West Seattle businesses: J.F. Henry to close, as owners change from retailers to landlords

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

One of the West Seattle Junction building owners interviewed for the just-released What Makes the West Seattle Junction Special?” historical survey is about to start a new chapter of his own history.

Tom Henry, owner of houseware store J.F. Henry Cooking and Dining at 4445 California SW, confirms, “We have decided to retire and close our business.”

Henry (at right, in 2014 WSB photo) and wife Patty plan to retain ownership of the building; they have quietly had it listed for lease for a few months and expect to announce its new tenant soon. “We’re going to take off our retail hat and become landlords,” he told WSB today. “We’re too young to do nothing – we’re very busy people – it’s going to be kind of fun. I’ve told people, you don’t know what’s out there if you have to pretty much unlock a door [to open the store] every day.”

He says that while brick-and-mortar retailing has definitely changed with the advent of online, “our business has been fine, and we’ve seen a lot of growth with new people moving in.” It “just felt right for us to be doing something different.”

The store has been in operation for more than 31 years – “a little more than half my life,” Henry notes. During the time it’s been open, he and Patty have raised three sons, and he says it’s a deliberate choice not to sell the business nor even to expect any or all of their sons to take over the business. “I never felt like it was a business I was going to pass on to my kids.”

As explained in his interview for the West Seattle Junction Historical Survey, the J.F. in J.F. Henry is for his father and brother. “We didn’t name [any of their children] a J. or an F.” But “we raised every kid in the store – they grew up [there] – they know how to count change back … We did a good job in allowing them to do other things, not to have to take over Mom and Dad’s business.”

This is not to say they’ll be closing the door for the last time one day soon and not looking back at all. “We love retail and we love what we do and we’re really going to miss the people.” They’ll continue to live in this area. But they also didn’t want to just turn it over: “It was never our thought to try to sell the business and watch it either do well or not do well and change, and also be the landlord … we’d rather close one chapter of the building and let somebody else use it for another purpose.”

That building, as detailed in the Historical Survey Report, is considered to be one of the oldest still standing in The Junction business district, built in 1908. The survey deemed it a “Category B” building, which “may possibly have sufficient integrity and architectural and/or historical significance to be eligible for City of Seattle landmark designation.” From page 20 of the survey: “It has had numerous uses, including an undertaker, a residence, and the carpenters’ union hall. It has been altered several times over the decades but appears to have been restored to its earlier appearance.”

In his interview for the survey (6th one in this PDF), Tom Henry talked about that. The Henrys bought the building in 1996, after starting their business in the 4500 block of California in 1984; Tom had first spent about a decade in retailing, most of it with the now-defunct department store chain Frederick & Nelson. He told the survey interviewers that the 1908 date might have been for a “side building” because he has the original building permit and it says 1920. Whatever the date, after buying it, he fixed it up: “It was something we could afford back then. I looked at it as something I could afford and fix, and if you’re willing to work hard on it, you can create something. There is an appeal to taking something and making it better. However, not all old buildings have redeeming value. This one was marginal. I just took everything out that was added in the last 50-60 years and worked it over to look more like it did when it was built in 1920. … In record-breaking time (three months), my father-in-law Paul Smilanich and I and a contractor worked on refurbishing the building. We were able to demolish all interior walls, since they were non-bearing – over 50 tons of material! – We completely rehabbed it, including all mechanical and seismic upgrades. With the help of an architect, we made it look again like it did in the 1920s.”

Before buying the building, he had attended an auction of fixtures from his former employer Frederick & Nelson, and bought a railing and chandelier, both of which went into the store. In the historical-survey interview, he credits the “gorgeous, 100-year-old railing” for helping draw customers upstairs inside his two-story business.

However, he also told the survey interviewers, “The buildings don’t make The Junction special per se. We’re going through some really fast growth now, but I do I do believe it’s going to taper off, don’t you think because I’d hate to see the whole thing look like Bellevue. But if it happens, it happens. Everybody gets so hung up on the buildings themselves. It’s the neighborhood, the proximity of the residents and the neighborhood and the people, and those are the people who come and keep a business district alive.” The new people as well as the ones already here, he notes, in the interview. (As also noted in the interview, he and Patty are landlords of one other Junction building, the one that houses West 5.)

So watch for news of a “retirement sale” at JF Henry sometime very soon, and for our followup on the tenant-to-be who will write the next chapter of the history of what Tom Henry describes as his “nice brick building.”

20 Replies to "West Seattle businesses: J.F. Henry to close, as owners change from retailers to landlords"

  • Jon Wright March 3, 2016 (4:06 pm)


  • Fiz March 3, 2016 (4:07 pm)


  • PJK March 3, 2016 (4:13 pm)

     Very sad – Tom/Patty/Carol – where will I buy wedding presents now?!?!

  • Craig & Joyce March 3, 2016 (4:17 pm)

    Thanks Tom and Pattie,  for all that you have done for the Junction, neighbors and friends.

    Good luck in your kind of new in devours.  


  • JVP March 3, 2016 (4:44 pm)

    Interesting.  That’s a gorgeous building, I’ll be eagerly waiting to see who the new tenant is.  Fingers crossed for a nicer restaurant or some kind of regional cuisine that we don’t yet have here.

    JF Henry seemed like a really fancy joint with few customers.  They’re making the smart move in this day of online-everything.

  • CanDo March 3, 2016 (5:06 pm)

    Congratulations on your retirement!   We will miss your fabulous shop though.  Everything I’ve purchased from you over the years is still with me and in great shape.  A testament to the quality products you always stocked.   Enjoy the new roles and adventures in your lives!  You deserve it!

  • Wsgal March 3, 2016 (5:12 pm)

    When is this set to happen? I mean, space available?

  • sc March 3, 2016 (5:38 pm)

    “Howden-Kennedy Funeral home started as Daniels & Brinton West Seattle Mortuary in 1920 at 4441 California Avenue. 

    In 1941, Mr. Daniels had a brand, new funeral home built at 3909 SW Alaska Street, just a few blocks away from the original location.” 

    From Howden-Kennedy Website

  • Morris March 3, 2016 (5:52 pm)

    Not surprised.  The highest and best use of that retail space is not selling houseware products.

  • Jerald March 3, 2016 (6:13 pm)

    I’m sorry to hear the store’s closing, but understand Tom & Patty wanting to do something else. Best of luck to them and their staff!

  • Diane March 3, 2016 (7:35 pm)

    so sad to hear; the loss is for us, the community; LOVE this store; I will really miss the warmth, excellent service, and fabulous products, especially during the holidays; had no idea about the history of the building and doing his own rehab, or his history in retail; that was really fun to read about; best wishes on retirement, and thank you for all your years of service to West Seattle

  • dsa March 3, 2016 (7:51 pm)

    Time flies, it seems like yesterday they opened.

  • sgs March 3, 2016 (9:08 pm)

    What the heck does “highest and best use of that retail space”  mean?  In the eye of the beholder.   All I know is that it always made me happy to browse in that business and pick up treasures that make my life richer.  I hope whatever goes in there will have the same peaceful spirit and quality goods that are useful…..and I, for one, hope it’s not another restaurant!  

  • NativetoSeattle March 3, 2016 (9:17 pm)

    I will miss J.F. Henry, but am happy for them as they move on to the next chapter in their life. Good luck & thank you for all the great years!

  • wb March 3, 2016 (9:24 pm)

    Loved seeing the historical pictures!

    • WSB March 3, 2016 (9:39 pm)

      You have to check out the historical survey report, if only for the photos – the buildings that are considered potential landmarks all have pics. I was starting to write a followup on it when I got this news from Tom Henry today, so I incorporated more from the report into this story; planning a different breakout tomorrow, probably NOT with semi-breaking news. But really, follow any of the links – it’s not a dense, scholarly report, but very simple, informative, to the point. – TR

  • Chris W March 3, 2016 (10:54 pm)

    I love how they made their decisions. I find myself comforted by the fact that they own the building,  as well as the West5 building . I wish them the best !

  • Ms. Sparkles March 4, 2016 (2:00 pm)

    SGS – “highest and best use” is an appraisal term.  It means from a cost accounting standpoint they were not getting the full value from this capital asset by using it as a retail space.  It is a purely objective technical term and doesn’t account for any goodwill or emotional value.

  • Sandy March 4, 2016 (2:52 pm)

    As a small business owner who understands the daily obligations, I wish you a happy retirement/new journey. For all of us who love quality cooking and dining accessories, gift wrapping, and opportunity to support our West Seattle business partners, I say “drats.”

  • LKT March 4, 2016 (8:54 pm)

    Aside from the lovely shopping experience and gracious welcome that I have always appreciated at J.F. Henry, I have also really loved the way that Tom and Patty restored the historic building that houses it. It is really a jewel in the Alaska Junction, and is an example of what can be the best of a small, unique business owned by our neighbors. It’s value goes so far beyond the monetary. That being said, as sad as I am to see the shop close, I wish them all the very best as they move on to new adventures and hope to see them around the neighborhood often. Thank you for everything!

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