Wedgwood was just beginning to take shape as a neighborhood during the 1940s. At the intersection of NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE, there was only one building, Hansen’s Tavern, as of 1945.
In 1945 the tavern owner rebuilt the building to include storefronts, and he re-named his business the Wedgwood Tavern. The new stores adjacent to the tavern included McVicar Hardware, 8507 35th Ave NE.
As of 1945-1946 the tavern (today’s Wedgwood Ale House at 8515 35th Ave NE) was the first of the neighborhood businesses to name itself after the nearby Wedgwood housing development built by Albert Balch.
In the 1940s developer Albert Balch acquired ownership of the other three corners of the intersection at NE 85th Street, which he reserved for commercial buildings. The intersection grew with a variety of stores in response to the population growth of Wedgwood. Today the intersection of NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE is the heart of Wedgwood’s business district.
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Wedgwood in the 1940s and 1950s
In the years immediately after the end of World War Two in 1945, the population of Wedgwood soared with young couples who were in search of “starter homes” like the ones that Albert Balch was building.
Businesses were then naturally attracted to this new neighborhood of Seattle with its growing population of potential customers, and with plenty of space for new store buildings at or near the NE 85th Street intersection. Albert Balch was not a commercial developer, so after acquiring the properties at the NE 85th Street intersection, he leased them to stores.
The first large chain grocery store to come into Wedgwood was an IGA Foodliner in 1946, at 8606 35th Ave NE (present site of the Jasper Apartments). At first the sign said McCullough’s Grocery and Frey’s Meats, because the IGA chain used the names of each local owner. The McCullough and Frey families lived in the neighborhood, just a few blocks from their store, as so many of the Wedgwood business owners did in early years.
In 1957 the IGA was bought by Russ Evans and became Evan’s Thriftway.
The first Tradewell building at 8512 35th Ave NE
Another grocery store, Tradewell, built its store at 8512 35th Ave NE in 1952, so that there were two groceries right across the street from one another at NE 86th Street. In the 1950s business traffic in Wedgwood seemed to be enough to support both of these grocery stores. Below is the photo of the original Tradewell building which was at 8512 35th Ave NE from 1952 to 1990, then was torn down and rebuilt.
As originally built in 1952, the first Tradewell only occupied the front part of their building with other stores placed along the south side of the building next to the parking lot, as shown in the photo below. Some of the long-running stores in this section of the Tradewell building were the Wedgwood Fuller Paint & Glass, Don’s Wedgwood Barber Shop, a beauty shop and a drycleaners. Other stores included Radio Shack which was there for a time in the 1980s. In the 1980s Carolee Sepe had the hair salon; she is now at Creative Images at 8619 35th Ave NE in the Copestick Building.
Wedgwood businesses boom in the young years of the neighborhood
After only six years at 8512 35th Ave NE, Tradewell decided that they needed an even bigger building with more parking. In 1959 Tradewell moved southward, building a new building at 8400 35th Ave NE which is today’s QFC Grocery. The Wedgwood Broiler restaurant and the other storefronts adjacent to QFC were gradually built in later years.
The original Tradewell building becomes Pay’n Save
After the Wedgwood Tradewell moved out of 8512 35th Ave NE in 1959, the building became the home of a Pay’n Save drugstore. This drugstore chain was founded in 1947 by Monte Bean, who had been president of the Tradewell corporation. Pay’n Save occupied the same amount of space as the Tradewell had, with other stores located along the south side of the building. The longest-running shops there were the paint store, barber, and beauty shop.
After more than thirty years in the original building, the Wedgwood Pay’n Save was torn down and rebuilt in 1990-1991. The building was rebuilt to almost exactly the same amount of square footage, but the plan displaced the other stores mentioned above, because Pay’n Save intended to occupy all of the space in the new building.
The Wedgwood Pay’n Save may have been doing well enough to justify the rebuilding/store expansion program in 1991, but the parent corporation was in trouble. Pay’n Save was bought out by PayLess in 1992, only to be bought out in turn by Rite-Aid in 1996.
It’s Rite-Aid now, but will things change again?
In the present era of decline in retail, we don’t know how much longer the Rite-Aid might stay in Wedgwood, and whether or not the owners of the property might want to redevelop it.
The Wedgwood Rite-Aid store does not own their site. Previous owners placed the property in an endowment to benefit Seattle Pacific University, so that means that the rent that Rite-Aid pays, goes to support the school.
“End of an Era: Pay’n Save Being Bought by PayLess,” The Seattle Times, May 23, 1992, pg. 1.
Original building photos: Puget Sound Regional Archives, repository of the property records of King County. Accessed September 5, 2018. Many thanks to the archivists for their help.
Pontiac: The plat name “Pontiac” is part of the legal description of the property at 8512 35th Ave NE where the Rite-Aid building is located.
Property records: build dates and property ownership can be found on the King County Parcel Viewer.
Store listings: Old Seattle City Directories have reverse listings where I found the names of the stores which were in the original Tradewell/Pay’n Save building at 8512 35th Ave NE. City directories and old phone books are available at the downtown Seattle Public Library. The Municipal Archives in Seattle City Hall and Special Collections, University of Washington Library, also have Seattle City Directories.
Tradewell history: “50s Futurism Forgotten – the Burien Tradewell Story,” blog page of Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside.