Departing Fremont businesses break down rumor mill

Rumors thrive in most communities, including Fremont. Our small business district has a rumor mill that works tirelessly and with sometimes destructive consequences.Pete Brown, owner of Brown's Cooperstown, moved with his wife from Moscow, Idaho, to Seattle nine years ago. At that time, he also moved his business to 4258 Fremont Ave. N. Last month, he moved it again, to 115 W. Galer St., Suite B, on Queen Anne.Pete deals in sports cards and some collectibles. "This is not a drop-by business; it is a destination business," Pete explained. Customers "know I have what they collect," and they seek out his store wherever he locates to find cards he carries.Packing up and moving nine years of accumulated product and memorabilia took hard work, but after the move, Pete felt hopeful about the forced clean-out and reorganization of his stock.Pete firmly denied the rumor that he moved because his landlord demanded high rent increases. Clay Gatens, of Icon Developments, sounded shocked by the rumor. Icon recently purchased the building, which both men, separately, agreed needed serious renovation.Built in 1903, "it's a great little building," Clay proclaimed. "The building is being maintained so it can stand another 100 years." Across the street, Icon restored the Herzig Building, and Clay expects the same pleasing results for this one.When Icon purchased the building, Pete was the only remaining tenant. The timing was nearly perfect for major maintenance; however, "there was no way to do the scope of work needed" around Brown's, Clay explained. Pete couldn't see closing for six months and putting his stock in storage, so he decided to relocate.OPEN SPACESRumors about the closure of unique, landmark businesses spread rapidly, especially under stress. Rumors may find more fertile ground as for-lease signs around Fremont now outnumber Thai restaurants here. Many people may be quick to attribute empty spaces to dire circumstances when the truth is less simple.Some retail spaces, such as those along North 36 Street west of Phinney Avenue North, only recently became available as conversions of warehouse and residential uses. Others, such as retail space previously occupied by Sonic Boom (3414 Fremont Ave. N.) have sat vacant for some time. Brian Regan, the landlord of 3414, reported previously (NSHO, Feb. 7, 2008) on tenants in this space. Unfortunately, the tenant went bankrupt before moving in, he said.Brian has leased one of the two spaces again - to a smoothie shop. Brian also owns the Fremont SPACE Building (600 N. 36 St.). When Buddha Belly, a home-decorating store, closed its Fremont location at the SPACE in June, Brian had already rented the space to Birth and Beyond Baby "without advertising," he said.Clay and Brian spoke positively about the retail atmosphere in the neighborhood, and with optimism about finding tenants. "The economy is a little weak," Brian admitted, but of all his retail spaces, he has only one vacancy. Clay said, "We've never had any trouble in Fremont finding retail tenants. Great areas like Fremont have stood the test of time."The test may have just started. CAPERS, an institution in West Seattle for 23 years, opened a Fremont location 3 1/2 years ago and closed it last May. Store owner Lisa Myers said she "needed to refocus our company. "Daily cash flow is really important," Lisa explained, and "people are not buying luxury goods right now." Business picked up after completion of the Fremont Bridge approach construction, but "the bridge closure had a large impact," she said.BIGGER SPACESRumors have also circulated about the closure of Horseshoe, which is actually moving in October from its current location at 720 N. 35th St. to Ballard Avenue Northwest. "[The move is] the last thing I was looking to do," owner Jill Andersen admitted, but "it was one of those opportunities."She decided to give up her current 780-square-foot space in favor a 1,350-square-foot space where another boutique, catering to a similar customer base, had been. Jill has heard the rumors about her closing and understands: "Immediately it's perceived as a negative, but for the growth of my business, it's positive."Horseshoe carries clothing and jewelry, some of which Jill designs, but the cowboy boots she carried as a whimsical decoration took off as a product line. Now, she is "tripping over cowboy boots" in the small space. "Without more merchandise, I can't increase sales volume," she said.Rumors may flourish in Fremont, but the small scale of our retailers makes rumors simple to defeat. More often than not, shop owners stand behind their counters. It may take an extra minute to step inside to ask (vs. assuming), but such neighborliness is what will make friendly Fremont thrive.Kirby Lindsay works, lives and seeks rumors in Fremont. She welcomes your comments, or rumors, at[[In-content Ad]]