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

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. 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

CHS Pics | What it looked like when the farmers market moved into its new Capitol Hill Station home

After 11 years and one pandemic, the Capitol Hill Farmers Market debuted Sunday in its new forever home on Broadway amid the Capitol Hill Station plaza, the city’s converted “festival street” that runs through it, artwork of the under construction AIDS Memorial Pathway, hundreds of new market rate apartments, more than 100 new affordable apartments, and thousands of square feet of new retail, grocery, and restaurant space hoped to be full of activity over the summer.

That bounty of change was greeted by a Seattle spring day imitating August with sunny blue skies. Here’s what it looked like.

CHS reported here on the new home and new layout for the weekly market bringing fresh fruits and vegetables, and vendor creations to the neighborhood. For now, the market will continue with its every Sunday 11 AM to 3 PM schedule but the future could bring expanded days and hours. The market is currently operating under pandemic restrictions with about half as many vendors as will eventually fill the space. Continue reading

The Capitol Hill Farmers Market is moving to Capitol Hill Station — Here’s what it will look like

(Image: CHS)

Sunday, the Capitol Hill Farmers Market will realize community hopes more than a decade in the making as it moves to its new home in the middle of the Capitol Hill Station plaza and along the E Barbara Bailey Way “festival street.”

Here’s how it will look with the new layout including E Denny/Barbara Bailey closed to cars during the market every Sunday, vendors lined up along the street, and a cluster of more vendor tents and tables inside the plaza. Continue reading

‘This QFC is Closing April 24, 2021’ — Shelves already bare at 15th Ave E grocery slated for shutdown over COVID-19 hazard pay

(Image: CHS)

With just over two weeks until its announced closure, many shelves at Capitol Hill’s 15th Ave E QFC have already been emptied of discounted groceries and booze.

Signs went up this week announcing a clearance sale at the market that had some shoppers filling their carts with champagne though few people are celebrating the end of the store’s run on the street. Hours have also been reduced with the store now open 9 AM to 9 PM daily.

Officials at parent company Kroger say the grocery is still slated to be closed Saturday, April 24th though it is unclear what will be left to sell at that point. CHS reported in mid-February on the Ohio-based company’s decision to shut down two Seattle stores over the city’s COVID-19 hazard pay saying its most expensive locations on Capitol Hill and in the Wedgwood neighborhood needed to go given the rising costs of operations. Continue reading

With the opening of Capitol Hill Station’s plaza, a new home awaits the Capitol Hill Farmers Market starting in April

The market’s team in front of the new plaza during construction (Image: Sarah Schu)

Construction fences have been removed and people can mill about and sit in the plaza above Capitol Hill Station as the area prepares for an increasingly busy world with more people returning to transit, renters going about life outside their new homes, new business tenants finally opening up, and, starting Sunday, April 18th, the Capitol Hill Farmers Market moving to its long awaited new home.

“It’s only about 422 steps from its current home, but our new site boasts a beautiful new plaza, situated across from the Capitol Hill station, and we’re a stone’s throw from Cal Anderson Park,” the Neighborhood Farmers Market Association said in announcing the milestone.

NFMA says the new market location at the Capitol Hill Station plaza will debut with an only slighted muted celebration. “While COVID-19 restrictions are certainly drizzling on our parade, our raincoats are on and there will be raffles, giveaways, and all the goodness going on during opening month, so stop by and join the celebration for a chance to win merchandise, gift cards, Farm Bucks, and more,” they promise. Continue reading

Amazon Fresh hopes at 23rd and Jackson: Neighborhood hires, human cashiers, cheaper groceries, and local business neighbors

Yes, the Vulcan development home to Jackson Apartments is shaped like a 12. Founder Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018, also owned the Seattle Seahawks (Image: Vulcan Real Estate)

(Image: Amazon Fresh)

Plans for the new Vulcan development at 23rd and Jackson are shaping up with new business tenants coming in and Amazon Fresh working on plans for its first of its kind grocery stores in Washington. The companies discussed details of the new development and soon to open store in a community meeting Thursday night.

QueenCare, a body-care company, became the first of three 500-square-foot retail tenants to open facing S Jackson and comfort food cafe Simply Soulful is set to expand with a 1,900-square-foot space this summer. Currently based in Madison Valley, Simply Soulful plans to reserve some of its space for local artists to display and sell their work.

The signature anchor tenant of the apartment development, however, is Amazon Fresh, which the company’s senior external affairs manager Taylor Hoang likened to conventional grocers like Safeway and QFC. Unlike the nearly employee-less and checkout-less Amazon Go, which opened on E Pike in early 2020, the store will still have human cashiers and unlike Whole Foods, also owned by the tech giant, it is expected to be more affordable.

“Anything that you can expect from a grocery store, this is what this is,” Hoang said at a Thursday evening meeting of the Central Area Neighborhoods District Council. She said they could possibly try a socially distanced walkthrough of the store before it opens. 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

QFC to shutter 15th Ave E grocery as company axes two Seattle stores over COVID-19 hazard pay — UPDATE

Blaming the city’s newly imposed $4 an hour COVID-19 hazard pay for grocery workers, QFC announced Tuesday it is closing two “underperforming” Seattle stores including its Capitol Hill grocery on 15th Ave E.

“Our business provides affordable groceries, good jobs with growth opportunities to thousands of Seattle residents, and proudly supports thousands of local community organizations,” the statement from the Kroger-owned grocery company announcing the closures reads. “We need a level playing field to deliver on these commitments. Unfortunately, Seattle City Council didn’t consider that grocery stores — even in a pandemic — operate on razor-thin profit margins in a very competitive landscape. When you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, coupled with consistent financial losses at these two locations, and this new extra pay mandate, it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”

Kroger’s most recent reports show the company smashing forecasts with a surge in revenue and profits during the pandemic.

The 15th Ave E store will remain open through April 24th, the company said. The 35th Ave NE store in Wedgwood is also on the chopping block. Continue reading