Another family-owned business with a lot of history in West Seattle is looking to the future. Here’s the announcement we received this afternoon:
The Sweeney family has announced they are studying alternatives for their properties located in the West Seattle Triangle, including the current site of Alki Lumber & Hardware. Lynn Sweeney, current owner and operator of Alki Lumber and The Grove, West Seattle Inn, provides the following statement:
In looking to our future, we are faced with the current closure of the SR99 viaduct, upcoming Avalon Way repaving and bike lane project, current ST3 Link Light Rail planning of the West Seattle to Ballard extension, and the continuing support and funding for the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project. Pairing that with the age and condition of our current retail spaces, now is an opportune time to plan long-term for our footprint in the West Seattle Triangle neighborhood.
As a result, we have been actively working to study and understand the implications of zoning, alternatives for the Link Light Rail guideway alignments and station locations, and other urban design factors that affect the extended family’s real estate holdings. Our goal is to establish a vision and a master plan for the future of our properties to benefit the West Seattle Triangle community, which serves as the gateway to the peninsula. This will be a long-term, multi-year, phased approach. Given their depth of experience in transit oriented development and complex urban design and planning projects, we are partnering with HB Management and Northwest Studio to provide their professional knowledge and expertise. Ed Hewson of HB Management and his family have been friends of my family for over 50 years. We are grateful for the broad portfolio of knowledge he brings to the table and, as importantly, for his shared passion for and understanding of the West Seattle community.
We feel lucky to ride on the coattails of Jack Miller of Husky Deli and his published letter to the community about the future of Husky Deli. Our background story is similar in many respects. In 1921 my great grandfather, James A. Sweeney, founded Alki Lumber & Hardware Co. at its original location at Harbor Avenue, on the shores of Alki Point. At the time, Seattle was home to countless independent lumberyards. Today only a select few remain, including Alki Lumber, which is now in its fourth generation of Sweeney-family ownership and operation.
When James passed away in 1938, the business continued under his wife Mayme and son, Bill Sweeney. It was at this time that the Harbor Avenue location was closed and Alki Lumber opened its doors at 36th Ave and SW Avalon. In 1957 the business, including the original building structure, were moved across the street to its current location at 4422 36th Avenue SW.
“Tell it to Sweeney” was a familiar sign on the trucks that serviced West Seattle through the early years and has become a mantra of the company’s “can-do” service philosophy to this day. When Bill passed away in 1962, his wife Hazel and his son, Jim B. Sweeney, in his early twenties at the time, took the helm. In the early 1960s, Jim purchased the wholesale dealer Dearborn Lumber Co. and merged it with Alki Lumber’s retail arm as an avenue to compete in Seattle’s booming commercial lumber market.
After 50 years of unsurpassed leadership, my dad passed away in 2012. As the fourth generation’s flag- bearer, I stepped in with a team of dedicated employees to continue the family’s heritage and the company’s ongoing commitment to service excellence. Thanks to this commitment and loyalty of numerous long-time customers, Alki Lumber has continued to serve the West Seattle community and beyond, supplying materials to contractors and homeowners throughout Greater Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
As Jack so accurately explained in his letter, “the future isn’t the exact footprint where we are now.” Anyone who comes into Alki today knows that we still look a lot like 1957 and that the structures, lumber trucks, semis, and forklifts don’t mesh with the changing neighborhood or the changing environment for small business in the City of Seattle. The family has decided it is time to study alternatives. As part of this study, the intent is to continue to be an active and responsive member of the community. We will be looking for ways to continue to add value through new retail experiences and by enhancing the uniqueness and vintage character of our piece of West Seattle.
As part of this, we look forward to continuing our longstanding tradition of providing full-service lumber and hardware to the West Seattle community and beyond. We will evaluate new and creative ways to grow our retail footprint in the community, potentially with more mercantile-style offerings, while considering serving wholesale customers from an additional location that better meets the industrial and commercial needs of our business. This is a multi-year, phased approach and Alki Lumber will remain fully operational during the process.
It’s an exciting time, which needs support. We appreciate the loyalty of our employees and customers and we remain dedicated to being part of the community, growing together and continuing the legacy and investment in the community for a fifth generation.
In addition to the two properties mentioned in the statement – Alki Lumber (36,000+ square feet at 4422 36th SW) and The Grove (22,000+ square feet at 3512 SW Alaska) – county assessor’s office also show the family owns an apartment complex at 4500 36th SW (28,000+ square feet). We asked Lynn Sweeney about others. Her reply: “The primary parcels we are studying are where Alki Lumber sits. Family members also own The Grove Inn, the apartment, the Alki Lumber warehouse on 37th, and the buildings on 36th that are occupied by Alki Artisan and Unique Services/Seattle Sorbet. These will be studied as part of the master planning.” Most of the area is currently zoned for mixed-use to 65 feet of height, and under the current HALA MHA upzoning proposal before the City Council, would add another 10 feet. The Triangle went through an extensive planning process that was launched nearly a decade ago.