Groceries and Growth in Wedgwood

The Jasper is the first new apartment building to be built in Wedgwood in more than sixty years.

The Jasper which opened in 2012 was the first new apartment building in Wedgwood in more than sixty years.

Grocery stores in Wedgwood expanded with the growth of the neighborhood in the post-World-War-Two period of the 1940s and 1950s.    Beginning with the economic downturn called the Boeing Bust in the 1970s, grocery stores and some other kinds of stores declined along with the economy, and there were fewer locally-owned small businesses in Wedgwood.

The year 2012 brought in a new era with a new apartment building in Wedgwood’s 35th Avenue NE commercial core, and its live-work units at the sidewalk level, some which have businesses operating out of them.

The story of grocery stores keeps changing, and in 2021 it was announced that Wedgwood’s QFC at 8400 35th Ave NE would close on April 24th.  This site had been originally built by Tradewell, then was a Red Apple and had been QFC since the year 2000.

The new Wedgwood neighborhood acquires a commercial district

Morningside Market in November 2014

The Morningside Market in Wedgwood opened in 1926 with a grocery on one side and a butcher shop on the other.

Prior to the 1940s there had been only a few scattered mom-and-pop stores in the neighborhood, such as Fauld’s at the northeast corner of NE 95th Street, and Morningside Market (groceries & meats) at 9118 35th Ave NE.

The end of World War Two in 1945 marked a time of population boom in Wedgwood, with stores and services scrambling to keep up with demand.  Many of the commercial buildings in Wedgwood date to this era in the 1940s-1950s when the intersections of NE 75th and 85th became commercial centers.

The first big grocery store to come into the central shopping area of Wedgwood was the IGA Foodliner in 1946 at 8606 35th Ave NE, present site of the Jasper Apartments.  At first, the grocery store sign said McCullough’s Grocery and Frey’s Meats, because the IGA stores were listed in the name of the owner.

In 1952 a small Tradewell was built at 8512 35th Ave NE (present site of Rite-Aid) and the growing population of Wedgwood easily supported both the IGA and the Tradewell grocery stores, even though they were across the street from one another at NE 86th Street.

The original Wedgwood Tradewell as it looked when built in 1952, present site of Rite-Aid at 8512 35th Ave NE. The windmill logo in the center was for the in-store Van de Kamp’s Bakery. The writing on the photo is the legal description of the property with address. Photo courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives, repository of the property records of King County.

Soon each of the two grocery stores sought to expand.   In 1956-1957 the IGA remodeled and doubled its square footage, then was bought out and renamed Evans Thriftway.   Russ Evans, age 37, had spent the previous four years working for the Thriftway chain in setting up new stores, so he was ready and able to have his own store.   Evans moved his family to Wedgwood and became an active member of the Wedgwood Chamber of Commerce.

Tradewell moves southward to a bigger new store in 1959

The Tradewell Grocery Store as pictured in 1962, was built in 1959 and is the present site of QFC at 8400 35th Ave NE. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives image 76718.

The Tradewell Grocery Store as pictured in 1962, was built in 1959 and is the present site of QFC at 8400 35th Ave NE. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives image 76718.

In 1958 Tradewell sought a zoning variance to build a big new store.   They wanted to move from the north side of NE 85th Street to the south side, present site of QFC at 8400 35th Ave NE.

Neighbors along 36th Ave NE behind the proposed Tradewell development led a protest delegation because of concerns that the store would tower over and shade their homes.   In spite of the protests the store was able to get its plans approved by the city zoning commission and the new, expanded Tradewell opened in 1959.

Economic changes and the Boeing Bust years

Evans Thriftway full-page ad.Wedgwood Echo of February 1957

The remodelled Evans Thriftway opened in 1957 at 8606 35th Ave NE, present site of the Jasper Apartments.

In the 1970s and 1980s many small shops in Wedgwood went out of business, unable to compete with big-box stores and the increasing mobility of customers who drove their cars elsewhere to shop.   Once-successful, locally owned McVicar Hardware, McGillivray’s Variety & Gift Store and Bud Gagnon’s Wedgewood Pharmacy all closed in this time period.

The Wedgwood Community Club which had been organized in 1946 to address neighborhood concerns, dwindled out of existence in the early 1970s, and Wedgwood no longer had an active Chamber of Commerce, either.   Perhaps people were so impacted by the Boeing Bust, an economic downturn caused by massive lay-offs at Boeing Aircraft, that they lost interest in community involvement.    From the mid-1970s until a reconstituted Wedgwood Community Council was formed in 1987, Wedgwood had no organized activist group which represented neighborhood concerns to the City of Seattle.

In 1983 Russ Evans closed his business, too, and the Evan’s Thriftway space at 8606 35th Ave NE was taken over by Matthew’s Red Apple Grocery Store.   But business traffic in Wedgwood was no longer enough to support two grocery stores at the NE 85th Street center of the neighborhood, and Tradewell (present site of QFC at 8400 35th Ave NE) was the next store to close.

Evans Thriftway was in a 1946 grocery building which was remodelled and expanded in 1956-1957 and renamed for owner Russ Evans. The Jasper Apartments are now on this site. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives. The writing on the photo is the legal description with block number and address.

In 1989 Matthew’s Red Apple moved from 8606 35th Ave NE (present site of the Jasper Apartments) into the Tradewell building at 8400 35th Ave NE and became the only grocery store at that intersection.   The IGA/Thriftway/Red Apple grocery building at 8606 35th Ave NE was leased to the Jewish Community Center.

Stirring up neighborhood activism again in 1999-2000

In 1999 came Wedgwood’s grass-roots Red Apple neighborhood protest movement when Matthew’s Red Apple at 8400 35th Ave NE lost its lease and was to be replaced by a QFC grocery store.   The change represented the loss of yet another locally-owned, small-scale business, and Wedgwoodians got stirred up about it, with protest demonstrations attended by hundreds of people.   Matthew’s ultimately did lose its lease and close, but the experience left a lasting legacy in Wedgwood, a renewed sense of activism and concern for planning and development.

The QFC grocery store (background) is in Wedgwood's busy commercial district where the streets take a beating from the heavy traffic, as seen by this pothole.

The QFC grocery store (background) is in Wedgwood’s busy commercial district where the streets take a beating from the heavy traffic, as seen by this pothole.

Once it became clear that QFC would move in, neighborhood activists sought to have input into the design and the operating policies of the new QFC store which was to be remodeled and open in 2000.   The Wedgwood land use committee was chaired by community council president Jack Robinson.  Brian & Stacy Swanson, who had led the Red Apple protest, joined in.

The committee met with QFC representatives about their remodeling plans and suggested a wood-front framework with a gable (triangular form) over the front entrance, to be in harmony with Wedgwood’s Cape Cod-style housing.   Other issues were addressed, such as the noisy roof-top mechanical equipment.   QFC agreed not to put up a neon sign and agreed to limit the store hours (the store would not be open 24 hours per day.)

The old grocery store building at 8606 and the condo controvery

By 2007 the old grocery building at 8606 35th Ave NE was at the end of its useful life. It stood vacant while a redevelopment project was on hold.

By 2007 the old grocery building at 8606 35th Ave NE was at the end of its useful life. It stood vacant while a redevelopment project was on hold.

In 2007 the old grocery store building/Jewish Community Center at 8606 35th Ave NE was to be torn down and replaced with a four-story condo building.   This project set off a storm in Wedgwood known as the “condo controversy.”

Reminiscent of the Tradewell protest of 1958, in 2007 neighbors who lived to the east of the proposed condo project objected to the height, bulk and scale of the condo as designed, because the building would tower over and shade their houses.

The condo project stalled in 2008 due to the nationwide crisis in economic conditions, which caused new building projects to be put on hold.  The pause in the development project gave Wedgwood community activists time to examine options and explore City of Seattle resources for addressing the issues.

On December 6, 2011, members of city council, traffic, planning and parks departments met with the Wedgwood’s land use committee to look at development issues in the neighborhood, such as the new Jasper apartment building under construction.

Ultimately Wedgwood benefited from the protest of the “condo crisis” project of 2007, because it stimulated involvement in the community’s land use planning process, beginning with the writing of a Vision Plan for Wedgwood.

The new Jasper in Wedgwood in 2012

At the “condo controversy” site, a new building with apartments (instead of condos) was completed and opened in July 2012.  The Jasper Apartments at 8606 35th Ave NE is the first building to be a full four-stories in height near the commercial heart of Wedgwood.

The condo/now apartment project awakened Wedgwood’s concerns about planning, zoning, design, street use and traffic issues, all of which are the impacts of commercial development in the neighborhood.  Concerned neighbors began to see the need to study the City of Seattle plans for density and zoning, and formulate a plan for how residents want Wedgwood’s commercial district to look.  Repeatedly in the formation of the Vision Plan for Wedgwood, and in the later Future of 35th Project which built on the Vision Plan, surveys of the neighborhood showed that Wedgwood residents want small, locally owned stores including coffee shops.

The Jasper apartment building at 8606 35th Ave NE opened in July 2012.

The Jasper apartment building at 8606 35th Ave NE opened in July 2012.

In addition to its ninety apartments, the Jasper is the first building in Wedgwood to contain “live-work units” for a person to have a storefront for their business and have the option of living in the same unit.  It is is “legal” to operate a business out of the space and it is not required that the tenant also live in the unit.

The City of Seattle approved a live-work unit ordinance in 2003.  Live-work units are intended to have small offices, shops or art studios.  In the Jasper Apartments there are six live-work units facing the sidewalk along 35th Ave NE.  Some of the tenants live in their units and operate a business, such as a hair salon.  Some other tenants use their unit as an office only and don’t live there, such as the Galanda-Broadman Law Office.  One tenant currently lives upstairs in a regular apartment at the Jasper, and uses their sidewalk level unit as an office only.

Jasper August 2 2012

The Jasper Apartments at 8606 35th Ave NE opened in the summer of 2012. The building seems overwhelming at four stories tall in Wedgwood’s low-rise commercial district.

A tall new building in the heart of Wedgwood

Jasper and Rite Aid at NE 86th Street.July 19 2018

The Jasper at 8606 35th Ave NE is much taller than neighboring buildings.

It remains to be seen if the live-work units in the Jasper will enhance the heart of the Wedgwood business district on 35th Ave NE at the NE 85th Street intersection.  For many people in Wedgwood, it was a big disappointment to learn that the live-work units of the Jasper building cannot support coffee shops or other food outlets, due to the lack of the kind of mechanical and vent space needed for food service operations.  This concern was addressed during the process of planning for the Jasper, but the City of Seattle building code did not require that shops be placed at ground level.  The developer did not want to do this voluntarily, either, because the required space for restaurant-vent and mechanical systems would take away from the amount of floors in the building.

The live-work units in the Jasper will never be able to have a coffee shop because the needed ceiling height for restaurant construction codes, is not there.  What is wanted by the neighborhood is stores and food outlets such as coffee shops, pubs and sandwich shops or restaurants in the commercial corridor along 35th Ave NE.  The Jasper was not built to accommodate these; the live-work units are essentially apartments with a possible front office.

The condo controversy, now-Jasper Apartment building served as a wake-up call about changes in Wedgwood’s commercial district including zoning which allows taller buildings, such as the Jasper’s four stories.    As buildings in Wedgwood age and are replaced we can expect more interaction on the issues of height, bulk and scale, impacting the commercial district of Wedgwood.

Future of 35th Ave NE plan

A grant-funded, coordinated neighborhood design plan for what people want in future commercial developments along 35th Ave NE.

The Future of 35th Ave NE neighborhood planning committee was formed in 2012 to actively engage City of Seattle departments for needed improvements in zoning, pedestrian access, walkability and traffic safety measures along the commercial corridor of 35th Ave NE.

These improvements to the retail environment will be needed as new buildings impact use of the streets and sidewalks in Wedgwood.  However, the present Seattle City Council has ignored Wedgwood’s repeated requests to address the zoning in Wedgwood’s business district.

For further reference:    

See more about the history of the Tradewell grocery company on the blog page of Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside.   There is also a grocery history blog which has info about other national chains and the early years of Groceteria which were the first self-service stores.  Here is Rob Ketcherside’s article about Groceteria, an early innovation in self-service shopping, and Piggly-Wiggly which was an early grocery store chain.  Piggly-Wiggly opened in Seattle in direct competition with Groceteria and eventually merged with Safeway.  I have written a series of articles about Safeway which you can find at the link.

This blog article will be updated if and when there is news of the QFC grocery store building at 8400 35th Ave NE (adjacent to the Wedgwood Broiler, Homestreet Bank and other shops).  The QFC closed on April 24, 2021.  It now appears that the building will stand vacant until the lease runs out in the year 2024.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer writer of neighborhood history in Seattle.
This entry was posted in apartments, businesses, Controversies, grocery stores, Neighborhood features and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Groceries and Growth in Wedgwood

  1. Pingback: 50s Futurism Forgotten - The Burien Tradewell Story - ba-kground

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