Easy Street Records awning update: Landlord won’t replace it, says store owner, but he will

(SDOT “live” image from Easy Street’s corner at California/Alaska)
As one WSB commenter put it after the kerfuffle earlier this week over the removal of the Easy Street Records awning (WSB coverage here), the big question was – what next? At the time, ESR owner Matt Vaughan said he didn’t know – it was up to the “landlord,” who was the one who decided to take it down. Vaughan has just posted this update as a comment following our original story:

Thanks all for thinking about us and this corner. I’m looking forward to creating another beautiful corner. We know this corner and intersection is special to all of you, I know that maybe more than anybody and I appreciate your years of patronage and good positive thoughts…even when you’re just walking by “all ways,” of course. So, with that being said …..here is the UPDATE.

It was impossible to know what the corner would look like until the canopy was removed. The landlord didn’t know, I didn’t know. I didn’t think it would look good, I knew that much, but what I did know is that it would present some ideas. The canopy had been on the Hamm Building for almost 70 years. Do keep in mind, maybe the big reason that we all loved this corner was not necessarily just the canopy and overhang, but it was the neon signage and under lighting we attached to it back in ’92 or so. I do understand that the canopy also represented a period of time, another era, childhood memories etc.. and that is also why there is sentiment.

When the Alaska St side awning was removed 3 years ago, there wasn’t a peep and that was even more sq footage than what was recently removed. Without good signage complementing the canopy, there wasn’t much of an allure, especially as the years wore on.

I have to say though and maybe some of you could agree.. these last 5 years have not looked all that good. The canopy took some big hits and our neon was continuously broken and under repair. With that being said, I was a proponent in saving the framework and repairing and improving it, but there were some potential issues and unknown costs going down that road too. I am not the owner of the building, the Yen Family is and has been for 30+ years or so. The property manager is WM Mgmt. Neither live in West Seattle, so they may not understand some things we do as residents and inhabitants of the building, but what they were aware of and why they felt committed to demolishing it was that it was essentially red-tagged. It was becoming increasingly dangerous. Lead paint, loose and exposed electrical, rusted and corroded framework. In the end, as vintage and retro as we all like to imagine ourselves, there comes a time where we have to be practical and pragmatic. This was just one of those kind of decisions that had to be made, as difficult as it was for me to surrender to.

We had originally invested $20k into the signage and neon throughout the 90′s … and that doesn’t include the annual repairs over the ’00 years, but retro-styled neon is becoming an old form and more costly as the years go on. As for why I didn’t save any of it, it was just too costly to do so. Neon is brittle, it was literally attached to the flashing and trim, would’ve been an expensive and tedious job.

Keep in mind, when I closed our Queen Anne store, that signage was considered “iconic” as well. It wasn’t really all that special of a building we were in, but we made it seem as though it was. I paid $3k to have it removed before I left the building, I couldn’t let it get demo’d.

The landlords think the storefront looks best without a canopy and they’ve told me as of yesterday that they will not invest in a replacement. However, I need to protect my storefront, I need to allow customers to sit outside our cafe in the spring/summer months, I need to protect our product from the elements during our sidewalk sales. I need to protect all of you when our instore performances spill outside the garage store, I need to ensure that people don’t slip and fall in front of our store during the rainy months, we’ll need sidewalk lighting for passerby’s and our storefront. I need to protect our storefront from the sun, the heat, the rain, the sleet, and snow. The maintenance would be overwhelming without protection, so…I will be putting a design together and will invest in creating an attractive corner…again.

Faithfully Yours, Matt Vaughan

43 Replies to "Easy Street Records awning update: Landlord won't replace it, says store owner, but he will"

  • panda May 9, 2013 (1:49 pm)

    Matt, thank you so much for your commitment to West Seattle. I hope the landlords will agree to your plans. I propose a donation pool to replace the awning. I will personally donate and encourage my West Seattle friends to do the same.

  • Fiwa Jcbbb May 9, 2013 (1:53 pm)

    Wish more business owners were as smart and conscientious as Matt Vaughn.

  • Diane May 9, 2013 (2:01 pm)

    what a wonderful letter; thank you Matt

  • k May 9, 2013 (2:04 pm)

    Kickstarter it!

  • glendafrench May 9, 2013 (2:04 pm)

    I agree! Donation fund! With so much of what is unique about West Seattle being destroyed, I am more than happy to chip in to keep this corner looking awesome. I’m especially invested since I stare at it every morning waiting for the bus.

  • Julie May 9, 2013 (2:04 pm)

    In my experience the city requires overhead protection on new buildings in urban centers such as The Junction. Does anyone know if they require a building owner to replace overhead protection when they remove it from an existing building?

  • Amanda May 9, 2013 (2:05 pm)

    I’ll contribute too!

  • Is It Me May 9, 2013 (2:08 pm)

    Above and beyond the call of duty…good for you! Especially since the landlord doesn’t seem to care about the community or area. Very few do honestly, it’s JUST an investment to them, not a living place they have to see or work in. Let the community know if you need a fundraiser or such, since everyone seems to have such strong opinions about it, they SHOULD be willing to contribute to creating/maintaining it.

  • West Seattle since 1979 May 9, 2013 (2:09 pm)

    Matt, thank you!

  • Astrogirl30 May 9, 2013 (2:25 pm)

    Thanks Matt,

    You remind me why I love the W. Seattle community so much.

  • Blinkyjoe May 9, 2013 (2:26 pm)

    Thanks Matt. On rainy winter nights that corner looked just wonderful with the neon and under lighting reflecting off the wet pavement.

  • VBD May 9, 2013 (2:27 pm)


    Thank you Matt.

    Something tells me I need to beef up my old disk and vinyl collection soon… I definitely know where I’ll be making my purchases.

  • AEL May 9, 2013 (2:28 pm)

    And this is why you are business of the year. Thank you for attempting to keep the awning – even if it takes a different form. I love your store!

  • cruzer May 9, 2013 (2:29 pm)

    I would donate too! we love Easy Street’s

  • oneanne May 9, 2013 (2:31 pm)

    Perhaps a Kickstarter croud funding campaign?

  • Jeff Gilbert May 9, 2013 (2:40 pm)

    Hey Matt – How can we help to raise money to get you a new awning? Count us in!

  • Jeff May 9, 2013 (2:59 pm)

    Support for the kickstarter idea!

  • DBWest Seattle May 9, 2013 (3:27 pm)

    I agree – lets get a donation fund started. The awning is pricey – but skeletal neon is not and every sign fabricator in town can do it as its become a popular form of signage again since retro is “in”. Let’s get an estimate done to re-create this landmark structure and get going!! Now more than ever (with a big portion of that intersection getting torn down to create a new multi-story mixed use monstrosity) we need to hold on to our WS heritage and strive to keep things looking like us!!

  • jiggers May 9, 2013 (3:59 pm)

    How does a building get condemned? If the landlord is just letting it rot, the city has to force closure of it. The Hamm bldg is making the immediate area looked runned down horribly.

  • old timer May 9, 2013 (4:00 pm)

    Me too for the Kickstarter donation thing.
    Whatever works for Mr. Vaughan, let us know.

  • JulieH May 9, 2013 (4:02 pm)

    If you need residents of West Seattle to write letters of support for your ideas to your landlord let us all know. If they don’t live here maybe resident and customer input would be valuable.

    Thanks for you and your staff!

  • NeighborMom May 9, 2013 (4:27 pm)

    Yay, Matt! A Westside hero…

  • westseattledood May 9, 2013 (4:39 pm)

    Mr. Vaughan,

    I am so glad for that update. Good LORD!!!

    I love how you love our community. Thank you so very much.

    You are an amazing business presence and we are so lucky to have you.

    Your peeps are wonderful, knowledgeable, creative, and all around great neighbors.

    We adore your business. We really, really do!!!!!

    So, let’s getting cracking with the FUND$$$. I am so in – you know, in addition to the Neuvos Rancheros. :]

    YAY~~~~ :) No more sad faces!!!

  • lisa town May 9, 2013 (4:40 pm)


    Thanks for all you do… including taking the time to craft and post this letter! I agree that a community fund would be a great Idea and our family & friends! would be more than happy to contribute! I have friends around the world that have visited your store and know they’d be proud to be a part of the revival of your storefront!

    You’ve made (and kept) Easy Street a place for ‘the community’… maybe it’s time we give a little back!

    Lisa :)

  • Kara May 9, 2013 (5:07 pm)


  • West Seattle Since 1979 May 9, 2013 (5:23 pm)

    Agree with the Kickstarter idea!

  • Alki Beach Guy May 9, 2013 (5:23 pm)

    Thank you Matt, I will come by and buy a CD the next time I am in the junction. I would like to challenge others to do the same.

  • Jonny Boy May 9, 2013 (5:34 pm)

    Thanks for the explanation. Sounds like you’ve had to make some very tough and unpopular decisions this year. I feel so fortunate to have Easy Street in the neighborhood. And yes, I will also buy a CD today on the way home, although I just bought a couple a few days ago. Cheers!

  • breezygirl May 9, 2013 (5:50 pm)

    Yes! Let us help Matt!! I don’t have much but have been a loyal customer since I was a teen and I would love to do what I can to help!

  • miws May 9, 2013 (5:50 pm)

    Thank you, Matt!



  • GFC May 9, 2013 (6:43 pm)

    As a half owner of a similar commercial property in another city, I would have done all that is necessary to preserve the look and feel of the property. Our building has a similar awning (but without the cool neon) and we maintain it. History is important. Boo to owners and property managers. There are enough disturbing changes going on here without this!

  • Neighbor May 9, 2013 (6:48 pm)

    Easy Street is one of the reasons I chose to settle in Seattle. A good record store is that important! I was driving around the country and I got lost 22 years ago, ended up in WS at the Junction. I got a Johnathan RIchman tape I had been looking coast to coast for. It felt like a sign.
    Start the Kick Starter already!

  • jiggers May 9, 2013 (7:03 pm)

    I’m surpirse that the landlords are going to let the tennant put in place a covering there after they said they thought it looked better without one? Have they looked at that after it was torn down? It looks like hell. Just goes to show they don’t want to spend money and invest, but just collect the rent money. Typical.

  • Chris W May 9, 2013 (7:41 pm)

    What a great neighbor you are, Matt!

  • Alphonse May 9, 2013 (8:18 pm)

    I certainly hope that the canopy that Easy Street is going to build (possibly with help from the community) is something that can be removed if they ever move from that location. It wouldn’t be fair for the landlord to benefit from an improvement when he clearly has no interest in making the building better for Easy Street, their customers, or passersby. I wish our great local business could own the property they are in more often – so sick of property owners who care nothing about the communities that their holdings are in, or the people who live there.

  • Eric Thomas May 9, 2013 (9:37 pm)

    Kickstarter it…. we’ll build you a bada$$ canopy. I got $50 on it. Immortalize the donors names in cool little places around it… seriously, you have to kickstarter this.

  • Chrisd May 9, 2013 (11:01 pm)

    Matt, thanks for supporting West Seattle and the declining history of this great part of Seattle. I expect a response from your landlord and at least a 50% contribution to the revitalization of what little history there is here.

  • Pibal May 9, 2013 (11:37 pm)

    Thank you Matt for an incredibly well-written explanation of the recent Easy Street facade changes and the rationale behind them. After reading your note, I realized that you had addressed every conceivable question I could have come up with. The mark of a superior wordsmith! Well done!

    I am sure your design and reinstallation process will go well. It would be great if WM and the Yen family would provide you a credit for your investment. Thank you…,

  • jiggers May 10, 2013 (9:50 am)

    Let look at the real issue and the horrible bad shape that building is in.

  • WS expat May 10, 2013 (11:54 am)

    Just a little thought experiment:If Green Bay, Wisconsin, can “own” an NFL team, why can’t West Seattle “own” the Hamm Building?
    In late 2011, the Packers, technically a non-profit, public corporation, sold 268,000 shares at $250 a share to help finance renovations of Lambeau Field. These shares conferred no for-profit ownership, which was fully disclosed at the time. The sale raised $67 million dollars. The Packers have been a publicly owned team since 1923, which is just about the year the Hamm Building was built.
    Granted, Green Bay has more than twice West Seattle’s population, but if they can raise that much money, it might be possible for a West Seattle non-profit to raise enough to buy a building that appraised at $2,035,900 – with a taxable worth that has been stagnant for five years. The non-profit could then be Easy Street’s landlord.
    The Hamm Building may not be a beauty, but the structure is solid. As I remember, it came through the Nisqually earthquake in good shape when not all masonry buildings in West Seattle did.

  • tom May 11, 2013 (7:19 am)

    i do not like the crowd funding idea. this should be up to the owner himself.

  • JanS May 11, 2013 (9:11 pm)

    jiggers…do you even live in West Seattle anymore? Why do you care so much about tearing the whole building down? So another neo-modern eyesore can go up? Seriously? I love that corner…not the way it looks right now., though. The line where they took the canopy down left it as an eyesore. Where is the landlord during all of this. He could have cleaned it up a little. I agree with those who have stated that. But that building itself is solid.

  • pjmanley May 12, 2013 (12:52 pm)

    Thank you Matt. Where do I send a check?

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