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CHS History Classic | 109 years of groceries on 15th Ave E

View east over 15th on Republican, 1936 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

When this CHS history piece originally ran in 2015, it was inspired by the surge of new grocery options opening across Capitol Hill. But its center of a particularly interesting grocery at 15th and Republican is timely again with this week’s closure of QFC putting the future of groceries on the street in new uncertain light. What will come next for the QFC building and its 77 years of grocery history isn’t yet clear. Here is a look up the block to another street corner in Capitol Hill history while we wait.

By Robert Ketcherside

In 1912, the prior few years brought easy access to downtown with regraded streets and new streetcar lines on Pike, Pine, Summit, 19th, and 23rd that filled empty lots with houses and apartment buildings. As in other parts of Seattle, grocery stores were small, independent businesses. And then two branches of Augustine & Kyer — Seattle’s “Pure Food Purveyors” — upset the balance.

Wealthy homeowners across the city had been phoning in delivery orders to A&K for years. The full-service grocer had 40,000 square feet in the Colman building at 1st and Marion, 19 operators with dedicated phone lines to take orders, and a fleet of 18 horse-pulled delivery wagons to distribute them around town. In 1909 A&K opened a store in Queen Anne to directly serve customers. Then as the rich continued to move into James A. Moore’s original Capitol Hill development, Broadway, North Broadway, Roanoke Park, Summit and the other neighborhoods that we now call Capitol Hill, A&K opened two additional stores in 1912.

The North Broadway store was at 10th and Miller where Pagliacci’s North Capitol Hill branch is today. And our subject, the Capitol Hill store, was at 15th and Republican, now a Walgreens branch.

Henry Kyer depicted in 1911 just before the Capitol Hill store opened. Photo and Cartoon from The Cartoon, A Reference Guide of Seattle’s Successful Men

Because of M. B. Augustine’s Folger Coffee background, coffee was a store specialty from the Louch & Augustine days right up to the end of the business

The chain started in about 1880 when Charles Louch opened a grocery store on 1st Avenue. A decade later he was joined by Manuel Brock Augustine, formerly a salesman for San Francisco’s Folger Coffee. Louch & Augustine grew and formed a distribution arm, but Charles Louch returned to his native England in 1903 and sold his share of the business. In 1908 M. B. Augustine turned over control of the business to his son Julius Augustine and his son-in-law Henry Anderson Kyer. For three decades the business operated under their names, Augustine & Kyer.

The Augustines and Kyers moved their homes quite a bit in the 1890s, renting a series of houses that led them to First Hill. From 1900 on they were Broadway residents and then in 1905 M. B. and wife moved to the new Capitol Hill neighborhood at 16th and Prospect while son Julius moved to Roanoke Park in 1910. Henry Kyer and his wife Alice (nee Augustine) lived at Harvard and Mercer until their 1907 divorce. It’s amazing that the Augustines personally lived out the gradual drift of Seattle’s wealthy away from downtown through First Hill to new neighborhoods. When they opened stores in North Broadway and Capitol Hill they knew firsthand about the new lives of their clientele.

The North Broadway store only lasted 5 or 6 years, closing during World War One. But the Capitol Hill store lasted deep into the Great Depression, closing in 1937 as A&K sank into debt. Eventually distributor Pacific Fruit took possession of A&K.

In 1939, M. L. Bean was hired by Pacific Fruit’s parent Pacific Gamble Robinson to save a number of Seattle groceries. He immediately gave up on A&K, selling off the remaining assets of the chain.

In 1944, Price and Stephens opened on the street just south of where the A&K story played out. The building constructed for the Moore family business later became a Thriftway, and, eventually, the 15th Ave E QFC.


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Moving Soon
Moving Soon
23 days ago

It’s amazing how quickly the white settlers colonized the area and continue to through this very moment. Those insidious rascals. Interesting modern history!

RWK
RWK
22 days ago

Fascinating article…..thank you, Robert!

Sojohnative
Sojohnative
22 days ago

Speaking of grocery stores, a little South of John history.
From 1952 through 1959 my folks operated K&D market on 15th and Denny, where Kaiser Hospital is now. Our home was on the SW corner, it was demolished and the current daycare was built in the 80’s .The late 50’s brought the 104 Market on the same block, more of a supermarket ,that arrival took a chunk out of their income , so they soon moved on.

Kris
Kris
21 days ago

I do wonder why City Council demands hazard pay for these folks working in the private sector but do not give any supplemental compensation to their own essential workforce.