by Kirby LindsayAccording to Casey Cunningham and Robert McCoy, even though their new store hasn’t opened, people already know them and stop to chat about how it is going. Theirs is one of a collection of new businesses located in the Fremont Lofts (at Palatine & 36th Street) offering products or services otherwise under-represented and/or unique for Fremont.
There’s Vintage, And Then There’s Vintage
Last September, Rio Estolas opened Officials Vintage, at 3602 Palatine Avenue North. He sells vintage sports shirts, sweats, jackets and caps – none newer than 1994. Also, “nothing that is not officially licensed merchandise,” he explained, although, “it doesn’t have to be a sports team.” He carries vintage Polo and rugby clothing, alongside NFL and MLB logo wear.
Estolas has operated two previous retail stores, and his reputation in this market has preceded him to Fremont. “I have a following,” he explained, “it’s a really niche market.” His storefront, tucked in a recess, may not catch the eye of passers-by, but it doesn’t worry him. “I strive to have stuff that is really unobtainable,” he said, “I spend tons of time; I search.” And those hunting authentic vintage sportswear will find him.
The Lofts also offers women vintage street wear, at Vintage Wears & Consignment. Steth Lavarello opened her first shop at 204 N 36th on October 1st, completing her long search for the right space. “I’ve been wanting to do it for a while,” she explained.
In the small retail space (Lavarello estimated it at 475 square feet) she rotates stock frequently. “Every week I’m taking things away, and putting new things out,” she explained, and, “I’m still tweaking the inventory.” She carries vintage clothes as they relate to current trends, rather than a particular era. “It’s kind of intimate,” she described the store, like a personal shopping experience, “the total opposite of shopping at Macy’s or Nordstrom’s.”
Of Cell Phones, And Cheese
Two doors down, Jet City Devices (at 200 N 36th) operates from the corner spot, where it opened before any others. Originally, Tom Lorimor launched this business, with a partner, two years ago – and last July they relocated the Seattle store (they have another in Chicago) from Ballard to the Lofts.
Jet City fixes broken cell phones. “Specifically, we repair the more expensive smart phones,” Lorimor explained by e-mail, “the most common problem we fix, by far, is a shattered or cracked screen.”
Lorimor enjoys his new location. “It’s close to downtown,” he wrote, “easily located, and has a neighborhood feel and sense of community that makes us seem less ‘corporate.’”
McCoy and Cunningham also rave about the location of their first retail venture, The Cheese Shöp (3604 Palatine Ave N.) “It’s my favorite place in America,” McCoy proclaimed, after moving to Fremont from Tucson, Arizona. “I’ve been so tickled at how intimate it is,” Cunningham said. “We chose the right neighborhood,” admitted McCoy.
A neighborhood they want to invite into their European-style market, as soon as the City of Seattle Department of Planning & Development issue them a grocery license. Then, they plan to sell pre-packaged specialty cheeses, deli meats and imported delicacies from around the world (including the Haribo ‘Fizzy Cola’ McCoy particularly enjoys,) along with featured local items. Products, “you can’t find anywhere else,” Cunningham explained. “We want people to tell us what they want,” McCoy said, “We will build the market around their tastes.”
Within Walking Distance
In the meantime, expect to see Cunningham and McCoy around the ‘hood – along with Lavarello, Estolas and Lorimor – as they actually live in the Lofts. For all of these entrepreneurs, one big attraction of the Fremont Lofts were the combination live/work spaces. “That was the catalyst,” explained McCoy, as he and Cunningham had searched for stand-alone retail space, and found it prohibitively expensive, until stumbling across this apartment – and its adjacent retail space. “Nothing came close to this,” he said of their first look, “nothing had the feeling.”
For Estolas, “it’s a great building,” he said, “I love the idea. I’ve always wanted to try it.” Lavarello also found the building while looking for living space. “It’s nice not to have to drive,” she said. Lorimor echoed that sentiment. “I don’t have to commute,” he explained, “can pop in to the shop easily, and it provides a professional space for us to work from.”
Businesses continue to open up at the Lofts, including the eagerly awaited opening of The Cheese Shöp, which might make it worthwhile to stroll that way soon. Check out the offerings, and while there, give the new neighbors a “Welcome!”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.