Abraxus and Mother Nature’s prepare to close, making way for new mixed-use development
Posted on February 9th, 2011 by Sara Willy
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.