West Seattle Blog... » Charlestown Cafe http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:21:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 New plan for ex-Charlestown Café: Six 5-unit townhouse buildings http://westseattleblog.com/2013/06/new-plan-for-ex-charlestown-cafe-six-5-unit-townhouse-buildings/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/06/new-plan-for-ex-charlestown-cafe-six-5-unit-townhouse-buildings/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:54:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=153659

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If you have been hoping to hear about another restaurant taking over the two-years-closed Charlestown Café – you’re likely out of luck.

While the first post-closure proposal for the site has long since been scrapped, a new one is in play – and it is primarily residential.

City records show that Intracorp – the same developers behind the 3210 California proposal a few blocks north, as well as another proposal across the street from that – is pursuing a plan for six 5-unit townhouse buildings “around a central drive aisle” on the ex-café site.

We’re working to talk with the developers to find out more about the plan and the property’s status – it was posted as available “for lease” about a year after it closed – but for now, here’s what we have found out:

The project will require Design Review – no date set yet. The site plan filed with the city by West Seattle-founded Nicholson-Kovalchick Architects shows the townhouses in two 3-building rows – one facing California, one directly behind (parallel to an alley and the single-family homes east of it), with live-work units on the street at the California/Charlestown corner, and residential units everywhere else. The curb cuts (driveways) on California would be removed, with one proposed off SW Bradford on the south side of the site.

Intracorp, as noted earlier, is the developer for the ~155-apartment project at 3210 California SW, which goes back to the SW Design Review Board for a second round of Early Design Guidance on June 27 (as noted here last month), and also is listed as developer for a proposal across the street at 3211 California, described in documents as a 65-unit apartment building to replace three houses.

The Charlestown Café closed in April 2011, after facing various challenges in its final few years – less than three years before that final shutdown, it reopened after a five-month shutdown caused by a February 2008 fire. That fire, in turn, came just days after the café ownership got word of the demise of a year-and-a-half-old development proposal that threatened to close the restaurant.

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Almost 1 year after Charlestown Café closure, site’s up for lease http://westseattleblog.com/2012/03/almost-1-year-after-charlestown-cafe-closure-sites-up-for-lease/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/03/almost-1-year-after-charlestown-cafe-closure-sites-up-for-lease/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 18:56:36 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=103003

(April 2011 photo by Kathy Mulady for WSB)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor


Almost one full year after the “closed forever” sign went up on the Charlestown Street Café‘s door – a new sign is up on the property at 3800 California SW:

We noticed the sign over the weekend, as did others (two WSB’ers sent us notes – THANKS!), and this morning we spoke with John Wunder at Associates West, the West Seattle brokerage handling the just-launched search for someone new to lease the property.

Wunder confirms that the most recent development proposal for the site (reported here shortly after the restaurant’s closure last April) fell through, though he doesn’t know why, since his firm was not involved with it.

(We had asked the city about that mixed-use-building proposal’s status a while back, since the city’s website had an online notation that the application had been canceled; the prospective developer didn’t answer our calls/e-mails, and all the city could say was, the required fees hadn’t been paid, so the application was canceled. Three years earlier, a plan to build a new PETCO store on the site stalled before clearing Design Review.)

According to Wunder, there’s already “lots of interest” in the site – in fact, it was being shown again this morning, he said. He does not expect the site’s ownership (which he says has NOT changed) to come up with another development proposal any time soon – he believes “the right tenant” will likely get a 5-year lease, adding, “We’re hopeful it’ll be something the community will like. Hopefully another restaurant …”

Whatever goes in, they will be leasing the entire site – he says it’s “all or nothing.” The site’s been vacant since the café cleared out, except for a Christmas-tree lot that used the north-side parking area for a few weeks during the holiday season.

No listing online yet but Wunder expects it’ll appear sometime later today. (Meantime, you can call Associates West at the number on the sign if you’re interested.)

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Video: Charlestown Street Café leftovers auctioned http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/video-charlestown-street-cafe-auction/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/video-charlestown-street-cafe-auction/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2011 20:52:40 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=71363

Who’s taking home part of what’s left from the now-closed Charlestown Street Café? Above, that’s Donna from Giannoni’s Pizzeria in Westwood Village, with son LJ – who picked up several items, including tables and a huge salad spinner – and they weren’t the only local restaurateurs we spotted. There also were souvenir-seekers, like one West Seattleite who told us she was hoping to find something small, maybe a menu, though after wandering around the offerings during the preview time, she hadn’t found anything fitting that bill just yet.

By 10 am, the restaurant was fairly full, and as scheduled, the auction began, legendary local auctioneer James G. Murphy himself led the calling, with Ron Hannon at his side:

Here’s a wider look at their portable-podium-with-PA setup, plus the assistant who has to go find each item that’s being bid on, lifting it aloft till the bidding ends:

As of about quarter past twelve, the auction had moved into the kitchen. We’re going back shortly to check on whether it’s still going. Backstory in case you missed it: The café closed April 3rd, with its owner citing economic reasons (as well as the difficulty of operating without a long-term lease). There’s a development proposal in progress for the site; we reported last Monday on the plan.

2:30 PM UPDATE: Just stopped by. The remaining Murphy personnel on the site say the auction finished about an hour ago, and everything went except for a few countertops.

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Happening now: Charlestown Street Café auction preview http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/happening-now-charlestown-cafe-auction-preview/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/happening-now-charlestown-cafe-auction-preview/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2011 16:26:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=71331

A sight seen before at other notable shuttered businesses – the Corner Inn (2008 coverage here), the Gee/ex-Huling auto enterprises (2007 coverage here) – is outside the former Charlestown Street Café right now: The truck carrying equipment for James G. Murphy Auctioneers. In about half an hour, they’ll be taking bids on hundreds of items left over from the café operation, which shut down on April 3rd. The auction site opened for “previewing” at 8 this morning, and a few people were wandering through when we stopped by a little while ago:

The nearly 400 “lots” are cataloged online, too. As for the Charlestown site’s future – we reported Monday on a developer’s plan for a mixed-use building and zoning change.

12:49 PM UPDATE: We’re working on a separate story about the auction itself – which is still under way as of about 20 minutes ago (we went back to check)!

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Charlestown Café site’s future: Apartments, new café, new zoning? http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/charlestown-cafe-sites-future-apartments-new-cafe-new-zoning/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/charlestown-cafe-sites-future-apartments-new-cafe-new-zoning/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2011 20:32:55 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=70832 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With the auction coming up Friday for what’s left inside the Charlestown Street Café, less than a month after it closed, we have new information about the future of its site.

In our first report on its then-imminent closure, we mentioned spotting a “mixed-use” development proposal in the city files. And now we’ve finally spoken to the developer who is working on it.

His name is Lobsang Dargey. His firm, Dargey Enterprises, is based in Everett, where they built Potala Village - not unlike, he told WSB, what’s envisioned for the California/Charlestown site (if you check their website, you will see this project identified as Potala Village-West Seattle).

But before the project ramps up – a change, he says, is needed:

The ex-café site is currently zoned for 30-foot development, and Dargey says he will apply later this year to have it rezoned to 40 feet. He mentioned specifically the recently approved rezoning of a block-plus of California SW, just two blocks north, and cited the same factor that local developers/realtors Mike Gain and Roger Cayce had cited in that case – the extra height is needed for the project to make sense financially.

Dargey, by the way, says he does his own financing, through the EB-5 program; as noted in this 2009 Puget Sound Business Journal profile, he grew up in Tibet and came to the U.S. in 1997. He does not own the West Seattle site; he says he’ll develop it as a joint venture with its owner, the Strickland Corporation.

The apartments he envisions would be “high-end,” and “built green,” using “100 percent recycled materials,” and built to LEED standards, silver or maybe even platinum. It’s projected for about 100 units over retail. He hopes the retail space would include “some kind of café,” in the spirit of the Charlestown. The first floor, as you can see in the online sketches of his projects, would have brick facades (as does Charlestown Center, kitty-corner from the ex-café site).

The West Seattle proposal remains in very early stages – no formal application has been submitted, though Dargey says they have met a few times with the city. He stresses that his firm prides itself on working with the neighborhood, so he is hoping to have a neighborhood meeting and says he plans to reach out to the Admiral Neighborhood Association. He would also like to hear ideas on what the neighborhood would want to see in this type of development, and invites e-mail (info@potalavillage.com, as listed here). “I want the neighborhood to support it,” he says. “I don’t want to fight with people.”

Overall, Dargey says they would hope to be able to bring in retailers/services that residents could use – with the development built in a “pedestrian-friendly” layout. Dargey says the site has lots of potential because of the amenities already nearby – schools as well as businesses, including PCC Natural Markets (WSB sponsor) and the new Safeway store. He is familiar with the previous development proposal for the site – the PETCO store that was eventually shelved (they’ve now signed for a new Junction location) – and says “big-box” like that doesn’t make sense for the site.

He is finishing a Kirkland project, before immersing more fully into West Seattle. He says it’ll meet LEED Silver standards and will be nonsmoking – the first such mixed-use building in the area. (It’s also online, as Potala Village-Kirkland, with the units described as “luxury apartments.”)

Until this one revs up later in the year – probably by July or August, he expects to apply for the rezone – you can watch the project’s two files on the city website, land-use here, construction here.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about “Potala”? It’s from Dargey’s Tibetan heritage: Potala Palace is a World Heritage Site that for centuries served as a palace for the Dalai Lama.

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Own a piece of the Charlestown Street Café: Auction set April 29 http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/own-a-piece-of-the-charlestown-street-cafe-auction-set-april-29/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/own-a-piece-of-the-charlestown-street-cafe-auction-set-april-29/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 19:47:46 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=69909

Thanks to the WSB’er who called (206-293-6302, 24/7) to let us know that the Charlestown Street Café has just turned up on the schedule for auctioneers James G. Murphy Co. (And thanks to Rob, who just sent a note about the same thing.) The auction is scheduled at the restaurant site (California/Charlestown) at 10 am April 29th, after a two-hour preview period 8-10 am. The full catalog is not online yet, but some items are up for preview right now. (In case you missed it, the café “closed forever” – as the paper-plate sign in our photo declared – on April 3rd, with owner Ron Hanlon citing the economy.) Murphy handles many auctions in our region, and this announcement revives memories of the auction for another beloved longtime restaurant – the Corner Inn, back in 2008 (WSB coverage here).

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‘Thank you, West Seattle’: Charlestown Street Café’s final day http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/were-closed-forever-charlestown-street-cafes-final-day/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/were-closed-forever-charlestown-street-cafes-final-day/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2011 03:41:41 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68858 (Earlier coverage: First customers on the last morning, here; midday update, here)

Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

At 2:45 p.m. today, the last meal was cooked and served at Webster’s Charlestown Street Café.

Hesper Guerra, a waitress at the restaurant for two decades, raised a little plastic glass of apple cider, tears sliding down her cheeks, and gave a toast. The staff gathered behind her raised their glasses, and dabbed their own tears.

The last customers of the restaurant left slowly, shaking hands with owner Ron Hanlon, sharing their thoughts on what the restaurant has meant to them.

“The food is great, but the love is better,” said Debbie Coscorrosa, who followed Hanlon from Webster’s restaurant to the Charlestown.

Deacon Dean Hard of First Lutheran Church in West Seattle had breakfast every morning at the Charlestown, and often came back for lunch or dinner. He has been a regular for 21 years.

“I had to be here for the final fling,” he said. “I’ve watched Hesper and Tama grow up here. The kitchen staff is behind the scenes, but they are the best. It is a true, true family here.” Deacon Hard said he isn’t sure where he will go for future meals, but thinks he “might go bug Jack Miller at Husky Deli for a while.”

West Seattle composer Bobby Weinberg gave Hesper and Tama Warrior big hugs as he left. “I’ve been friends with Ron as long as I can remember,” said Weinberg.

Bob Miller and Jaunita Ludwig said they never had a bad meal at the Charlestown, They too have been customers for 20 years.

Hanlon autographed a menu for longtime customer Jim Lockerbie.

“This is an institution,” said Lockerbie.

Hanlon invited customers and staff to take their favorite pictures that decorate the walls. One customer bought the mirror in the women’s bathroom. Hanlon said he sold 30 chairs to a church for their choir.

Others bought frozen bags of the beloved award-winning clam chowder to take home for future dinners.

Many customers left their e-mail addresses, hoping to stay in touch with their favorite servers, and possible news of the crew opening a new restaurant somewhere else in West Seattle.

By 4 pm, the kitchen was cleaned. The last customer was gone, but the front door was still wide open. The staff gathered at tables for final farewells and hugs. Most don’t have new jobs yet and aren’t sure what they will be doing next.

Hanlon knows what’s next on his list: 32 years on his feet in the restaurant has taken a toll on his knees. He is having knee replacement surgery in two weeks, then a long recovery.

After that, he’s not sure.

“I’m only 65, I’m not done,” Hanlon said.

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Previous WSB coverage of the Charlestown Street Cafe’s ups and downs over the past four years is archived here, newest to oldest (scroll down the page), including first word just one week ago that Hanlon would shut it down. The site’s fate has not been officially announced; as we noted last weekend, city online records indicate a mixed-use development proposal was floated last year.

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Update: Meals, tears, hugs during Charlestown Café’s final day http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/update-meals-tears-hugs-during-charlestown-cafes-final-day/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/update-meals-tears-hugs-during-charlestown-cafes-final-day/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2011 19:23:10 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68784 (Our first report, as the café’s doors opened one last time this morning, is here)

Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

The scene at the Charlestown Street Café is dramatically different a few hours later as fans crowded through the doors for a final Sunday morning breakfast.

Servers swiftly seated customers, teared up while taking orders, and hugged their “regulars” goodbye.

Among those giving and getting hugs: JoAnne Morrison (pink vest), who picketed in front of the Charlestown a few years ago to stop the landlord from demolishing the restaurant, came in for the last breakfast and ordered a spinach omelette. “Everyone is so friendly and nice, I just got to know everyone,” Morrison said.

Morrison said she had breakfast every Sunday at the Charlestown, and often for lunch or dinner during the week as well. From now on, she will probably just make breakfast at home on Sunday, she said.

Owner Ron Hanlon was out getting more groceries, said waitress Tama Warrior, who was working her final shift, along with Hesper Guerra. We’ll try to catch up with him later as he prepares to lock the front door of the cafe for the last time today.

5:55 PM UPDATE: We’ll publish Kathy’s final update a bit later this evening; she says the doors did not close at 3 pm spot-on, nor for a while afterward, but we went back a little while ago and found the final sign on the finally closed door:

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Final day for the Charlestown Street Café: Open for business http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/final-day-for-the-charlestown-street-cafe-open-for-business/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/final-day-for-the-charlestown-street-cafe-open-for-business/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2011 14:06:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68762

Two people were waiting outside when the Charlestown Street Café opened moments ago for its final day in business after 32 years (and two more followed them in a moment later).

Everything’s up and running despite last night’s power problem. First in line, arriving about 20 minutes before 7, was Mike (photo above), doing a puzzle while he waited; he told us he had just decided he “might as well come here the last day.” We’ll be checking in during the day; the restaurant is scheduled to close its doors for good at 3 pm, with a note on the door sternly warning “last seating at 2:30 pm.” As we first reported one week ago, owner Ron Hanlon says the economy has done what first a development threat and then a fire couldn’t do – force the popular café’s doors to close.

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No last dinner at Charlestown Café: Closed tonight, no power http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/no-last-dinner-at-charlestown-cafe-closed-early-tonight/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/no-last-dinner-at-charlestown-cafe-closed-early-tonight/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2011 01:41:00 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68720

6:41 PM: Tonight, the Charlestown Street Café was to be serving its last dinners, since it’s closing for good at 3 pm tomorrow – but when Dave got there a little while ago, he found that note on its door, saying it’s closed tonight because the power is out, back in the morning at 7 am. (The outage is shown on the City Light map – just one customer, just that spot, “cause unknown.”)

7:59 PM UPDATE: WSB contributor Kathy Mulady, who’s covered the Charlestown’s travails since 2006 and reported the WSB followup after the closure announcement, talked to the Seattle City Light crews that are on scene right now. They told her a transformer blew and they’re waiting for a new one. Oddly, Kathy adds, the outage didn’t affect the big sign out front. It, perhaps defiantly, blazes on.

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Charlestown Café followup: Day after the closure announcement http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/charlestown-cafe-followup-day-after-the-closure-announcement/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/charlestown-cafe-followup-day-after-the-closure-announcement/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2011 03:46:48 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68179 West Seattle journalist Kathy Mulady has reported on the Charlestown Street Café‘s ups and downs over the past five years, for the Seattle P-I and for WSB. Following up on our Sunday report of the café’s imminent closure, she went there today to cover the first day since the bad news hit.

(Café owner Ron Hanlon and longtime staffer Shavaun Bartlett)
Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Ron Hanlon is done, and so is the Charlestown Street Café he has owned for more than 30 years.

Customers strolling in for their regular breakfast or lunch today were stunned by the note on the door announcing that the restaurant that has been so much a part of their lives will be closing for good at 3 p.m. next Sunday, April 3 (as reported here yesterday morning).

Hanlon said he will stay open long enough to serve a final meal to the after-church crowd, but that’s it. There will be no last-minute rescue this time.

“It’s very sad. This has been a community gathering spot for a long time. The landlord wants to move on,” said Hanlon. “A long-term lease for us is out of the question.”

The last four years have been a roller coaster for Hanlon and his regulars.

The business survived threats of demolition, a kitchen fire that closed the restaurant for four months, and was finally done in by a sour economy that refuses to rebound.

“The bottom fell out of the economy and we never recovered,” said Hanlon, who turned 65 this year, but insists he isn’t ready to retire.

Just a few weeks ago he bought new chairs for the restaurant, thinking that he would keep going.

He told the staff a week ago that the restaurant will close.

“I agonized over the decision for a year,” he said. “I am exhausted.”

Hanlon started in West Seattle 32 years ago at the White Spot at SW Alaska and Fauntleroy Way SW. His loyal customers followed him when he opened Webster’s on California, and later to the Charlestown Street Café.

Waitresses Hesper Guerra and Tama Warrior have worked with Hanlon for 20 years each, since they were in high school. They talked about taking over the restaurant, but the economy, needed building repairs, and the month-to-month lease made it too risky financially.

“Maybe Hesper and I will reopen another place with this same feel and a long lease sometime in the future,” said Tama, who is known to some customers and staff as “Mama Charlestown.”

“It breaks my heart to think of what might happen to some of our elderly customers who come in all the time, where will they go?” Warrior wondered.

Families and friends have celebrated and commiserated over breakfast, lunch and dinners here for generations. It’s common to see three or more generations of a family walk in the door. And Hanlon knows them all.

The Charlestown Street Cafe is one of the rare centrally located West Seattle restaurants with its own spacious parking lot.

Karen Rice and her brother Don Rice of West Seattle were among Hanlon’s first customers. The Rices still meet at the café for breakfast weekly, sometimes several times a week.

“All the food is good,” they said, finishing up plates of biscuits and gravy.

“I like the service, all the guys and gals who work here are great,” said Karen Rice.

They looked at each other in sad silence when asked where they will meet for breakfast when the Charlestown is done.

“I really don’t know,” said Karen.

Rob Hendricks, sitting on a stool at the counter, said he really isn’t sure where he will go either. He’s been coming to the Charlestown for 15 years. It is the good food and good service that keeps bringing him back, too.

He thought when the café reopened after the fire that it would be around for a good long time.

“I thought we had skated by,” he said. “I have no clue where I will go when it closes.”

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West Seattle restaurants: Charlestown Café closing http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/west-seattle-restaurants-charlestown-cafe-closing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/west-seattle-restaurants-charlestown-cafe-closing/#comments Sun, 27 Mar 2011 18:55:04 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68029

(ADDED 12:41 PM: The note on the Charlestown Café door)
Thanks to the WSB’ers who called and e-mailed with this news, which we have just confirmed: The Charlestown Café is closing its doors. A sign on its front door says that it’ll be shutting down as of 3 pm next Sunday (April 3rd) and blames economic conditions. It’s endured a lot in recent years – first a development threat that rallied community support for the restaurant; then, shortly after word that the development plan was dropped, a 2008 fire closed the café for months. One year after its reopening, we followed up with owner Ron Hanlon, who candidly discussed the economic challenges (including the fact he had a month-by-month lease).

(WSB photo from 2009)
ADDED 3:51 PM: Rooting around now to see if there’s any hint at the site’s future. City files show some activity last June on a proposal for a “mixed-use multifamily building with commercial on the ground floor,” but no dated activity since then – we’ll be checking tomorrow to see if this is an active proposal. There’s no indication in online records of any change in ownership. The proposal that surfaced in 2006 ultimately emerged as a single-story building that was to be a new home for Petco; the plan was dropped in early 2008, and as reported here a month ago, Petco is moving to Capco Plaza at 41st/Alaska.

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Charlestown Café changes and challenges, 1 year later http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/charlestown-cafe-changes-and-challenges-1-year-later/ http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/charlestown-cafe-changes-and-challenges-1-year-later/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2009 02:58:15 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=18283 This Tuesday will mark 1 year since West Seattle’s Charlestown Cafe reopened after repairs from a fire that came on the heels of a long fight over its site’s future. Seemed like the time to check in to see how things are going – and we found out some surprises:

Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

The one-year anniversary of the re-opening of Webster’s Charlestown Street Café is a bittersweet celebration for Ron Hanlon, owner of the West Seattle fixture.

A fire in the stove hood in February 2008 closed the Charlestown Café for months while Hanlon, the café property owner and the insurance company haggled over details. The restaurant with the something-for-everyone menu finally reopened June 30 last year. Just in time for what some have nicknamed the Great Recession.

Hanlon’s longtime business partner Larry Mellum moved on earlier this year, expanding Pike Place Chowder to Pacific Place downtown. But Hanlon is staying put at Charlestown, and in West Seattle, where he has owned restaurants for 30 years.

“I’m going to ride this to the end,” he said this week.

Regular customers, like Al Schmitz – a member of one of West Seattle’s founding families – still come in, grabbing their favorite tables or seats at the counter:

“I’ve been coming here for at least 20 years, at least a couple of times a week,” said Schmitz, who teaches senior fitness in Burien. “It’s the good food and the pleasant waitresses.”

Servers Tama Warrior and Hesper Guerra pour endless cups of coffee:

Guerra started working at the café right out of high school, some 20 years ago.

Stories like that represent the sweet part.

The last three years have been a rollercoaster ride for Hanlon. In 2006, the café lost its lease as the landowner, Strickland Corporation, prepared to sell the property to Petco. The news riled loyal customers who took the threatened loss personally. They started a petition drive, packed community meetings and lobbied the city.

Petco’s proposal never made it all the way through Design Review; eventually it gave up and backed off from the purchase plan.

For the restaurant, it was a brief reprieve.

Less than a week after the reprieve was made public, the exhaust hood over the stove caught fire:

charlestowncafe.jpg

(2/4/08 photo courtesy Scott Kratz; there’s also video at JetCityOrange)
The fire damage (blamed on the deep-fat fryer) wasn’t horrific, but the damaged relationship between Hanlon and Strickland came into full bloom, according to the cafe owner.

Hanlon said it was obvious as soon as he called the insurance company.

“You could feel the brakes go on,” said Hanlon.

Employees were paid during the four months the cafe was closed. When it reopened last year, everyone came back to work.

The café was chugging back when the recession hit.

Hanlon remembers the sinking feeling he had September 15, the day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. A few days later, Washington Mutual did the same. Suddenly, the bustling café slowed. Regular customers who used to come in three or four times a week, now stop by once or twice. Hanlon has laid off employees.

His hunch is that the economy has hit bottom, but he predicts it will stay flat down there for quite a while yet. It could be a blessing for the café, buying them time before another property buyer comes along.

Since the property fight with the landlord, the Charlestown Café has been running on a month-to-month lease. Hanson says the relationship can’t be salvaged.

“It’s a miserable marriage and we aren’t going to counseling,” is how he describes it. “I’m done.”

But the Charlestown Café does go on. At lunchtime, the place is lively. Tables are filled with business people, families and friends, just like always.

“We are making our expenses, our rent and our payroll,” said Hanlon.

So the anniversary brings mixed feelings.

“It’s great for the staff, it’s great for the community,” he said. “For me, it’s bittersweet.”

WSB coverage of the Charlestown Cafe – the development proposal, the fire, and beyond – is archived here, newest to oldest.

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Charlestown Cafe is open again! http://westseattleblog.com/2008/06/charlestown-cafe-is-open-again/ http://westseattleblog.com/2008/06/charlestown-cafe-is-open-again/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2008 13:05:48 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=8648

charlestownsign.jpgThe video above shows Charlestown Cafe staff greeting Ted, the first customer to walk through the door on the restaurant’s grand-reopening day – he arrived a few minutes after 6 am, as the beloved restaurant is back in business almost five months after a fire shut it down. We’ve talked with co-owner Larry Mellum, who’s also been interviewed by at least one TV crew so far (that’s a channel 7 photographer you see in the video above), and says he’s thrilled for this day to have finally arrived. More video and pix, including an interview with Larry, coming up. ADDED 6:34 AM: Another clip — a quick look inside, just before the first customer arrived:

ADDED 6:52 AM: Just before the customers began arriving, we talked with Larry about what’s changed at his restaurant, and what hasn’t:

Now a little of the backstory, to help with context for all this – The Charlestown Cafe has been a West Seattle fixture practically since its opening in 1991. Then, two years ago, in summer 2006, the cafe owners announced they were losing their lease because the property owner wanted to redevelop the site. A community outcry ensued, as did various hearings on the development. Then this year, just a few days before the February fire, when it seemed the project had been stalled for months, the Charlestown owners announced they had something of a reprieve (WSB report here). Still much to be decided about its future, but when the property owner committed to the repairs, that said a lot about a commitment to the restaurant for some time to come. (More later.)

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Charlestown Cafe grand reopening: Still on for Monday http://westseattleblog.com/2008/06/charlestown-cafe-grand-reopening-still-on-for-monday/ http://westseattleblog.com/2008/06/charlestown-cafe-grand-reopening-still-on-for-monday/#comments Sun, 29 Jun 2008 00:31:22 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=8608 Just checked with Charlestown Cafe co-owner Larry Mellum, and he confirms the grand reopening is still on for 6 am Monday (as first reported here a week and a half ago; then we showed you photos last Monday of the CC team getting everything ready), almost five months after the fire that shut the Charlestown down. We’ll be there to bring you the online equivalent of a live report. Says Larry, in an understatement: “Should be fun!” (WSB Charlestown Cafe coverage is archived here, newest to oldest.)

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