After pulling out of 15th Ave E, QFC makes ‘Q Fresh’ investment in battle for Central Seattle grocery customers

Germany’s Infarm has partnered with QFC on hydroponic sales cases (Image: Infarm)

Though QFC has bailed on Capitol Hill’s 15th Ave E as part of its beef with the Seattle City Council, the chain’s parent company continues to invest in the neighborhood with a new produce project planned for the busy Harvard Market store at Broadway and Pike.

The “Q Fresh” project will overhaul a portion of the store’s deli area and reconfigure its entire produce section, according to construction permits.

The $200,000 construction project inside the Pike and Broadway store follows parent company Kroger’s shutdown of the neighborhood’s 15th Ave E store as part of two closures in Seattle over the city’s $4 an hour COVID-19 hazard pay. Continue reading

‘90%’ — In tiff with Seattle City Council over COVID-19 hazard pay, Kroger says most employees ‘chose to continue working with QFC’ but has no answers on what’s next for Capitol Hill grocery

Not much left to sell at the 15th Ave E QFC (Image: CHS)

The numbers behind the decision may not exactly add up but the 15th Ave E QFC is still set for its final day of business Saturday as Ohio-based parent company Kroger continues to point the finger at specific Seattle leadership for its decision to cut the store over the city’s $4 per hour COVID-19 hazard pay.

The 15th Ave E location has been an active grocery store for 77 years.

“While it is never our intent to close stores, it’s unfortunate that the decision was made for us,” a company spokesperson told CHS Thursday. “The Seattle City Council’s ordinance made it impossible to keep these two underperforming stores open.”

The dispute is also a sore spot between the company and United Food and Commercial Workers 21, the local chapter of the powerful union representing grocery workers. UFCW 21 has protested the closure decisions and held mock “donation collection” events in front of stores set to close “to help raise funds for the top supermarket chain in the country to pay its workers temporary hazard pay and call on Kroger Co. to keep stores open.”

Kroger says “90%” of the employees involved in the shutdown took new jobs at other QFC locations.

The spokesperson declined to provide “specific store information” to CHS “as it is our policy not to share store sales data.”

There are two other QFCs on Capitol Hill — both on Broadway — and nine more across Seattle.

CHS reported in mid-February on Kroger’s decision to shut down two Seattle stores over the city’s COVID-19 hazard pay claiming its most expensive locations on Capitol Hill and in the Wedgwood neighborhood needed to go given the rising costs of operations. The closures joined other shutterings by the company following hazard pay ordinances in other cities. Continue reading

Driver flees after smashing truck into Capitol Hill’s Ruckus pot shop

Seattle Police were investigating after someone smashed a white Chevy pickup into the storefront of Capitol Hill pot shop Ruckus and fled the scene early Monday morning.

The crash was reported just after 3:30 AM at the 14th and Republican store where police could be seen cautiously approaching the truck and smashed-up pot shop. There were no occupants in the vehicle and it did not appear that the truck entered far enough to allow entry into the store. Continue reading

COVID-19 closures and a few hopes of new locations: Little Neon Taco, By Tae, Drizzle and Shine, and more

With word of a sad closing on First Hill — and some good news about some return visits planned for Capitol Hill — here are a few area COVID-19 crisis closures to catch up on.

  • Little Neon Taco: Even the lower rent from a reduced footprint couldn’t save the Boren favorite from small space master Monica Dimas. The three-year-old fixed-space home for her Neon Tacos is no more. Dimas announced the closure and said to watch for Little Neon Tacos at E Pike natural wine bar turned temporary COVID-19 era natural wine shop La Dive. “We are so grateful for the support of our friends and neighbors during this time,” Dimas writes. “We know that this year has been hard on everyone and while we are sad to be leaving our current location, we’re excited to partner with La Dive to keep doing what we do best: feeding good people good food.” Continue reading

Overnight burglary temporarily closes 15th Ave E Walgreens

QFC is leaving the street but 15th Ave E’s big chain pharmacy Walgreens is only temporarily closed.

Shoppers and customers hoping to have prescriptions filled found the 500-block pharmacy shuttered Saturday morning.

According to East Precinct radio updates, police were called to the store around 2AM to a break-in. It’s not clear how much damage was done beyond a smashed front glass door and what if anything was taken from the store but police were looking for a suspect wearing a dark hoodie with a white backpack and white gloves believed to have used a crowbar or a baton to bust the glass and break in. The suspect was last seen fleeing through the store’s parking lot, headed south, just before police arrived. Continue reading

QFC says will lay off 109 workers in Seattle hazard pay closures including 15th Ave E store

QFC’s decision to close two Capitol Hill stores including its 15th Ave E grocery over Seattle’s COVID-19 hazard pay ordinance will cost 109 workers their jobs, the company revealed in a state filing Friday afternoon.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification announcements are federally required for employers with 100 or more employees “to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.”

A QFC spokesperson did not respond to CHS’s inquiry about how many workers of the 109 are currently employed at the 15th Ave E store.

Parent company Kroger also blamed COVID-19 hazard pay requirements for its decision to close a Ralphs and a Food 4 Less in Long Beach, California. Continue reading

Pot in Seattle is too white: Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force shaping plan to create new opportunities in state’s retail marijuana industry

Owner Ian Eisenberg watches a 2016 protest targeting his Uncle Ike’s pot shop at 23rd and Union

By Melissa Santos /

A plan to bring social equity to the state’s mostly white marijuana industry was delayed by COVID-19. Now, things are inching forward.

Even before this year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Washington state’s legal cannabis industry had a well-known problem with race.

About 4% of the state’s population is Black. But Black people have a majority stake in only 1% of Washington businesses that grow and process marijuana, according to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, while roughly 3% of retail cannabis shops are majority Black owned. Some remain skeptical of those figures and say the picture is actually worse.

So, when former basketball star Shawn Kemp opened a shop that was initially billed as Seattle’s first Black-owned cannabis dispensary, headlines followed.

Except Kemp’s store didn’t do anything to budge those statewide numbers. In fact, he owns only 5% of the store that bears his name — and the business is actually majority white owned. The communications firm that originally promoted the store as Seattle’s first Black-owned cannabis dispensary later said it shouldn’t have done so.

For many, the dustup once again highlighted the lack of diversity in the state’s legal pot industry and the need to fix it. Continue reading

Capitol Hill restaurants reach new neighborhoods with expansions including Aviv Hummus Bar’s meaty counterpart and Due’ Cucina’s second opening

(Image: Aviv)

After months of operating under COVID-19 restrictions and uncertainty, some Capitol Hill-born restaurants aren’t just digging in to survive but expanding with new locations and what they hope will be recipes for long-term food and drink success.

15th Ave E’s Aviv Hummus Bar is opening its sister restaurant Aviv Shawarma Bar in South Lake Union and Broadway’s Due’ Cucina pasta shop has expanded on the Eastside. Both business expansions began as pre-pandemic endeavours, but offer cuisine well-suited for the coronavirus age of relying primarily on takeout.

Meanwhile, a 15th Ave E original has expanded to Ballard and a sibling of Broadway’s Lionhead has risen near Climate Pledge Arena.

Aviv Shawarma Bar
This shawarma-centered street food spot has opened South Lake Union from the creators of Capitol Hill’s vegetarian friendly Aviv Hummus Bar.

David and Jodi Nussbaum opened their hummus and falafel eatery back in 2017 on 15th Ave E and have been waiting for the right location to bring their shawarma vision to life.

Situated in the up and coming South Lake Union tech area and not far from Capitol Hill, Nussbaum believes the new spot will have adequate foot traffic for the authentic shawarma street food experience of “seeing a glorious, large stack of meat slow rotating in front of a vertical flame that slowly cooks the meat with each rotation, dripping the succulent juices down.” Continue reading

‘I will not open in Seattle again’ — Why Capitol Hill’s The Wandering Goose really closed

Earnhardt at the Goose’s 2012 debut (Image: CHS)

News that Capitol Hill bakery and cafe The Wandering Goose was closing permanently hit hard around the neighborhood and the city.

The 15th Ave E favorite’s biscuits and generous slabs of cake were a comfort and a popular neighborhood stop even through the challenges of COVID-19.

As the state is putting a new phased plan in place for reopening the economy after the latest virus lockdowns, owner Heather Earnhardt tells CHS the city needs to do more to support small businesses like the Goose.

“Our local politicians let us down honestly,” Earnhardt tells CHS. “It was impossible to acquire any funding or grants (not for lack of applying mind you) and the fact that we made it 10 months on our own doing only to-go is something I’m proud of.”

Earnhardt says that she and co-owner Mike McConnell, the founder and former owner of Caffe Vita, along with managing partner Alexandria Ladich did what they could to keep the business open through the various lockdowns and phases put in place to try to slow the spread of the virus. Continue reading

Reopening: Capitol Hill salons old and new return, adjusting to ‘new norm’ of masked haircutting

New colors at 19th Ave Salon by Brandon Madsen (Image: 19th Ave Salon)

Capitol Hill beauty businesses are adjusting to cutting and styling hair under state-mandated changes, including wearing PPE, issuing temperature checks and maintaining six feet of distance when possible.

For 19th Avenue Salon owner Jamie De Maria, implementing these safety requirements has been an important part of opening the new business. The salon had only been open for a week when COVID-19 restrictions shut the business down.

To his surprise, De Maria said the shop has not struggled with customers since reopening.

“We’ve been so beyond busy and turning clients away and working 12 hour days — it’s been insane,” De Maria said. “I would say 80-90% of our new customers are neighbors and residents of the community that have been walking by the salon seeing the construction happening and waiting for it to open and reading our reviews online.”

Salons got the go-ahead to reopen at 25% capacity under Phase 1.5 restrictions in early June and now have the option to expand to 50% capacity as part of Phase 2. Continue reading