Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
PCC Community Markets (WSB sponsor) will celebrate both a grand opening and an anniversary at its new West Seattle store on Wednesday.
We got a sneak peek inside the store this morning with Cate Hardy, the West Seattleite who has led PCC as its CEO since 2015.
It was a bookend of sorts – we last interviewed Hardy in May 2017 on the final day of the old store, on the same site (2749 California SW) but half the size of the 24,000-square-foot new one.
Today, Hardy told us, “It feels incredible; it’s so fantastic to be re-entering the West Seattle market.” Not that PCC really left during the closure – it’s continued offering delivery service, via Instacart, in the interim, and has maintained other community involvement. The “anniversary” aspect of Wednesday’s opening celebration is PCC marking 30 years in West Seattle, so instead of cutting a ribbon for the store, they’ll be cutting an anniversary cake.)
One thing she’s particularly excited about is that the new store is a prototype of sorts – the PCC “store of the future,” achieving Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal Certification. This involved choosing “petals” to achieve the status – especially materials. That was a challenge because many things they needed weren’t easy to find made from qualifying materials, so they had to custom-order or make their own, all the way down to fire-extinguisher holders.
Checkstand components posed a challenge too.
There are eight checkstands – four regular, four express – on the south side of the store. No self-serve; PCC is no longer offering those at any of its stores. Over them is another component of their qualification for the green-building certification – an art installation:
“Cloud Wave” by Celeste Cooning is made from reclaimed sail cloth and rope created for, but never used in, World War II. Yet another qualification for the green status is “place” – the store (and apartments above it) is fully on its previous site, no previously undeveloped land involved.
Back to the tour. We start in the produce (“98% organic,” notes Hardy) section, where another sustainability facet is on display – literally: The tables holding produce displays are made from cedar reclaimed from the old West Seattle store.
Heading north inside the store, we arrive at the huge deli area, where you’ll find hot food (including 8 varieties of homemade soup), cold food (from salads to yogurt), a pizzeria, taqueria, and a bar to make your own grain/greens bowl.
PCC is moving away from plastics, so you’ll find many compostable containers.
Continuing northbound on the west side of the store, there’s the beer/wine/liquor section, with an emphasis on local/regional.
And then the section that is a favorite for many – bulk:
This will be the biggest bulk section of any PCC market, Hardy told us. In addition to edible items, it also includes a section with bulk products such as soap.
Turning toward the California side of the store from there, a big open-air cheese department – “you can talk to the cheesemakers” – and the meat/fish displays, plus a full-service butcher case/station, something the old store didn’t have.
By this point in the store, you’re facing the huge windows that look out onto California SW (and the historic Hiawatha Community Center park across the street), with lots of light on this sunny morning even though they’re still papered over. The abundant natural lighting allowed a more sustainable plan for the artificial lighting, too.
Turning southward across the front of the store, we pass the health/body-care section, and then the grocery shelves, and back to the checkout area (bring your own bag and they’ll donate 5 cents to nonprofits). Other things you might want to know about:
SEATING: There’s a mezzanine area, accessible by stairs or elevator, with tables and benches, seating about 50, plus tables and chairs for ~12 outside the south side of the store, facing SW Stevens.
There’s a possibility of more in the future, Hardy notes, because of the sizable plaza-type area outside the southeast corner.
ALSO OUTSIDE: There’s a Little Free Library for cookbooks. And across the California SW side, yes, the bus stop will be returning. The sidewalk in front of the store is very wide – lots of separation from the busy street.
PARKING: The first garage level is all for the store, more than 50 spaces, plus ~30 moe in the outside lot west of the alley.
RESTROOMS: Four all-gender individual restrooms, plus a changing table, with the entrance toward the northwest corner of the store, by the bulk area.
Regular hours will be (corrected) 6 am-11 pm daily. But Wednesday (October 2nd) will of course be a special day because of the opening/anniversary celebration at 9 am. PCC will have 12 stores (and more on the way – Ballard, downtown Seattle in the new Rainier Square Tower, Bellevue) so the first 112 people in line will get a gift – a free bag of PCC’s special coffee (roasted by Tony’s Coffees and Teas). Music is planned too – including, in the afternoon, the band from West Seattle High School across the street.
While, like any executive, Hardy is excited to get the store open for business, she is especially enthusiastic about setting an example with the LBC certification (interpretive placards will point out the features inside the store when you visit) – it added to the construction cost, but was wholeheartedly backed by the board, and they hope to set an example for others: “If you’re going to build a new building, why not?”