunch to formalize. Meanwhile, Kling emphasized that the group isn’t opposed to the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce’s efforts and sees its work as complementary to the merchants. The larger chamber is moving forward with plans for expansion of the Broadway Business Improvement Area  — but that effort is being shaped to target growth in Pike/Pine.

A City of Seattle study of the area a few years back showed the restaurants and stores responding to its survey averaged more than 12 years of business. “The biggest threats to the 15th Avenue commercial district are thought to be encroachment of franchise businesses and the anticipated expansion of the Group Health campus,” the study’s 15th Ave analysis concluded. So far, those warnings don’t seem to have been on mark for a 15th Ave where growth and change is coming quickly. Earlier this week, CHS tallied some of the change as we reported on Nuflours bakery replacing the longtime North Hill Bakery on the street:

Nearby, Ada’s Technical Books opened its new home and cafe. Just north, theLost Lake crew is preparing to overhaul The Canterbury. Across the street, demolition for a new four-story apartment building will come early in the new year. Meanwhile, the bakery ranks of the neighborhood have already been massively strengthened with the addition of Bakery Nouveau’s Capitol Hill location at 15th and John earlier this year.

There are no Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or websites, yet, for the 15th Ave E Merchants. To get involved in the meantime, you’ll need to stop into one of the shops. Dues are $75 for 2014.

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11 thoughts on “15th Ave East Merchants Association gets real to help unique neighborhood businesses stick around

  1. Why do we need another merchant’s group? We already have a local chamber of commerce. These efforts seem a distraction and dilution of resources. Stickers in people’s windows are not going to get people to shop on 15th Ave. Businesses selling goods and providing services that people want to pay money for will. And given several of the businesses that have opened recently on 15th Ave E, it doesn’t seem like 15th Ave E is all that challenged – if anything, its doing quite well.

    Judged by the list of businesses, I suspect this has to do more with complaining about on-street parking – a favorite Seattle pastimte.

    • This sort of gathering of concerned and engaged business owners on 15th Ave E represents grass roots democracy in that all businesses are working together to seek solutions and find opportunities. We feel that our little piece of Capitol Hill is unique and requires a different sensibility that that of Pike/Pine, Broadway, Pill Hill, etc. We have no parking complaints – btw.

      • Thank you I love the neighborhood pride. Is there anything you can do to influence the Safeway manager to uncover the windows on the 15th side of the store? The building is like a dead zone with no appeal to pedestrians. It really looks like they don’t care.

      • On a similar note, the QFC wall on 15th could use something to liven it up. It’d be nice to have a mural there at least. I wish someone had held Walgreens and Safeway (built in 2000 and 1998, respectively) to higher standards when those were built.

      • There actually was a vocal group of us that challenged Walgreens and the re-developer of the site at 15th Ave and Republican St. to try and influence what went into that re-development from the City Peoples into the Walgreens. But unfortunately we were largely hamstrung by the DPD codes since it was considered a “remodel” when they torn down all of the building but left two original exterior walls (the north and east) standing — that qualified it as a remodel. The original re-development as posted was supposed to be a mixed use commercial and residential with underground parking like has shown up many other places around Capitol Hill since. But they scaled back to just the “remodel” instead. We did succeed in a few small areas and concessions, but unfortunately were limited by the code in what we could get / demand.

    • I live close by and want to see happy storefronts in my neighborhood, and a cohesive bond of fellowship and green stickers solidifies it for me.

    • I disagree. As Mr. Kling says, his group’s efforts are complimentary to the Chamber’s.

      The analogous group for Broadway (the BIA) serves a very important role. For one thing, they contract with Cleanscapes to keep the street relatively clear of litter and old posters. Without this, Broadway would be just as much of a mess as Pike-Pine.

  2. There were tons of cool, independent businesses in this neighborhood (Pine/Pike) 15 years ago – it wasn’t “a ghetto.”

    Pistil Books, Delicious Music, Venus, Dundee Books, Tattoo You, Multi-lingual Books, Vintage Voola, Penny & Perk, Antiquarium, Funk You, Toys in Babeland, Chicken Soup Brigade Thrift Store…. Just to name some of the non-bar/restaurant businesses.

    Still, I will miss Samadhi.

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