West Seattle restaurants: Ripple Café closes, cites rent increase

A local restaurant has closed suddenly, blaming a rent increase. Here’s the photo texted by a reader:

The Ripple Café was in the small multi-business building on 35th SW just south of SW Henderson, also home to West Seattle Fish House and Stuffed Cakes. It hadn’t even been open for six months. The King County Assessor‘s records show that the 86-year-old building changed hands this year for the first time in 19 years, sold to WD Group LLC in June for $600,000. While that LLC has a Seattle mailing address, one of its managers lists an address in San Francisco; we’re attempting to contact the owners for comment, and have also messaged the Ripple Café’s proprietor. The building recently underwent some external renovations; the site is zoned for up to four stories of potential mixed-use development, but a check of the online files shows no proposals on the record so far.

In case you’re wondering about the building’s other tenants, we went over a short time ago to verify the closure and while there, stopped in to check with Stuffed Cakes proprietor Donna Lawson. She confirms the change in landlords and a rent increase – which she expected, given the sale – but says her business is doing well and she’s staying. (She also mentioned that the San Francisco owner grew up in Seattle, so does have local ties.)

41 Replies to "West Seattle restaurants: Ripple Café closes, cites rent increase"

  • JeffK November 12, 2015 (11:30 am)

    I’ve not been to Ripple Cafe but I do like West Seattle Fish House. I’ll go again soon just in case.

  • HelperMonkey November 12, 2015 (11:30 am)

    this just fries me! Ripple Cafe was the BEST. I hope the new landlord has a tough time getting anyone to rent there and he has to eat an empty space for years. the greed here is just disgusting. no wonder more people don’t want to start a small business these days. Screw you, Mr. Out of Town Landlord.

  • Silly Goose November 12, 2015 (12:17 pm)

    Oh no this is awful, although I had predicted they would tear the building down, maybe this is the first casualty to that plan in the future, keep non-locals OUT OF WEST SEATTLE Real Estate purchases!

    Geeze give a small business owner a chamce, this is just plane WRONG!!!

  • Robert November 12, 2015 (12:20 pm)

    I might have missed it in WSB, but Raymond Phillips, the Optometrist is closing citing similar reasons at his office at 4700 42nd Ave SW.

  • urn42 November 12, 2015 (12:25 pm)

    That spot has been hard to keep up and running. In the 6 years I’ve lived a block over, I’ve seen it change 3 times, I think.

    It’ll be interesting to see what comes next. I thought the Ripple had potential. Sorry to see it go.

    • WSB November 12, 2015 (1:03 pm)

      Urn42 – there has been turnover, for sure, and we’ve covered it here. JC’s Deli preceded Ripple Café. Before that, it was On Safari Foods – a catering firm – for some time; On Safari moved. Before that, it was the original home of Bird on a Wire Coffee – which moved just around the corner on Henderson. Sorry if I’m missing anything between On Safari and Bird.
      Robert – no, hadn’t heard that. That address is the main Jefferson Square building, I think (without googling)?

  • coffee November 12, 2015 (12:35 pm)

    Its almost impossible for the small business owner these days to make a business grow with the way rents have gone out of control. I do feel for any small business owner. Hence why I rarely go to a mall, go to a box store, or shop on line, i.e. amazon.

  • wsea98116 November 12, 2015 (12:35 pm)

    Maybe they’ll put in a Chipotle’s..

  • wakeflood November 12, 2015 (12:37 pm)

    This isn’t going to stop anytime soon. The entire length of the main North/South arterials will all be multi-story mixed use in the coming years. The question isn’t if, it’s when.

    Some establishments with loyal customer bases and the capacity and volume to charge what it takes to cover a higher monthly nut will be able to hang. Many will be replaced by chains and boutique-level things.

    Funky, low key, local hangouts will continue their diaspora southward…

  • Turnover November 12, 2015 (1:17 pm)

    I wonder if the expansion of the urban villages and upzones that the City Council hastily passed on Monday (along with developer fees and other land use changes) will increase turnover of buildings/retail space on the edges of the urban villages that will be expanded into what are now single family zones. The Seattle Times op-ed didn’t say when developers can start buying up single family homes in the newly expanded zones – does anyone have insight into when developers can start building apartment complexes in those new upzones? Maybe Ripple Cafe can move into one of these new zones.

  • AmandaKH November 12, 2015 (1:22 pm)

    Maybe it’s time to start a West Seattle based LLC that is funded by the people who live here, and our sole purpose is to buy older properties. It can then be up to the LLC (coalition of neighbors) what we want to see be developed or not. It’s the only way to have any say. Otherwise, just make sure you are attending any design reviews in your neighborhood… We can’t fight the pie maker, but we can influence the flavor.

  • Chris S November 12, 2015 (1:24 pm)

    Robert and WSB –

    My wife and I received letters last month from our eye doctor Raymond Phillips, saying that his Jefferson Square (yes, the building you’re thinking of) rent was going to be increased so much that he just decided to retire early. Too bad, as we both thought he was very good.

    Anybody have any recommendations for a West Seattle eye doctor?

  • wakeflood November 12, 2015 (1:43 pm)

    Dr. Marcus Meyer in Westwood Village Eye Clinic. He and his partners are building a new clinic on 35th where Red Star pizza was.

  • JanS November 12, 2015 (1:50 pm)

    the San Fran “out of town owner” is from Seattle originally, I have heard…so there is some connection to being local. That said, I expect in the next few years that corner will be developed.

    @WSB…CoCo and Co. at the corner?

  • tickingtimebags November 12, 2015 (2:13 pm)

    Pretty bummed about this. I really enjoyed the proprietor and her delicious, unusual sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the new owners were renovating rather than tearing the building down to make way for more towers, but it seems like poor planning to force the expense on your existing tenants to the point they’re driven out.

    I’m never sure how having “grown up in Seattle” or similar is supposed to make it any less of a dick move to run local business out of town in favor of high-dollar development or the like. I guess I can talk when it’s my building and my decision, but it just seems pretty crass.

  • HelperMonkey November 12, 2015 (2:33 pm)

    AmandaKH – genius idea. A coalition of small business owners and investors could maybe shape the area.
    And I don’t care if the new landlord happened to be born in West Seattle whoever knows how long ago – that’s pretty tenuous connection to the area, and if they were a true local they’d be more interested in seeing locally-owned small businesses thrive and survive rather than forcing them out in favor of a few thousand bucks…but what do I know. I guess I just wanted to think people are good but I know better than that.
    Chris S – I’ve been seeing Dr. Gormley at WS Optix om the junction for +/- 15 years now. Highly recommend. Their prices for frames are ridiculous, but Dr. Gormley is a great doc.
    I hope Ripple Cafe can reopen somewhere more friendly, like White Center or Burien. Some of the best sandwiches I’ve had, and the meatloaf muffins were a lifesaver for dinner on more than one occasion.

  • Mark32 November 12, 2015 (3:33 pm)

    Tax increases.

  • carole November 12, 2015 (3:42 pm)

    I second the referral for Dr. Meyer. Have been going to him for many years.

  • Aimeeab November 12, 2015 (3:43 pm)

    What a huge bummer… The woman who owns the property where Blue Geisha Tattoo is located is phenomenal and a great supporter of the business. She even goes to some of their events that they have there. They’re lucky to have her, and she’s part of what makes West Seattle so great… A landlord who actually has a vested interest and relationship with the tenants and is a huge support to them! I wish that were the regular business model for all small businesses in West Seattle, I don’t know if that is even a sustainable possibility with all the development over here these days.

  • Kara November 12, 2015 (3:50 pm)

    During the construction to fix the dry rot the businesses had fewer people coming through the door, some people even thought Ripple was closed then! Both the fish place and stuffed cakes are well established, but for such a huge rent increase on a new business is just putting a knife in her back…I’m so frickin’ mad!!!

  • Wsgal November 12, 2015 (4:30 pm)

    At $42/square foot going rate for most of WS commercial space. I can guarantee this is not the first small business owner to go under. It’s almost unnattainable to remain relevant and profitable in this market. Corporate west Seattle, here we come.

  • Lisa A November 12, 2015 (4:33 pm)

    I never did go to ripple since I could never find their menu online. So happy that Stuffed Cakes is staying!

  • Btown viking November 12, 2015 (4:45 pm)

    I miss rocksport.

  • Northwest November 12, 2015 (5:04 pm)

    WS is becoming Seattle.

  • Cainipoo November 12, 2015 (5:23 pm)

    Umm, just noticed the new diagonal parking spaces out front. Looks a little dangerous to have people backing out onto 35th from their parking spaces!

  • Paul November 12, 2015 (5:30 pm)

    Not surprised Ripple closed. I think the rent increase just made it happen faster.

  • Peter November 12, 2015 (5:34 pm)

    Amanda’s idea of a community LLC is interesting, but probably wouldn’t change anything. The LLC would still have to bid against other buyers because you can’t force people to sell their property to you. The owners of the LLC, if they successfully purchase properties at competitive market rate, would then face the reality of the costs of maintaining commercial and mixed use properties, not to mention repaying the loans needed to purchase the property, and they would have to raise rents anyway unless the owners of the LLC pitch in their own money to subsidize the maintenance and operation of the properties. It’s unlikely anyone who understands business, economics, and property management would buy into such an LLC.

  • Mark November 12, 2015 (6:34 pm)

    Business owners want to make money on their investments. So the buyer of that land is entitled to raise the rent he thinks he can get. If your all really that upset then be angry at those who move it to the spot, as that will dictate where rents will rise or fall. Funny people were made he was a “non” local until you found out he was from here.

  • jetcitydude November 12, 2015 (6:56 pm)

    Yeah Btown viking. The Junction has never been the same without The Rocksport. A lot of people miss it especially football fans. They had pretty good food for a sports bar. Strong drinks, good service and prices were very reasonable. Hard to get that kind of value anywhere anymore. Ugghh!

  • John November 12, 2015 (7:05 pm)

    In these discussions, why is the seller left out?
    County records show the seller bought the building in 1996 for less than $44,000. Not twenty years later they cash it in for $600,000. With small loan payments and little maintenance done for the last two decades, the former owner kept it rented out at (then) market rates and let it run down until the market turned, before passing it off to a new investor for $600K who is immediately vilified for raising the rent and doing deferred maintenance.
    Welcome to West Seattle.

  • Sue November 12, 2015 (7:15 pm)

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I was a frequent visitor of the Ripple Cafe and loved the food and Barb, the owner, who was so much fun to chat with. I stopped by last week and it was closed at an hour it normally would’ve been opened, and I figured it was a one-off thing, but I didn’t actually approach the door, so have no idea if the sign was up there.
    I don’t know how other businesses coming in can afford that kind of higher rent. There isn’t a tremendous amount of foot traffic there, and parking isn’t very easy sometimes. And as for Stuffed Cakes, I love their stuff, but I rarely get over there since I have a cupcake place walking distance from me. I only went there when I was also going to Ripple. So that’s one less customer for that business.

  • Jimmy LePage November 12, 2015 (9:04 pm)

    More support for John’s comment. How about the seller and the HUGE windfall with their sale – I suspect sale proceeds are being used to purchase a condo in Palm Springs. Where’s the anger? The seller ran a shotty building that deferred maintenance and required the retailers to finance their own improvements for a market rent. And, we’re upset with the new owners? In this market, expect more disappointment.

  • H November 12, 2015 (10:38 pm)

    I lost Charleston Cafe to condo’s. I’m a small business owner looking into moving to Oregon. Crime on rise, motions moving in a crap load of people. A 10 min drive from West Seattle to West Seattle took me 45 mins. New construction everywhere :(:(:(:(

  • West Seattle Sun November 12, 2015 (11:39 pm)

    50% of all restaurants go out of business during the 1st year…

    The Ripple Café was nothing special and those who claim to be sad will soon get over it.

    I find the reference to the buildings owners unnecessary and only promotes stalking options for nosy sleuths.

    Really West Seattle Blog?!

  • JanS November 13, 2015 (12:26 am)

    West Seattle Sun…but you sat and read the comments, so you had something in the game…just to decry the editors? Seriously? They simply reported that the restaurant was closing…you have a beef with that? Or a beef with free speech of the commenters? Do you even care about this good business having to close? Maybe it was nothing special to you…but it was everything to the owners. Geez ! And obviously, it was loved by the community.

  • Gina November 13, 2015 (8:01 am)

    Plenty of foot traffic across the the street. Since the light was added, if the signs were visible from the library, the possibility of impulse visits might be increased. You really have to be on foot to figure out what is there, and the secret coffee shop hidden around the corner.

  • John November 13, 2015 (8:27 am)

    “I checked in with the On Safari crowd over lunch and, yes, they know the building is on the block. According to a few that I spoke with there the owner thinks he/she can get a mid-rise condo in the area behind the building but is, apparently, asking a rather hefty price.” ($795,000) Chas Redmond WSB 2007.

    WSB is right. It seems the owner attempted to sell at the top of the last real estate boom but failed and waited it out until this one.

    I see nothing wrong with discussing publicly available information on both sides (buyer & seller) of these financial/development stories. It sheds some light and provides a bit of balance to an often one-sided blame game.

  • Norm November 13, 2015 (11:13 am)

    Really sorry to see them go. It was a really nice, classy little place.

  • West Seattle Restaurant Owner November 19, 2015 (12:04 pm)

    As a West Seattle Restaurant owner I am saddened by the closing of the Ripple Cafe. I recently had to sell my small restaurant due to Market saturation. 2 restaurants offeung the same fare opened within a half a city block from where I opened. There used to be a respect that existed between land owners in that they would refuse to rent to tenants who wished to open a business which was already represented in the Local community. Land owners used to know these people personally and cared about their well being, their families, And their success. For the most part, this relationship no longer exists in our city, there are very few exceptions. I have rented from my current land owner for almost five years at my other restaurant and have never personally met, shook hands, or broke bread with the man who gets my check every month. I know my property manager very well and he supports my business but there is a disconnect here that is growing and in my opinion problematic. I will say, if you wish to start a small business and rent a commercial space, get a lawyer, and make sure you sign a lease that grants you the best oportunity for success. In the case of a restaurant or cafe, it’s a marathon, not a short sprint to success, it takes years to break even and make money, so don’t sign a short lease with no options for the future. And make sure your extended lease has standard increases in rent every year.

Sorry, comment time is over.