Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood has changed a lot in the last 70 years, but a family grocery store on Lakeside Avenue is keeping up with the times and working to meet the desires of its customers.
“I really do love it,” said Yousef Shulman. “It is a lot of hard work, but I love my customers, and we have a really great staff.”
Hank and Shirley Edelson started a small grocery store in the Central District in the early ‘40s, which they moved to Leschi in March 1948 — back then it was called Leschi Park Market. Shirley Edelson’s father, Max, ran the dry cleaners next door — that space is now the Leschi Market’s meat department.
Leonard Shulman, Yousef Shulman’s grandfather, started working for his uncle-in-law in 1962. He and his wife Betty Lou, with their son, John, bought the store from Hank Edelson’s son in 1977. The Shulmans’ oldest son, Steve, who worked at the store from age 9 to 17, came back about 30 years ago to be the butcher.
Steve Shulman now co-owns Leschi Market with his nephew, Yousef, who celebrated his 20th year at the store on May 2.
Yousef said his grandfather brought him into the store one day when he was 13, a few weeks after his bar mitzvah.
“He said, ‘You’re a man now, and part of the community now, which means you are ready to start working,” Yousef said.
Leonard Shulman, who is now 85, just recently retired. Steve Shulman said his father continued helping in the background and making bank runs for a while after that.
“He still calls every day and checks in,” Yousef said. “And he still looks at the checkbook every day.”
Leschi Market cut its parking lot to expand the store in the late 1960s; customers can see a large beam in the ceiling that marks where the addition meets the original market.
“This neighborhood has changed a lot,” Yousef said. “Over time you have to change with the changes.”
Steve expanded the wine department more than 20 years ago — they are up to 1,400 varieties — and last year the family started its own label, Leschi Cellars.
“We’re constantly coming out with new vintages,” said Yousef, adding contracts prohibit him from disclosing the different wineries.
They also do wine-tasting events in Madrona and Leschi, with proceeds from the gate charge going to community groups, Steve said.
In the next six months the Shulmans will be revamping the market again, with a focus on energy efficiency. That includes a new compressor system and replacing lighting with LEDs.
Steve said they’re also getting a generator. When parts of the neighborhood would more frequently lose power in the past, Leschi Market was usually lucky enough to be unaffected, Steve said. But their power would eventually have to be shut off to start up power for everyone else, Yousef said.
Something unlikely to change at Leschi Market is its commitment to its butchery and preparation of hot-selling sausages — they said they don’t keep kosher.
“We now sell two tons a year,” Yousef said. “There’s about 18 different varieties of sausage that we do ourselves.”
All of the meat is cut and packaged in the store, said Yousef. The chuck beef is ground fresh every day.
There are no vegetarians in the family.
“We’re all meat cutters,” Yousef said.
The assistant manager said they stay busy during the holidays, and last year he smoked and cooked to order 120 turkeys for Thanksgiving.
“Holidays are gone for me,” Yousef said.
It takes a lot of work to run a family grocery store, Yousef said, even with more than 30 employees.
“That’s one of the hardest things to do is to make a payroll,” he said, “and you make sure you pay your employees before you pay yourself.”
And the profit isn’t much.
“If we didn’t own this property, we couldn’t afford to be here,” Yousef said.
But working at Leschi Market means spending time with family, and Yousef also likes his multigenerational customer base. One family that shops at the market goes back four generations, he said.
“The little one pushes the shopping cart — we have the shopping carts for kids,” he said.
Steve Shulman is a founding member of the Seattle Police Foundation, helped with forming the East Precinct Advisory Council and is a former Leschi Community Council member. Yousef is a former president of the community council, but now serves as a business associate.
Find out more about Leschi Market, 103 Lakeside Ave., and the family behind it at leschimart.com.