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