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City People’s prepares for end-of-2016 closure to make way for Madison Valley development

(Image: City People's)

(Image: City People’s)

The most tragic of possible updates for Central Seattle gardeners has been posted to the City People’s Garden Store website.

“We are sad to report that the property City People’s Garden Store leases is in the process of being sold,” reads the message from owner Steve Magley, confirming rumors of a big real estate deal underway in Madison Valley.

The Capitol Hill-born store is planning to remain open through 2016 while the sale and development plan are completed. A manager at the store said options for a move are being explored but it’s much too early to say more.

According to city records, paperwork has begun to permit “a 165,570 sf mixed use building with 75 proposed units and 164 parking spaces.” The developer of the planned project is listed as Steven Silk, president and CEO of The Velmeir Companies, a Michigan-based “full service commercial retail development company.” The property is currently owned by a company associated with Harley Broe, one of the original partners behind City People’s.

According to the company, City People’s Mercantile, “the first women-owned hardware/mercantile store in Seattle,” was founded in 1979 by Judith Gille, Dorrie Wayenberg and Barbara Bower. Broe later joined the partnership. It first opened at 19th and Republican before stretching out in a larger space on 15th Ave E where it operated for 17 years:

Dorrie and Barbara moved on after a few years and new partners—Dianne Casper, Steve Magley, and Sarah Brazeau—took their places. After ten years of operation, the Fremont store was closed in December of 2000. The original Capitol Hill store was closed the following year. Our two remaining stores, City People’s Garden Store and Landscape Design in Madison Valley and City People’s Mercantile and Garden at 5440 Sand Point Way N.E. in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, are still both locally-owned and operated.

The Capitol Hill store shuttered to end 2001 as “the chain’s owners to scale back operations to two stores and sell the building,” the Puget Sound Business Journal reported. Today, a controversial at the time Walgreens stands at the corner.

The full announcement from City People’s is below. They have also provided a “frequently asked questions” list here.

Many of you have seen the surveyors and trucks on our property and have had questions about what is happening. We are sad to report that the property City People’s Garden Store leases is in the process of being sold. While there is still uncertainty as to whether the sale will go through, we are preparing for that possibility.

The timeline is still being determined, but we have been assured of being open at least through 2016. We will keep you posted as details emerge.

We are devastated by this news but are determined to enjoy this year and to make it our best ever. The staff wants everyone to know that we have cherished your support over the years, and we will make the most of the remaining time. We love what we do. Each day we remind ourselves how lucky we have been to work together in such a nurturing environment, in this location, with such great customers.

Some staff are exploring the possibility of creating a new retail nursery if it comes to that. As these plans develop, we will be asking the community for help in this endeavor.

In the meantime, we hope you will continue to visit us in Madison Valley and in return, we will continue to provide a great selection of outdoor plants, houseplants, gift items and excellent customer service.

Thank you very much,
Steve Magley & Staff

UPDATE 3/21/2016: The property owners have released a statement on the planned sale. “We had high hopes for the business, and we also hoped that many years hence our investment might become the cornerstone of our retirement. As we now know, the gamble paid off,” they write. In addition to encouraging shoppers to keep visiting the store through the end of the year, the group asks for patience about what is coming next to the land where City People’s stands today. “Please withhold judgment until you see what the new plan and retailer are going to be (we guarantee it’s not a Walgreens or any other pharmacy),” they write.

Here’s the full statement.

After 28 years, City People’s Garden Store will likely be closing at the end of 2016. We realize this will be a big loss for the area and a sad moment for many. We’d like to share our story with you.

In early 1988, the four owners of City People’s Mercantile-Capitol Hill made an offer on a derelict nursery at 2939 E. Madison. Believing the area needed a viable garden store and nursery, we were determined to build one. It was a big risk. In 1988, Madison Valley was a very different neighborhood than today — many of the buildings that now line Madison didn’t exist back then and the ones that did were either boarded up or had bars on the windows. We had high hopes for the business, and we also hoped that many years hence our investment might become the cornerstone of our retirement. As we now know, the gamble paid off. City People’s Garden Store came to be the area’s anchor business, helping attract customers and other viable businesses to the now vibrant Madison Valley shopping district.

Since the opening of our first store 37 years ago, the owners of City People’s have worked hard to deliver on our original mission: to provide Seattle’s neighborhoods with quality goods at reasonable prices, while offering a supportive workplace for our staff. It’s been an amazing journey. With your support City People’s has grown far beyond the original 800 square foot store we started on Capitol Hill in 1979.

We want you to know that we, the property owners (some of whom still work in the stores, and all of whom are in their 60s or 70s), have strived to ensure that any new development on the current site reflect our values and is a positive addition to the neighborhood. In the meantime, to keep the spirit of City People’s Garden Store alive, we offer a few suggestions:

  • Some of the staff are hoping to open a new nursery in south Seattle—help them find a new location (a property that might be available, but not formally on the market?) and support them getting a new store off the ground.
  • Continue to support the Garden Store staff by shopping there through the end of 2016.
  • Please withhold judgment until you see what the new plan and retailer are going to be (we guarantee it’s not a Walgreens or any other pharmacy).

We will always be grateful to the wonderful community here, and to the remarkable Garden Store staff. We hope you’ll remember City People’s Garden Store fondly as well as remember the contributions the store has made to the Valley. Please thank the staff the next time you come in and share your support for those who endeavor to carry the torch into the future.

–  Judith Gille, Harley Broe, Carol Anderson & Dianne Casper

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39 thoughts on “City People’s prepares for end-of-2016 closure to make way for Madison Valley development

  1. Gahhhhhh! I hope they can find a new home to relocate to. I love this place and if the move I guess I’ll have to drive to creepy Medina to hit up their nursery. Bummer :(

  2. What disappointing news!!! City People’s has been a beautiful and humanizing business on Madison. The ‘canyon-ization’ of Madison continues to spread like humidity down into the Valley. A great loss for all of us—-

  3. Their Sand Point store (sans nursery) is still a great place to shop. With all of our 6/1 residences and retail, I’d be thrilled if they took 15,000-20,000 sq. ft. of space!

  4. Seattle is systematically being destroyed, one neighborhood at a time. All the character and idiosyncrasy that made it such a wonderful place to live, is vaporizing. Full of Amazombies now.
    Sad to see.

    • City People’s is a store that appealed to rich folks from the beginning, but not to the exclusion of others. Consider not everyone has room to put plants in the first place, or giant pots. Or anything for a yard at all. Will see if they find a new spot, but it’s more a real estate crunch than destruction. The business seems a perfect fit for Madison.

    • Seattle being systematically destroyed is EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING.
      what is happening to the neighborhoods (?)
      All for tax reeves and commercial property ownership greed.. :(

  5. Why aren’t the pro-density people posting in this thread? All the NIMBYs and PLANTYs wanting to keep housing and plant costs high. People shouldn’t be flaunting their gardens anyway; there could be tiny houses in that tiny planter! DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT!

  6. Say it ain’t so, Broe! Nooooo.

    And correction or addition: It was located on Republican between 14th East and 15th East for a number of years before it expanded actually on 15th East. I lived next to it in 1981!

  7. Sad to hear this. I don’t have a yard, but I love to give plants as gifts to my friends who do – and this is where they usually came from.
    I miss the 15th street store too. I used to cross the street just to see if Bill and Hilary were snoozing in a chair.
    Walgreens: why do chain stores always have to have monolithic facades facing the street when independent stores can have display windows.

  8. Who knew how true Joni’s lyrics would be years later. “….They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot spot

    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot….”

  9. I’m really bummed about this. In addition to a great selection of plants and other items for gardening, the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful…..they will be greatly missed, and I hope that this business will relocate to somewhere not too far away.

  10. Why should *people* who live in apodments and eat Ketracel white care about plants? We don’t need this place so good riddance.

  11. I have always loved this store and the employees there. Sad to see it go, but glad it’ll be open through the summer. Hopefully they can find another spot relatively close.

  12. This is very disappointing and it makes me wonder who will be next? The Lorax from Dr. Seuss said the following: “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” :-(

  13. The long, slow death of retail continues. If it can be sold cheaper online or in a big-box store, it will be. Gone are the neighborhood pet shops, hardware stores, fruit stands, record stores, druggists. The storefronts of the future will all be food service, banks and personal/pet grooming. High-priced premium retailers like City People’s are merely the last to go.

    • Not that I disagree, but who buys plants, shrubs, and trees online? A place like this is great to have around! Guess we gotta truck out to the Sand Point store or down to Lowe’s.

  14. It’s always about the money, init.
    maybe amazon can start up a nursery in S.Lake union with same day delivery. they already sell flowers and bonsai trees. wow, why isn’t that happening like, now?!


    • With just 75 units in 165K sq ft of space, that comes out to 2200 sq ft per unit, which is much larger than the average condo/apt. I’m guessing it might have a larger mix of retail than most 5 over 1 mixed units and that much of the parking will be dedicated for commercial use, and they probably even have a tenant in mind which requires additional parking.

  15. I’m also sad to see City People’s go; it’s a great store. But these things are not simple. For those of you talking about paving paradise or invoking the Lorax, remember: there’s pretty much no better way to prevent loss of nature and farmland to sprawl than to have folks living in dense quarters close to each other and to work. Would you rather these same people built a bunch of McMansions on the edge of Sammamish? Sure you wouldn’t see it on a daily basis, but the environmental impact would be far far larger.

  16. I LOVE City People’s and have been a regular customer for many years. Pretty much every plant in our garden (and a lot of our indoor chachkas) have come from this store. Most of our purchases came from the discount plant section in the back of the nursery or the sale tables in the store–if you didn’t have a lot of money, you could still get great plants.

    The staff are all wonderful: knowledgeable, friendly…just a fantastic resource to people who love gardens and gardening. Sometimes, when I’m feeling stressed out, I go to City People’s Garden Store just to walk around and take in all the beauty. I can’t tell you how much I will miss having them in the valley.

    That said, it really troubles me to see all the haters who are using this forum to rant about Amazon. Yes, Amazon has an enormous presence in Seattle and a large physical footprint but most of their development has been in the wasteland that was S. Lake Union. And were it not for Amazon (along with other local large companies) Seattle would be in the same dire economic straights as much of the rest of the country. The demise of this beloved business has nothing to do with Amazon.

    Personally I believe there’s a place for both small local businesses and large corporations. Each offer their own unique value to our community.

    I will truly miss City People’s and hope a new space can be found.And, if so, I will be one of the first customers through their door.

    • I agree. It’s really a stretch to blame the closing of City People’s on Amazon….sure, there will probably be a few Amazon employees renting in the new building, but that doesn’t mean the development decision was made because Amazon is in Seattle.

      I too will be a customer at any new location, and am really hoping that will happen.

  17. This is very sad news. When I bought my house, my budget was so tight that I couldn’t afford to do much except work in the yard. I grew to love gardening, and it has been nice to have City People’s in the area. I love this store. I have never been able to afford more that an handful of plants every year, but the staff always treated me like I was a valued customer. They are extremely knowledgeable and professional and have given me great tips on organic gardening and plant care. I will miss them and hope that they can find a new place soon. This must be a very stressful time for the employees and management and I wish nothing but the best for all of them.

  18. And another piece of history bites the dust. I’ve been shopping here since 1972 when there was a nursery there called Clifton’s. it was run by an elderly man named Clifton who was quite charming and knew everything about plants.

  19. This is such sad news. Another spot that helps to build neighborhood and community gone. And probably the rest of the low rise businesses in that area will also be lost to development. Bye buy to once was Seattle . . .

  20. This blows!!!!
    I depended on CP to plant native, local varieties in my yard. As a village shopper and car-less person- Madison Co-op has lots of great plants come spring so I guess I will rely on them now.

    Say no to Lowes/home depot and their Monsanto seeds and plants!

  21. Seattle was a cool place just five years ago, but maybe it was just that I was a cool person 5 years ago.

    New Seattle sucks.

  22. I was a regular at the 15th Ave location and still miss it. My toddler and I would visit the “train store”. I even delighted in telling people I bought my outfit at the hardware store.

    Are 164 units AND retail really the minimum needed to make the deal pencil out? Why so much parking? And the tall facade on Dewey-how does that fit with the geotechnical requirements of the site? Yes to more density and PCC but the scale seems out of proportion.