Albert Balch, the developer of Wedgwood, liked to call himself a “community builder.” Although he was primarily a builder of residential homes and not of business blocks, he wanted to help provide places for services that the Wedgwood neighborhood would need, such as stores, banks and medical offices. The business center of the neighborhood at NE 85th Street, along 35th Ave NE, was created by Albert Balch.
In 1942 Albert Balch acquired the land on the east side of 35th Ave NE at NE 85th Street. This site from the corner of NE 82nd to NE 85th, had been held by a long-time owner and had never been developed. Balch used that corner site as a staging area for his lumber and construction equipment throughout the 1940s and 1950s. During the 1950s while the site was mostly vacant, neighborhood Christmas tree sales got their start on the lot.
Beginnings of businesses at the present Wedgwood Broiler site
Finally in 1958-59 Balch began leasing out space to businesses at the corner-NE 85th Street site, east side of 35th Ave NE. The present grocery store building was the first on the site, built in 1959 by Tradewell, then became Matthew’s Red Apple in 1989 and then QFC in the year 2000.
In 1958 space which Balch owned was to be leased for a hamburger drive-in at the present site of the Windermere office on the west side of the street at 8401 35th Ave NE, but the drive-in was disqualified by zoning regulations.
Balch then ventured into the restaurant-building business himself when he started the Sir Wedgwood at the present site of the Wedgwood Broiler, 8230 35th Ave NE. Today the Wedgwood Broiler is in the heart of Wedgwood alongside a QFC grocery store, Homestreet Bank, hair salon, coffee shop and other business offices.
Beginnings — before it became the Broiler
The first, very small restaurant at this site was run by two guys, Lou Dapas and Donald R. Mills, who were also responsible for Lou’s 19-cent Hamburger Drive-In, Burien. In the struggle to get going as a “real” sit-down restaurant, in July 1967 Don Mills applied to the City of Seattle to expand the Sir Wedgwood building and to serve liquor. The application to the Board of Adjustment failed in a split vote, 3 to 2. Mills gathered more supporting statements, including an endorsement from the Wedgwood Community Club and from Albert Balch himself, and was successful in an appeal to the City Council Planning Committee.
Balch saw the need for professional restaurant management, so at the end of 1968 more experienced restaurant owners acquired the lease of the Sir Wedgwood. In 1969 the restaurant was expanded and was renamed the Sir Wedgwood Broiler, because Glen F. Jensen, owner of Blazes Broiler in Ballard, helped redesign the space. That rather awkward, long name, Sir Wedgwood Broiler, was kept through the end of 1972. The change to the shortened “Wedgwood Broiler” came in 1973.
The current owner of the Wedgwood Broiler, Derek Cockbain, began working there in 1981. Over time he did every job from dishwashing to cooking, and he became owner on March 1, 1996. Under Derek’s guidance the Broiler has continued with great food and great ambiance, a neighborhood gathering place truly in the heart of Wedgwood.
Update on Blazes Broiler: This once-popular restaurant at 2622 NW Market Street in the Ballard neighborhood closed in the year 2001. The former restaurant building was divided into two retail storefronts, Firehouse Coffee and a bicycle shop.
Next door at Limback Lumber, 2600 NW Market Street, an old Blazes Broiler banner hangs from the rafters.
Source notes (continued):
Seattle City directories: various years, tracing the names of the Broiler and its owners; accessed at Seattle Public Library downtown on the 9th & 10th floors.
Classified ads (for restaurant help) of 1972 used the name “Sir Wedgwood Broiler.” Listings in classified ads beginning in January 1973 showed the name as Wedgwood Broiler.
“Board Denies Zoning Variance to Restaurant in Wedgwood.” Seattle Daily Times, July 29, 1967. Page 15.
“City Council Planning Committee Recommended Granting of a Variance.” Seattle Daily Times, August 31, 1967. Page 27.
“Wedgwood Broiler.” Restaurant review by Gregory Roberts, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 22, 2000, page 5.
The Wedgwood Broiler on Facebook.
A restaurant review of the Broiler, January 20, 2016 in the Seattle Times newspaper.
The Wedgwood Broiler’s food challenge beaten after 47 years.