Abraxus and Mother Nature’s prepare to close, making way for new mixed-use development

Posted on February 9th, 2011 by Editor


After Abraxus Books announced it would be closing just 20 months after moving to Lower Queen Anne from Ballard, its home for seven years, neighboring store Mother Nature’s has said that it too is closing its doors this month.

Mother Nature’s, a natural health store that has been a staple of Lower Queen Anne retailers for 35 years, is closing up shop at the end of the month, according to owner Stephanie Gilbert.

This drawing was created by Mother Nature’s employee Sara Spidell, depicting Sara, Stephanie and Elaine (Stephanie’s mom and prior owner). The date is inaccurate, according to Gilbert, who says the store has been open since 1974.

The store, which has been in Gilbert’s family since the ’70s, has seen declining business for some time now, she says.

“I grew up in the store—since I was 12 I’ve worked here. In the ’80s and ’90s it was a rocking store. We’d get 160 people in the store a day. Now we get 60 people a day,” she said. “Business has been pretty crappy, to be frank, for the past couple years… it’s just hard to be an independent retailer in the city. If we were in Cle Elum, we would probably be fine.”

Though the mixed-use development planned for 100 Republican Street spurred the decision to close, Gilbert says the saturation of the market (with customers coming into the store, finding what they want, and then buying it from larger suppliers who can offer cheaper prices like Costco, Super Supplements, or online) has ultimately led to the store’s choice to close down, rather than relocate.

“It really bums me out that people don’t make a conscious effort to shop local,” Gilbert said. “It’s destroying our communities.”

The property owners of the building that houses Abraxus and Mother Nature’s, the Burkheimer Family LLC, plan to turn the Seattle Center and KeyArena-adjacent site into a residential/retail mixed-use development that will span from the current storefronts to the edge of the empty lot at 100 Republican.

The six-story building will house 275 units–studios, 1-2 bedrooms and 10 town homes–parking, 17,725 square feet of street level retail space, two rooftop courtyards, and a 2,000 square-foot outdoor plaza on Republican that will serve as an entrance to the building. After a series of public hearings on the project, developers have been given the go-ahead to move forward with the project. Developers expect to complete the project in 2012.

While the new development will house ground-level retail, Gilbert says the rent would have been too high for Mother Nature’s to re-open in the new building. But despite the fact that Abraxus and Mother Nature’s will be closing to make way for the development, many in the community support the project. In a negotiation with the city to allow the development to use part of the alleyway bounded by Mercer Street, Republican Street, 1st Avenue N and Warren Avenue N, developers added plans for a public plaza (equipped with a rain garden) to the plan.

On top of that, Uptown Alliance co-chair John Coney shared his support of this proposal with City Council’s Transportation Committee this past fall, noting that he believed the project would revitalize a “dead block” in the neighborhood.

“It’s an important redevelopment on what is now a substantially dead block of Republican,”  he said.  “It is going to bring housing onto Warren Avenue North.  We believe that is important because that is another dead block in an urban center.”

For the time being, Mother Nature’s and Abraxus are making preparations for closing.

Gilbert says her lease is up on the 28th. She plans to keep the store open until just a few days before then (though no final date has been set yet), to clear out its current stock and say goodbye to longtime customers. Everything in the store is currently 30 percent off. Gilbert says discounts could go as high as 75 percent as the end of the month nears.

Abraxus will be closing in just a few days, on Saturday, February 12. “Our building is being torn down and we’re calling it a day on this chapter,” the owners Carol and  Tony wrote on the store’s Facebook page. The last month since announcing plans to close has been a “pretty emotional time” for them, Carol wrote to us.

Everything in the store is being sold at 50 percent off, and bookshelves and other fixtures are also up for sale. The store will be open from 12 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on its last day Saturday.


  • phil

    Super Supplements is a local store and they just do a better job of keeping items in stock. As for Abraxus, not sure why they moved there except for lower rent, because it was always going to be short term.

  • phil

    Super Supplements is a local store and they just do a better job of keeping items in stock. As for Abraxus, not sure why they moved there except for lower rent, because it was always going to be short term.

  • greene

    “It really bums me out that people don’t make a conscious effort to shop local,” Gilbert said. “It’s destroying our communities.”

    I am sad that this is happening, but This is so annoying to me as well as we all probably do the very best we can to support stores in our neighborhood, but with this economy, I am sorry, but I HAVE to go where I get the better deal when every dollar counts. I should not feel badly about that or feel like I am ruining my community. They should have created a better business plan to modernize their concept and roll with the changing times perhaps. Still though, it is too bad.

  • greene

    “It really bums me out that people don’t make a conscious effort to shop local,” Gilbert said. “It’s destroying our communities.”

    I am sad that this is happening, but This is so annoying to me as well as we all probably do the very best we can to support stores in our neighborhood, but with this economy, I am sorry, but I HAVE to go where I get the better deal when every dollar counts. I should not feel badly about that or feel like I am ruining my community. They should have created a better business plan to modernize their concept and roll with the changing times perhaps. Still though, it is too bad.

  • Lara

    Mother Nature’s -I really liked this little store. We have been shopping there since we moved here in 97. My little boy who is 5 is so sad that they are leaving. He loved the smoothies and the friendly ladies that work there. He cried and cried when I told him. He said please stop it from happening and then he said he wanted to write the President to keep it open. Thank you Mother Nature’s! We will miss you!!! He and daddy went there today to say goodbye.

  • Lara

    Mother Nature’s -I really liked this little store. We have been shopping there since we moved here in 97. My little boy who is 5 is so sad that they are leaving. He loved the smoothies and the friendly ladies that work there. He cried and cried when I told him. He said please stop it from happening and then he said he wanted to write the President to keep it open. Thank you Mother Nature’s! We will miss you!!! He and daddy went there today to say goodbye.

  • Susan M.

    I imagine what the store owner meant by her comment about communities being destroyed, is that when people don’t support their local small businesses and instead favor the larger (cheaper) stores, soon enough we won’t have any small businesses to patronize. Small business can and should be an integral part of every community. Without it, what’s left? Safeway and Starbucks. Fun.

  • Susan M.

    I imagine what the store owner meant by her comment about communities being destroyed, is that when people don’t support their local small businesses and instead favor the larger (cheaper) stores, soon enough we won’t have any small businesses to patronize. Small business can and should be an integral part of every community. Without it, what’s left? Safeway and Starbucks. Fun.

  • Julie

    I agree with Susan M.

    What I also find sad is that the new monstrosity will finally manage to block all the friendly street level daylight in Lower Queen Anne. I can only assume these will be the typical boring high-density mixed use building – built to maximize profits per square foot – no regard to nurturing “community” (or neighborliness) considered in the design. [As in “adequate transitions from public to private space.”]

    These neighborhood businesses, with genuine personal investment – not just financial investment – in the community, will be greatly missed.

  • Julie

    I agree with Susan M.

    What I also find sad is that the new monstrosity will finally manage to block all the friendly street level daylight in Lower Queen Anne. I can only assume these will be the typical boring high-density mixed use building – built to maximize profits per square foot – no regard to nurturing “community” (or neighborliness) considered in the design. [As in “adequate transitions from public to private space.”]

    These neighborhood businesses, with genuine personal investment – not just financial investment – in the community, will be greatly missed.

  • DarkHawke

    I’m no fan of having such a large and tall structure in that area, but let’s get real: that end of the block IS dead. Once QFC bailed, what else was going to bring activity? The restaurant or the smoke shop/convenience store up the block? If the landowners can make a go of this project in this economy, I say more power to ’em.

    Regarding the support of local stores, again I’m all for it, but the stores must be a part of the equation as well. If you can’t compete on price, then you have to provide service and/or products that the chain stores can’t. Whoever told you that you *deserve* to be in business just because you’re a local non-chain store lied to you!

  • DarkHawke

    I’m no fan of having such a large and tall structure in that area, but let’s get real: that end of the block IS dead. Once QFC bailed, what else was going to bring activity? The restaurant or the smoke shop/convenience store up the block? If the landowners can make a go of this project in this economy, I say more power to ’em.

    Regarding the support of local stores, again I’m all for it, but the stores must be a part of the equation as well. If you can’t compete on price, then you have to provide service and/or products that the chain stores can’t. Whoever told you that you *deserve* to be in business just because you’re a local non-chain store lied to you!

  • The comments by people who can just dismiss a Seattle family business that has made a huge contribution in nurturing it’s customers since 1975 are the same people who are turning Seattle into another New York!
    Thank you Mother Nature’s: Elaine and Stephanie and all it’s wonderful staff for all your healthful wisdom that you have given all of us for so many years!!!!!!!!!!!

  • The comments by people who can just dismiss a Seattle family business that has made a huge contribution in nurturing it’s customers since 1975 are the same people who are turning Seattle into another New York!
    Thank you Mother Nature’s: Elaine and Stephanie and all it’s wonderful staff for all your healthful wisdom that you have given all of us for so many years!!!!!!!!!!!