Why Roxbury Auto Parts is closed, and what has to happen before it can reopen

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Bill Crawford admits he’s “bored to death.”

The store he and wife Kathy Crawford have run for almost three decades, Roxbury Auto Parts, is closed, and the Crawfords don’t know yet when they’ll be able to reopen.

The closure wasn’t voluntary; several readers tipped us to the situation. It’s been more than a week since the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review “red-tagged” the building at 2839 SW Roxbury (which is just outside the city limits):

The notation in the county’s online files says:

Hazard: Dangerous building (entire back wall of the building has failed and is in danger of collapse; the CMU block appears to be unreinforce, non-grouted, and is actively failing and breaking apart – the flat roof joists bear on this wall.)

Crawford tells WSB that they were aware of damage to a “corner” of the building but “nobody goes back there” and so they weren’t aware of other damage. According to Chris Ricketts, building official and fire marshal with DPER, “We were alerted of the damaged building by Ray Pettigrew of King County Fire District #2 on Friday 9/28. Our Department dispatched Joan Hermle, King County building inspector, to the site to investigate.” What she found led her to “red-tag” the building as unsafe to occupy, and that’s what has Roxbury Auto Parts shut down for now.

So what happens next? Ricketts replied in our e-mail exchange:

We notified the building owners/manager that they needed to obtain the services of a Wa. State Licensed engineer for an assessment of the structure, to determine appropriate repairs and advise on future use of building. We have since been contacted by an engineer who has visited the site and asked for additional direction to complete their report and repair design. The County is prepared to promptly respond to any repair proposals. While we want to minimize impacts to the business and community, it is also our goal to ensure that life safety issues are addressed for the owners, customers, and first responders.

And in fact, when we spoke with Crawford by phone earlier in the day, he said structural engineers called in by their insurance company are evaluating the building.

The twist: Not only did King County shut down the store, King County is responsible for the damage, he says, done during last year’s sidewalk project, when work crews were “storing stuff on the back lot.” Asked about that, DPER’s Ricketts replied, “As to the cause of damage, that is not an evaluation we would conduct as part of an immediate building safety assessment. The private engineer may be able to provide some insight in their report.”

Meantime, Crawford is concerned about his customers, saying that if anyone has warranty issues or needs other help while Roxbury Auto Parts is closed, they’re an independent member of the nationwide Auto Value group, which has other stores in Washington that could help. They were also so concerned about Mocha Mojo, the drive-up coffee hut that shared their lot – and utilities – that Kathy Crawford suggested approaching the 76 station next door, where it relocated over the weekend.

The auto-parts store can’t just pick up and move like that, though. So its third-generation owners wait. They promise to update us – and you.

33 Replies to "Why Roxbury Auto Parts is closed, and what has to happen before it can reopen"

  • 1994 October 8, 2018 (9:08 pm)

    Thank you WSB for the reporting and sorry for the owners! They are always so helpful when I visited! Please do keep us updated. Fingers crossed they can reopen soon.

  • KD October 8, 2018 (9:25 pm)

    THANKYOU WSBlog for following up on my request! I felt so bad for the owners (nice people!!) and all their inventory stuck inside and loss of income (?) while things out of their control are happening and affecting them. How nice of Mrs. Crawford to be concerned for the coffee stand owner during their own disruption! Blessings to all. So sorry this crappola is happening to you. (If you need income, both Metro Transit and an independent separate company ‘TransWest’ are hurting for drivers!)

  • bolo October 8, 2018 (10:54 pm)

    Run by husband and wife? I always thought it was run by two brothers. Admittedly I am easily confused.

  • Bonnie October 9, 2018 (7:04 am)

    Roxbury Auto Parts are the best! I hope they are back up and running soon because I really don’t want to go to the chain auto parts store down the street. Roxbury gives personalized service and so friendly.

  • Flapjack October 9, 2018 (7:14 am)

    So sorry for the owners. It’s a great auto parts store with REAL parts people. It’s nice when you can ask for a water pump gasket for a SBC and not have to come up with the 8th digit of the VIN or have to point it out on the computer for them. These folks know their stuff. Hope they’re back in business soon.

  • T Rex October 9, 2018 (7:41 am)

    Love this couple, love this store. Who else puts your windshield wipers on for you? Not O’Reilly that is for sure.
    I am a small business supporter anytime I can, I surely hope the city does the right thing for them since it seems like they caused even more damage to their building.
    Thanks WSB for all the news as usual!

    • HD October 9, 2018 (9:24 am)

      I have had O’Reilly put wipers on, they are always happy to help. I think they even have a sign outside the door that says they offer this service.

      Nothing against RAP, of course!

      • dsa October 9, 2018 (10:40 am)

        Others might put wipers on now, but Roxbury is the one who set the bar at that standard. I bought wipers at Autozone in Huntington Beach and the clerk could not believe he should do it. If there is no Roxbury, there will eventually be no wiper install.

  • Lisa October 9, 2018 (8:05 am)

    Ditto: I love this place and don’t want to see it go anywhere. I love that they put my windshield wipers on my car—-it’s just such a great ‘mom and pop’ all around!

  • ACG October 9, 2018 (11:41 am)

    We love this store. Yes, they are kind and do the little things like windshield wiper and lightbulb installs. But they are also awesome in helping troubleshoot issues and solutions. Super nice people with great customer service. I’m hoping that a solution for the building can be figured out soon. These small local owned businesses are wonderful and need to be supported. I hope they can be up and running really soon.

  • WildBill October 9, 2018 (12:08 pm)

    I have been using their services for the last 20 years, ever since we moved to White Center. They are the nicest people ever behind a counter! When I need a part, and they don’t have it, they will direct me to who does, instead of trying to sell me a lesser quality part, as some of the other “name brand” stores do. I hope they can get back to doing what they love, as I am already in need of their services!

  • Cranky Westie October 9, 2018 (12:24 pm)

    That’s a shame. This is a great auto parts store, run by NICE people. Probably every third part on my truck came from off their shelves. It’s a great asset to our community, and it is personally satisfying to be able to support a store that is not a national chain. I hope this is just a minor fix for them and they can get back to work soon.

  • Dunno October 9, 2018 (1:14 pm)

    This is the best Auto Parts shop there is! Full service with a smile.
    Can’t help but believe the recent work done on the sidewalk and street in front had something to do with this problem. They would put new wipers on for you, fix battery cables, all the lights on your car, replace without a service charge, and more…who does that? Let’s get these two and thier great staff back up and working asap!
    Miss you!!!!

  • hj October 9, 2018 (1:39 pm)

    That literal red tape is pretty ridiculous. Are they afraid that people are going to try to enter through the window? Get over yourselves, King County.

    • Railroaded October 9, 2018 (2:19 pm)

      Perhaps you would be the first one to attack the county if tragedy struck? Perhaps not.

  • jissy October 9, 2018 (2:41 pm)

    “King County is responsible for the damage, he says, done during last year’s sidewalk project, ” This is unconscionable that it got to this point and that the County didn’t fix what they did last year to cause this…. there should be serious restitution for lost revenue and a fix ASAP paid by the county. As if small businesses don’t have enough challenges.

    • Question Mark October 10, 2018 (7:02 pm)

      With an insurance company involved, I’m certain they will make a claim against the county if they find sufficient evidence to support one.

  • CAM October 9, 2018 (4:38 pm)

    Honest question and I’m hoping someone can answer this. The inspector said “the CMU block appears to be unreinforce, non-grouted, and is actively failing and breaking apart…” While the county may have done some damage it doesn’t seem reasonable to believe that they could have unintentionally gone and removed grout or taken out reinforcements that should have been there. Is that possible? How would that have occurred? I would assume based on the description that this was a degrading of the wall over a lengthy period without the necessary preventative maintenance.

    • mark47n October 10, 2018 (4:37 am)

      This is a great point!

      While buildings do have to conform to the enforced codes at the time of construction, not future codes, that doesn’t save them from being “red tagged” when the main structural members (like a wall) begin to fail.

      It’s possible the KC caused some initial damage that may have led to premature failure but that would not necessarily mean that KC was responsible for the entire failure.

      If the CMU was breaking down and the wall was not properly reinforced (if this was built within certain windows it’s possible this wasn’t inspected or the inspector turned a blind eye…it happens) then the owner of the structure could very well be responsible for the majority of the cost of repair/replacement.

    • Steve October 11, 2018 (10:10 am)

      “unreinforced” was common practice for cmu block construction for decades. Both prior to original construction of the the building, and for many years thereafter. “non grouted” likely simply refers to the cmu blocks no longer being grouted together, with the cmu blocks likely ‘settling’ apart from one another, in select locations. In direct compression, such is not likely an issue. However, in an earthquake, or other significant lateral stress upon the building, such could be catastrophic!

      • dsa October 11, 2018 (10:40 am)

        Other than the recent damage, it survived the Nisqually quake and many before it, just saying.

  • Razorking October 9, 2018 (8:35 pm)

    I agree with everyone else commenting – super nice people and helpful people behind the counter. It was always comforting to shop for parts in this store . I wish them all the best!

  • Janet Ford October 9, 2018 (8:37 pm)

    This building has been around for a long time. It would have to pass building codes at the time it was built. Building codes change over the years and that may be the reason there is no reinforcement in that wall now. It probably wasn’t required at the time the building was built but is now. I have been going to this store for many years and am sorry it is currently closed.

  • wingme October 10, 2018 (12:55 am)

    I love this place, been going there for years, for every little and big thing. Fingers crossed!

  • S Fisher October 10, 2018 (12:57 am)

    I love this place. Been going there for years for things both big and small.

    • Native October 10, 2018 (7:36 pm)

      We need a Napa. Quality parts and people

  • Don October 10, 2018 (8:08 pm)

    I’ve known Bill for over 40 years. Back in the 80’s several of us worked there while in high school. While these are wonderful people, the building was in poor shape back then. Time to tear it down and build a new and improved experience for future generations.

  • Sonju's October 12, 2018 (3:00 pm)

    We have lived in west seattle all our lives and my husband worked there over 40 years ago pumping gas and waiting on customers. Bill and Kathy are wonderful people, they can and will do anything to help their customers. I sincerely hope you guys are opened up again soon because we need you both in our neighborhood once again. It’s a great store, with great people and you just don’t find that anymore.

  • ronald parke October 13, 2018 (1:59 pm)

    Sad day when i saw them closed. Even sadder if Bill is”bored to death” and might want some new venture. His knowledge and customer service will surely be missed. Either way, best of luck and success to Bill and Kathy. lets not forget about Ron.

  • Dodge Dart Pat October 13, 2018 (2:50 pm)

    So sad, Bill, Kathy, and Ron and all… Lots of options to weigh, I’m sure. If you don’t choose this point to begin retirement, we will all be happy to continue with you as our favorite auto parts store, and one of our favorite businesses in all the greater Seattle area! Just a thought- Have the engineers considered inserting a steel welded beam inside that back wall to support the roof, and then just repairing the brick wall as needed? Just a thought. God Bless you all. Pat

  • Richard October 27, 2018 (7:42 am)

    I returned home from a nice vacation and my car was running badly, so I picked up the phone like I had done since 2005 and call the Roxbury auto parts number that I had set up on my mobile phone’s speed dial setting. Ring – ring – Ring … Ring – ring – Ring … Ring – Ring – ring – Ring … No answer ….that was odd ? I reacted in my mind like ~ “what’s happened ? … they always answer; I hope they ar e ok or maybe just taking a vacation or something.”
    Next day I mentioned this to my neighbor and learned the truth of this surprising news. My heart sank . They were like my friends . Whenever I walked into their store: A smile on her face as big as the sunshine would always greet me . And he would shout out from the back of the store “what can I do to help you today”. I miss the sound of her laughter and his helpful tone of voice already.

  • Wallace Grommet October 27, 2018 (11:39 am)

    a shame, but that building has been in a state of slow motion demolition for decades. I work construction, and perform home inspections, and no one needs to be put at risk by structural defects.

    • Friend October 27, 2018 (12:22 pm)

      Odd. This story is not about a building it’s about community and our neighbors and friends livelihoods.

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