Capitol Hill’s The Unicorn bar celebrated its 10th anniversary in January by signing another 10-year lease at its E Pike location. With a much-anticipated Unicorn White Center slated to open this December, its trademark whimsical gag is only expanding.
“I feel like bars and restaurants these days, to really be successful, you need to do something different and go against the grain a little bit, and really take chances,” founder Adam Heimstadt said. “You need to be a bit of a gambler, so to speak. I put 110% into everything we do. All the stupid details matter, all the small fine details.”
The carnival-themed Unicorn and downstairs brother bar Narwhal are known for decor as sugary sweet as the signature drink Unicorn Jizz, a mango vodka, triple sec, orange juice and sprite creation. The striped walls, salvaged and repainted antique paneling, bedazzled atm, taxidermied wildlife, and video arcade have established the bar as an Anything Goes spectacle for a younger crowd, a concept that Heimstadt and his wife Kaileigh Wilson want to turn into a destination bar in White Center.
Heimstadt and Wilson bought the 25,000 square foot property at 9832 17 Ave SW in 2017, renting it out as a temporary home for a local church for a couple of years before building it out. It was a stroke of luck for the couple, who said they beat out a developer for the prime spot, which boasts a huge parking lot, and five retail spaces.
Heimstadt and Wilson were scrupulous in who they rented to. “We very specifically wanted to rent to first-time business owners, women business owners. Adam said the only reason he got [the space on Capitol Hill] is because the landlords who were here before took a chance on him. They really went to bat for him. He felt fortunate to have somebody give him that chance, so we wanted to do the same thing,” Wilson said. “Everyone who’s in that building, it’s either female-owned or has a female owner, and it’s first-time business owners.”
Unicorn White Center will share the block with Altar of Nails, Church Tattoo, Lariat Bar, Lady Wolf Studios, and Barbarellas.
True to Unicorn style, Heimstadt’s meticulous hand-painted salvaged antiques and paneling for the second location have been five years in the making. It’s the same Unicorn shenanigans, on a much larger scale.
To put it in perspective, the length of the Narwhal bar is about 42 feet long, and Unicorn White Center’s bar will be 64 feet long.Then there’s the installment of four teacup rides he relocated from San Luis Obispo to deck out the bar.
“We got some teacups that you can put a quarter in and it’ll just spin very, very slowly like the Space Needle. Then we have two Tilt-A-Whirls with the bonnets,” Heimstadt said.
For Heimstadt and Wilson, Unicorn is more than a profitable bar, it’s a passion project. Both are veteran Seattle bartenders; Heimstadt had a 10+ year history with Twilight Exit before opening Unicorn. Originally wanting to be a fashion designer, he started making furniture, collecting antiques, and at one point had a vendor spot at the Fremont Vintage Mall. Heimstadt asserts their home looks just like the bar, filled with carnival antiques, and even more taxidermy. For the self-made business owners, the opportunity to own the building for Unicorn White Center was an obvious choice.
“I put so much work into everything, and so much time that we just knew… we have to own it,” Heimstadt said. “We can’t just build this thing and walk away from it. I want it to be something that is in Seattle forever, to be able to have that history in the future. I want people to talk about it in a hundred years. It sounds kind of stupid to say that, but I want to be a landmark.”
Follow @unicornwhitecenter on Instagram for updates.
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