The years following the end of World War Two in the 1940s saw the rise of new kinds of stores. Some were big supermarkets which had a much wider variety of products than traditional corner grocery stores, and some were small convenience markets where the kind of products you might want to pick up quickly, such as a bottle of ketchup, were sold.
Different kinds of stores vied with one another in the post-war retail environment. In 1946 a chain of stores owned by the Southland Corporation, changed their name to 7-Eleven to emphasize their longer hours of operation.
Wedgwood in northeast Seattle once had two 7-Eleven stores along the arterial 35th Ave NE, but there are no more now. More changes are coming, as a former 7-Eleven, now Wong’s restaurant, is proposed to be torn down and replaced by townhouses.
Driving and shopping on 35th Avenue NE
Car-oriented businesses have been dominant along the commercial district of 35th Avenue NE in northeast Seattle since early years. Even in the 1920s many Wedgwood-area residents had cars, because there was never any streetcar service out to northeast Seattle on 35th Avenue NE and bus service was minimal.
Today stores and businesses are clustered at the major intersections along 35th Avenue NE, and it has been essential for stores and restaurants to have parking lots. There have not been many businesses with drive-throughs, but the very first bank in Wedgwood, built in 1961 at the corner of NE 84th Street, requested a change in the City of Seattle zoning to allow for a drive-up banking window.
There were two buildings along 35th Avenue NE which started out as 7-Eleven convenience stores in the 1960s, and we may puzzle over the business climate which eventually led to the closing of the 7-Elevens. Today there are no 7-Elevens along 35th Avenue NE and the two buildings originally built as 7-Elevens have since been converted to other uses. One is the Grateful Bread at 7001 35th Avenue NE, built in 1969. Previously this corner had been the site of Ed’s Signal Service Station, in an era when there were gas stations on three corners of this intersection.
In 1980 the 7-Eleven building at 7001 35th Avenue NE became a real estate office, then was bought by Grateful Bread Bakery & Cafe in 1996. Today this bakery/coffee shop is thriving and is a favorite of those who want to support locally-owned businesses.
The 7-Eleven at 9400 35th Ave NE
Another building which began as a 7-Eleven is at 9400 35th Ave NE, which lasted from 1966 to about 1978 (according to phone book listings). I don’t know the reason why the store closed. It may have had to do with the economic slump in Seattle in the early 1970s, or with the re-organization of the 7-Eleven corporation. This location of 7-Eleven may have failed partly because it was in direct competition with Morningside Market at 9118 35th Avenue NE, a business which has operated continuously since 1926.
In 1978 the 7-Eleven building at 9400 35th Avenue NE became Chompers Family Restaurant. That burgers-and-shakes place is fondly remembered by many for its good menu, but the duration of the Chompers was short. By 1980 it had become the Wedgewood Ninety-Four Restaurant.
The Wedgewood Ninety-Four Restaurant lasted a few years until new owners changed it to a Chinese restaurant in 1987. At first called Happy Palace, in 2005 the name was changed to Wong’s Kitchen and Bar, under the same ownership.
Wong’s Kitchen and Bar had a thirty-year run. In January 2018 the building was sold for 1.7 million dollars and a plan was filed to tear down the building. Despite this, Wong’s continued to operate for more than two years until the coronavirus crisis caused the sudden closing of Wong’s on March 18, 2020.
Pressures of development have led to several tear-downs along 35th Avenue NE in recent years. A permit was been filed to build densely clustered townhouses in place of Wong’s (see drawing of the design proposal below). However, the property was put up for sale in February 2021 for 2.7 million dollars. So that means, a buyer could go ahead because the permits are in place, or they could use the current building or start over with a new development plan.
City directory and phone book listings: names of businesses. Directories and phone books are available at the downtown Seattle Public Library.
City of Seattle construction permits: Search under the address 9400 35th Ave NE. Here is a screenshot of the design proposal to replace the current Wong’s. This proposal was filed in May 2018. Wong’s closed on March 18, 2020 and we don’t know how long the building will stand vacant until the redevelopment of the site goes ahead. In February 2021 the property was put up for sale for 2.7 million dollars, with all permits in place so that a buyer could go ahead with the same development, or start over.
Plat names: Here is the story of why the area on the east side of 35th Avenue NE, between NE 85th to 95th Streets is called the Pontiac plat.
Property records: Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA. Original property cards showing the build date, ownership and use of buildings.
Readership: This article was inspired by the readers of the “You know you are from Wedgwood IF…” Facebook page. Readers recalled some of the old businesses, which led me to check the property records and trace the history.