Update: Easy Street Records’ famous neon-lined awning comes down

(UPDATED 1:48 AM with removal of the rest of the awning)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s been battered over the years, but not broken. Now, though, Easy Street Records‘ famous neon-decorated awning is coming down.

Half gone already, as of a little while ago, when we took these photos, and the demolition crew is still on the job.

It was more than half a century old, according to Easy Street proprietor Matt Vaughan, and it’s a wonder it lasted this long: Almost three years ago, a truck hit a tree, which in turn took out part of the neon. At the time, Vaughan commented via Twitter that the neon had only just been fixed from the last time it was affected by truck trouble. (We’re not sure if that was the 2008 incident on which we also reported.) But overall, we were told at the store this afternoon, the awning was just flat old and rusty.

Beloved just the same – news of the awning’s imminent removal caused an uproar on Facebook this afternoon – as of this writing, 133 comments on Easy Street’s page, and more than 45 comments on the WSB Facebook page, where we had shared the ESR update.

Some concerned commenters asked if the awning could get protection from the city’s historic-preservation authorities. Short answer – Not without the building having landmark status. When the city inventoried local properties several years back, it offered the opinion that the Hamm Building – the 1926 home to Easy Street and other businesses – might merit that protection. To our knowledge, that hasn’t been sought. City records even show a demolition/development proposal dating back to 2007, though it doesn’t appear to have advanced from the early stages.

As for what if anything will replace the awning, ESR isn’t sure yet, they told us when we first inquired this afternoon. But one thing’s for sure – many West Seattleites, most of whom probably haven’t even heard of its in-progress removal, will miss it – as the understory of the sign that stands over the awning so often offering messages reflecting the community mood, even simple holiday greetings like the one in our November 2009 photo:

We’ll follow up to see what happens from here.

1:48 AM UPDATE: Thanks to Dennis for sending photos of the California SW-side removal:

And that side of the building, awningless:

The famous marquee remains:

ADDED TUESDAY: Thanks to WSB’er Datamuse for pointing out in comments that Easy Street’s website has this expanded statement on the awning situation.

58 Replies to "Update: Easy Street Records' famous neon-lined awning comes down"

  • Diane May 6, 2013 (11:41 pm)

    horrible horrible horrible, and shameful

  • jiggers May 6, 2013 (11:54 pm)

    Horrible and shameful? christ..While they are at it, tear that whole decrepid Hamm Building down with it. Its nothing but an eyesore.

  • westseattledood May 7, 2013 (12:30 am)

    Nothing like a sucker punch to a creative community.
    Gross and sad.

    They have to replace it. They *have* to know that?!

  • DTK May 7, 2013 (12:30 am)

    I have a weird feeling that the replacement is going to be kinda awesome.

  • MikeRussellFoto May 7, 2013 (2:09 am)

    As a friend in Queen Anne so succinctly pointed out to me when I posted one of my own photos about the situation on Facebook, “Hey, at least you got to keep your store. We traded ours for a f*ing Chase branch.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate that it’s being taken down. But, you know, it could be worse.

  • wholly inadequate May 7, 2013 (2:10 am)

    It is ugly and will discourage commerce. The “famous marquee” looks washed out without the neon.  I don’t know that I will buy there anymore. The funky welcome vibe has been destroyed. New local artists and bands will find another icon for their promo shots in another part of the city. 

  • Westside J. May 7, 2013 (3:09 am)

    Even though it’s just the awning it’s a bit of a bummer to see it go, hopefully something that fits the style of what Matt has put together on that corner replaces it. I hate, HATE the idea of my west Seattle becoming a boring, homogenized part of town. This isn’t some strip mall & condo townhouse community where all buildings must be torn down simply because they are old. I like the history and the charm that comes from the roots of a community. *rant over*. Sorry.

  • MK May 7, 2013 (5:25 am)

    Another part of WS history gone. You will be missed !

    @ Wholly Inadequate, if you wish to take your “business” elsewhere, then please do. There are many Easy Street customers like myself that have been shopping there for decades. We are not going to simply stop shopping there because a sign is taken down. Matt still runs one of the best record stores in the city, and his staff are amazing.

  • Gene May 7, 2013 (5:28 am)

    Jiggers-I think you need glasses-ever look at te top of that building?

  • Jack Loblaw May 7, 2013 (5:48 am)

    I don’t find a city permit for the construction work – this will be a fun call to the DCLU since the work is so well documented

  • joelab May 7, 2013 (7:10 am)

    Any of you threatening to stop buying from them due to this need to adjust your perspective on this issue.

    Here are a couple of thoughts for you to ponder:
    -If you have any inkling of what is going on in the record store business today, you would know that we are lucky to have a store like Easy Street records. Record stores big and small are closing all over the country and have been for more than a decade and a half. At a rapid rate, too.

    -Margins at record stores have grown thinner and thinner because record companies are not charging less for hard copies of their wares at the wholesale level. Combine that with the fact that a store such as Easy Street has to at least try to compete with online prices in order to have anybody but record store loyalists walk in and spend money. Plus, you have to consider that it is now more expensive than ever to employ people in the store. I’m not complaining about minimum wage here, I’m just stating a fact)

    -Easy Street also contains a restaurant. If you know anything about the restaurant business, you know that margins are terribly thin in that business as well.

    -Not only is it a great service to the community just keeping the place open, but it sounds like the awning was posing a potential safety issue. Thanks to Easy Street for addressing it. I walk around there with my kids all the time. Don’t need stuff falling on us.

    My suggestion would be that if you want Easy Street Records to put up new signage, then make a point to eat there as often as you can, and instead of downloading albums on Itunes or whatever it is everybody uses these days, go there to get your music. The more money we spend, the more they’ll make, the more likely they are to put up new signage.

    It’s that simple, folks. Don’t boycott or abandon them over this unless you want them to go out of business. I don’t think anybody wants that.

  • datamuse May 7, 2013 (7:19 am)

    …maybe y’all would’ve preferred to wait until it fell off and landed on someone’s head?

  • miws May 7, 2013 (7:24 am)

    Yeah, the awning itself is (was) definitely a “Landmark” in my opinion. I don’t remember the Hamm Building without it, (other than old, pre-awning photos), and I’m 54.


    It may have been showing its age, but it was highly useful and functional, wide enough to cover most of the sidewalk, and good protection from the rain. It made for a great place to wait for the bus, especially considering that spot is a major transit hub.


    Too many awnings on modern buildings, and the newer replacements on older buildings, are purty and all that, but a lot of them don’t directly abut the building, leaving room for rain to get through, and many are glass, which looks nice and lets (a usually seemingly negligible amount of) daylight through, but can look terribly dirty if not regularly maintained.



  • Is It Me May 7, 2013 (7:30 am)

    I agree the current awning was probably rusty and damaged and needed to come down. The ONLY question is…is it being replaced by anything? A simple cloth awning? A new metal overhang? We no one seems to have any clue, not even a hint, I say we wait and find out being getting too bent out of shape. IF it’s replaced by something really ugly or just left off entirely then we can start complaining in force. :)

  • sun*e May 7, 2013 (7:56 am)

    I suppose it’s a moot point now but they could’ve saved some, if not all of the neon signs and hung them around on the inside…that would’ve looked cool and also would’ve been great memorabilia.

  • cjboffoli May 7, 2013 (8:16 am)

    When I saw this story yesterday I thought they were just THINKING of taking it down. So I was really surprised to see the removal in-progress later on. Now that it’s gone I wish I had done a better job of documenting it. Though I’m glad I caught it in my video Neon tour of West Seattle back in 2010:
    (Easy Street neon at 1:43 and 2:03)

  • doghouse May 7, 2013 (8:19 am)

    Does anyone remember when this exact location had a pharmacy and a giant mortal and pestle hung where the sign is now?

  • old timer May 7, 2013 (8:30 am)

    On the topic of the degradation of the heart of the Junction, is there any update on the block of emptiness that is just South East, across California?
    IMO, there should be heavy economic penalties on developers who cut the going businesses out of the center of a community and leave a big decaying and empty sore.
    Like it or not, the permits are done, the alley vacated, and the Junction needs some vitalization.
    Or are the current owners engaged in yet another sequence of strip mining what value may remain from the property?

    • WSB May 7, 2013 (8:45 am)

      Old Timer – they are currently incommunicado.

  • Kathi May 7, 2013 (8:39 am)

    I hope the new and improved version is better than ever. Thankful it didn’t fall on someone.

  • Johnny Davies May 7, 2013 (9:21 am)

    I’ll miss its look for sure, but honestly, I had to force myself to STOP caring about the changes I see in West Seattle about 3,000 apartment units, a giant hole and 2 new grocery stores ago.

  • Jim May 7, 2013 (9:29 am)

    I seriously hope that the ranters will be dropping off checks at Easy Street today to help with the cost of replacement. They seem a little out of touch with the realities of running a small business.

  • jiggers May 7, 2013 (9:34 am)

    No one ever bothered to look at the ugly thing and walks right under it. It was a huge liability issue. They did the right thing. Nothing like having a piece of metal slam into your skull while waiting for the light to change. At least they didn’t wait for that to happen.

  • Gatewood Bluff May 7, 2013 (9:49 am)

    can’t wait to see the replacement…you know it’s gonna be good…it’s easy street!

  • LivesInWS May 7, 2013 (10:29 am)

    Johnny D, you are so right! Guess I’d better get that attitude on too.

  • Raincity May 7, 2013 (12:13 pm)

    I’m surprised there was no permit shown for this work too

  • brewmeister May 7, 2013 (12:31 pm)

    Wow, such outrage. Some people need to get a life. It was a liability. The same people whining now would explode if that thing fell on someone. Sure, I’ll miss it but I’ll get over it. Come to think of it, I just did.

    And hinting at turning them in over permit issues? Again, get a life!

  • datamuse May 7, 2013 (12:57 pm)

    Statement from Easy Street about the awning’s removal: http://easystreetonline.com/blog/9250/ch-ch-ch-changes-to-our-west-seattle-storefront
    Will y’all please relax? I really don’t see how keeping an architectural feature that was falling apart and in danger of coming down would have preserved the Junction from degradation. Seems like the opposite in fact.

    • WSB May 7, 2013 (1:06 pm)

      Thanks, DM, no revelations – just an expansion on what they told us yesterday – but I’ll link it to the story.

  • datamuse May 7, 2013 (1:20 pm)

    Yeah, it sounds like the landlord hasn’t quite decided what to do yet, though I hope they put up some other shade structure in its place.
    Won’t stop me from going there, either way…

  • Jack Loblaw May 7, 2013 (1:27 pm)

    Thanks brewmeister for the encouragement – complaint has been filed.

  • nadj May 7, 2013 (3:33 pm)

    I always like that awning. It’s the only one in the junction I can recall that is actually wide enough to do something useful for the people walking under it. Hopefully they can replace it with something as wide. I also liked the look of it. It really helped to define the intersection. It’s uniqueness helped shape the feeling of ‘the junction’

  • Josh May 7, 2013 (4:32 pm)

    The Junction is awesome due to great local businesses like Easy Street. If Burger King moved into the space and refurbished the awning with perfect historical reference the neighborhood would suffer a major loss. Let’s remember it’s the local shops that make the neighborhood great, please support Easy Street! If Easy Street can’t make it you open the door for a franchise store to take over the space and the neighborhood will truly lose character.

  • photon May 7, 2013 (6:06 pm)

    So, how does the building get landmark status?

    Seems like, if folks are this upset over the awning, they’d really go nuts if it turned into another condo mega-project and Easy Street got kicked out entirely.

    • WSB May 7, 2013 (6:11 pm)

      Generally it’s up to the owner to initiate. BUT if there is a development proposal for a building 50 years or older, that generally triggers an automatic landmark review. Again, though I noted one seen in the system from 2007, there’s nothing active right now … but if there were, a landmark review probably would ensue.

  • miws May 7, 2013 (6:15 pm)

    doghouse, Yep! I remember Hugh McPoland’s Peoples Drug!


    The now long unused side door along the mural wall on Alaska, was an actually used doorway back then, and just inside that door, west of it, was an old wooden telephone booth!



  • miws May 7, 2013 (6:22 pm)

    Seems like, if folks are this upset over the awning, they’d really go nuts if it turned into another condo mega-project and Easy Street got kicked out entirely.


    I’m no real estate law, or any other kind of law expert, but if, forbid, the Hamm Building was to face demolition, Easy Street’s recently signed 15 year lease extension would prevent that, or at least make the possibility of redevelopment a lot more difficult.


    If it weren’t for Rocksport’s owners holding their ground, and forcing the then owners of that, and the old Super Supplements, etc building, we would have lost those buildings around 12-13 years or so ago now.


    Or, perhaps, they would now have sat vacant for that long….



  • Ray West May 7, 2013 (6:36 pm)

    Maybe it was getting dilapidated and needed replacing, but I’m just sick at seeing my beloved West Seattle Junction disappearing bit by bit. It is literally my birthplace–I was born right across the street from Easy Street.

  • dawsonct May 7, 2013 (7:00 pm)

    The old biddy looks nekkid.

  • Guy Olson May 7, 2013 (7:11 pm)

    I love how people are so tough and opinionated, but yet they use fake names on here. Do something about things you don’t like. It’s really quite sad that people aren’t more involved in the community.

  • Erithan May 7, 2013 (7:49 pm)

    Sad to see it go, I oddly enough just moved recently, and wrote to WSB wondering if they knew what all the horrible headache educing(and keeping me awake) noise was at 10pm-2am! (aprox).

    I understand why they took it down, though Easy Street doesn’t quit look the same without it for sure.(Same great employees and vibe inside though=) )

    I’m very thankful that we still have Easy Street around, it is one of the -very- few businesses that remain In the junction that I’ve known since I was a kid.

  • patt May 7, 2013 (8:11 pm)

    An Easy Street clerk said the landlords had it done, so ES must be a renter

  • westseattledood May 7, 2013 (8:40 pm)

    Such a good insight, Guy Olson. Bet nobody has ever thought of that!

    Ray West: I know lots of folks like yourself who are deeply connected to this place we all call home. Try to forgive the newcomers’ occasional insensitivity. They/we do not and cannot know your strong sense of place and how it has shaped you. It must be sad to say goodbye to so much.

    I wonder if you are the type of person who would enjoy volunteer work with the SW Seattle Historical Society? TR posted a story yesterday, I think. Your comments seem to reglect that you sincerely care very much about our West Seattle today; and the Historical Society needs help doing the important work of recording and sharing its history. Something to think about anyway.

  • cj May 7, 2013 (9:20 pm)

    I’m so sad now! That marque was one of the amazing things that first drew me to West Seattle back in 01. I feel like my best friend is being stripped apart bit by bit. Could there possibly be a way to get them a new one?

  • villagegreen May 7, 2013 (9:32 pm)

    @datamuse, as far as everyone standing outside Easy Street is concerned that awning WAS the Junction. It’s the first thing I noticed about the Junction when moving here from Capitol Hill eight years ago. it’s the first thing out of town guests notice when walking through the Junction. like it or not, the built environment says almost as much about things as what’s inside. lie to me and tell me you’d like living in downtown Bellevue if it looked as cookie cutter as it does now, but all the businesses were actually indie shops like Easy Street. Aesthetics are important, not just data. walking through the Junction today there’s no longer an anchor that defines the space. Bank of America, US Bank or whatever it is across the street is a piece of sh*t. The new condos across the street will most likely be a piece of sh*t. Cupcake Royale is a cool space, but not exactly the heart of the Junction. like it or not Easy Street defines the corner of the most important intersection in West Seattle. and it now looks like any crappy corner on Capitol Hill. it’s so bad I can’t believe that both the landlord and Easy Street don’t already know what’s going to replace it. maybe this is just a big publicity stunt to get people all fired up and then we’ll find out it’s going to be restored or replaced with something similar. Or maybe not. All I know is that if it’s replaced with some generic cloth overhang like every other in the area Easy Street will no longer be the iconic anchor of the Junction that it once was. Maybe we’ll get a Gap or something in the new condos that will take over that honor.

  • Alki Area May 7, 2013 (10:35 pm)

    Again folks, take a breath. EVERYTHING about the junction has changed, and will continue to change, and it’s not “always for the worst” as folks whine. Sometimes, sometimes not. The junction changed from 1920 to 1950 to 1980 to 2013. It will change in the future too. I’ll miss that awning, I thought it looked cool! But either donate money to replace it or be quiet. It’s private for profit business in a privately owned building. If you don’t like it, buy the building and do what you want with it, but otherwise, while sad, you don’t have any say over it. On the other hand, I’m GLAD PetCo is going. Not only is that SUPER ugly half block beige blank wall going, but we’ll get an mid-block cut through. And the Whole Foods “mega project”? ANYTHING, and I mean almost ANYTHING would look better than the HORRIBLE 60’s gas station with junk office, funeral home and abandoned car lot and asphalt wasteland that is there now. Hearing folks complain about the new building CRACKS ME UP. My GOD, look at the horrible junk that’s there now. Do you really think that Shell station and asphalt lot are some architectural gems to be saved? Wow. I’m sure when that HORRIBLY ugly half rotting lumber yard next to KFC is sold, we can start complaining about how whatever replaces that is SO ugly. (sigh)

  • Brontosaurus May 7, 2013 (11:30 pm)

    Sad to see it go. Any chance it could be repaired? It really is/was an icon of West Seattle. Especially sad, since Easy Street’s Queen Anne store had to close recently. Makes me wonder if our Easy Street will be around much longer.

  • westseattledood May 8, 2013 (12:41 am)

    Alki Area,

    Allow me to be the first to point out for the record that you are wrong, wrongo, about folks having a say. Please follow the link in the story to a post by Easy Street’s owner Matt Vaughn on his site in which he
    1) invites his community to contribute ideas and suggestions and
    2) promises to do his community proud.

    Alki Area, he did not say – did not even come close to saying – mind your own business West Seattle customers, admirers and neighbors.

    Didn’t want you to be left in the dust without knowing why…so there ya’ go. Buh bye!

  • Ray West May 8, 2013 (4:35 am)

    Change is inevitable, and the West Seattle Junction has been ever-changing, but that does not mean “developers” can’t replace old structures with ones that are not only esthetically pleasing, but also reflect the history, style, and culture of the neighborhood that they are building in, rather than throwing up huge generic boxy buildings that are the cheapest to build to bring maximum profit, overwhelm the landscape, and has also put small businesses out of business or forced them out of the area. The West Seattle Junction is really a unique area, but it’s a mishmash of the best and the worst of the old and new. I’d like to see more cooperative effort to preserve and enhance its character. I’m sure Easy Street owner, Matt Vaughn has the WS Junction’s best interest at heart, and I applaud him for reaching out to the community for their input. I hope others will follow that example.

  • FloggingMelly May 8, 2013 (9:30 am)

    The fire marshal made them remove it, I work at a neighboring business and we were visited a few weeks ago as well. Many costly changes will need to be made to our shop too.

  • Guy Olson May 8, 2013 (12:53 pm)

    What is the deal with Westseattledood? Grow up.

  • Jack Loblaw May 8, 2013 (1:53 pm)

    DCLU reports back that no permits were required for the removal however they are investigating noise complaints as the work was not done during normal construction hours

    • WSB May 8, 2013 (2:17 pm)

      Thanks, Jack. I am checking on the fire marshal mention.

  • JoAnne May 8, 2013 (3:18 pm)

    I remember the mortal and pestle. It was swirling around almost every time I passed by.

  • Funding May 8, 2013 (10:01 pm)

    I say Big Give or Fund a project sounds like the community would like this corner to look good again lets all “show them the money” it is our community lets donate to this fund an item project. Someone start this up…

  • matt vaughan May 9, 2013 (1:15 pm)

    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 your 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

  • Jasmine May 9, 2013 (3:26 pm)

    Yeah what I want to know is why was this work done at 2am? I live in the Hamm building and the noise was ridiculous.

  • Ray West May 16, 2013 (6:48 am)

    Matt’s the man! Thank you for taking all our concerns seriously. And shame on the owners (the Yen family) for being too cheap to take care of their building. I’m sure whatever the replacement is, it will be a great addition to our WS Junction. I’m glad your store it part of our community.

Sorry, comment time is over.