Category Archives: Neighbors

Rainier Valley Post Interviews Tutta Bella Founder, Joe Fugere

In another installment of its People in Your Neighborhood series, The RVP has posted an interview with Joe Fugere, the founder of Tutta Bella:


Fugere with Murray, Obama, Locke. Photo from


When Tutta Bella founder Joe Fugere says he’s passionate about the role of business in positive social change, he’s not kidding.

Ten years ago, before Columbia City was all the rage, Joe took an old building on the northeast corner of Rainier Avenue South and South Hudson Street and turned it into the Northwest’s first certified Neapolitan pizzeria, also known as the Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant in Southeast Seattle. Since then he’s opened three more wildly successful restaurants in Seattle and one in Issaquah. All of Joe’s employees — including hourly workers — have received health insurance since 2008 — years before it was mandated by Obamacare.

“My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner, because the unexpected consequences have been unbelievably positive,” he told Radius last year. “I learned that nothing trumps employee health and happiness. Our turnover is way below industry average, and it’s so great to see employees getting regular check-ups and displaying big bright smiles.”

In 2010, when President Obama traveled to Seattle to meet with several small business owners for a discussion about strengthening the economy and creating jobs, Joe was invited to participate in the discussion (above).

This week, he was kind enough to answer a few questions for your RVP’s People in Your Neighborhood column, a space dedicated to highlighting the unsung heroes of the south-end community.

Click here to read the full interview with Fugere and get some insight into the owner of one of the neighborhood’s cornerstone businesses.

Columbia City Highlighted in Seattle Times Neighborhood Restaurant Feature

The Seattle Time’s Nancy Leson has a feature on how restaurants are key to “bringing life” to a neighborhood. Columbia City earned itself an entire section:


JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES Meredith Molli, co-owner of La Medusa (center), tends to customers at her Columbia City restaurant. Tuesdays are big nights for regulars, she says, but with a growing influx of newcomers to the neighborhood, most nights, “50 to 60 percent are first-time diners.”

WHEN Meredith Molli moved with her boyfriend from Minneapolis to Seattle in 2008, they made a beeline for Ballard, aware of its reputation as a restaurant mecca.

“When we lived there, we never left there,” says Molli, save to head to the University of Washington for grad school (him) and commute to a job cooking at Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island (her).

It didn’t take long for them to realize “Ballard wasn’t our scene. We wanted something that felt more small town, more homey — with restaurants within walking distance.”

Hello, Columbia City.

Five years later, Molli is co-owner of La Medusa in the heart of Columbia City’s Historic District — where history is clearly repeating itself in one of the most ethnically and economically diverse ZIP codes in the nation.

“For me, it was a bit of a rash decision,” says Molli, 32, who was sous chef under Gordon Wishard when the two bought the restaurant last year from their former boss, Julie Andres.

Andres was sous chef when she purchased the place from its original owners, chefs Lisa Becklund and Sherri Serino.

As owner, Molli manages the front of the house. Looking out onto Rainier Avenue South — and back into her dining room — she sees a generational shift: “It’s getting significantly younger.”

She ascribes that, in part, to the availability of the “trendy” new condos and apartments that may soon have Columbia City looking more like Ballard.

Gordon Wishard, executive chef/co-owner of La Medusa, presides over the kitchen. He and his business partner, Meredith Molli, bought the restaurant from their friend and former employer, Julie Andres.

Trendy is not the word her landlord, Mark Hannum, would use to describe the Columbia City he moved into in 1992. Back then, he worked at Grazie restaurant in Southcenter. In his newly adopted neighborhood, “there was no place to eat.”

No Columbia City Ale House. No Tutta Bella. No Lottie’s Lounge, Geraldine’s Corner or Island Soul. Not even a Starbucks.

“Why don’t you open a restaurant?” his neighbors asked.

“We were a little ahead of ourselves,” Hannum laughs, recalling the decision to open his short-lived bistro Rutabaga, now La Medusa. But he and his former partner were savvy: They’d bought the building.

The mid-’90s were a low point for retail, though, with rampant closures in Columbia City’s center. But with the debut of the landmark Columbia City Bakery a decade later, says Hannum, the neighborhood took off.

For a business district to remain healthy, it must have a broad mix of restaurants and retail, insists Hannum, now a mortgage loan officer and former chairman of Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.

“Everyone has to eat, and there will always be a strong market for restaurants. But attracting — and keeping — independent retailers in the small buildings that define the historic district remains a constant challenge.

“If it was someplace else in Seattle,” he says, “they’d probably mow the buildings down and build a six-story mixed-use.”

Click here to read the whole article.

RVP Interview with Theo Martin, Owner of Island Soul

The Rainier Valley Post has a great interview posted with Theo Martin, the owner of Columbia City’s Island Soul. Click here to read the whole thing and find out a bit more about this key player in the Columbia City scene:

Island-Soul-LogoMost people know him as the warm and friendly owner of Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant & Catering in Columbia City (RVP advertiser), but Theo Martin also owns Northwest Industrial Staffing — an employment agency dedicated to finding work for others.

“I like to help people go from being $15/hour temp workers to full-time, permanent employees,” he said. “I’ve been there, so I know how hard it is to make that transition.”

Most days, he’s up by 4 am to run the staffing firm before pivoting over to restaurant responsibilities — like greeting guests by name and making sure the chef has everything he needs to serve hungry crowds. Yet he still makes time for lunch with his wife of nearly 30 years.

This week, Theo was kind enough to answer a few questions for your RVP’s People in Your Neighborhood column, a space dedicated to highlighting the unsung heroes of the southeast Seattle community.


Columbia City Gateway Project Kick-Off Sunday 10/19

The Columbia City Gateway Project has announced a kick-off party this Sunday (10/19) from 3:30-5pm at the Shirley Marvin Hotel on Edmunds (3815). Be sure to check out the video and the links below to find out more.

The Friends of the Columbia City Gateway are having Kick-Off Party on Sunday, October 19th 3:30pm – 5:00pm at the Shirley Marvin Hotel Lobby and you are invited.   The Gateway project will transform the shabby, neglected, and littered corner of the Columbia School (S. Edmunds and 37th) into a handsome, welcoming streetscape.

We have a $100,000 matching fund grant and over $57,000 in donor pledges. Our goal is to raise $100,000 by end of the year!

We welcome anyone who is interested in improving the walkway to and from Light Rail and creating more public gathering space for our neighborhood.

Please join us for a Gateway Kickoff Party
Sunday, October 19, 2014
3:30pm – 5:00pm
• Shirley Marvin Hotel Lobby (3815 S. Edmunds Street)
• Provided: Appetizers, beer, wine and the famous Gateway Cocktail (guaranteed to make connections, just like the our project)

If you can’t come to the party, but want to participant and tell your friends, neighbors and/or customers about the Gateway, here’s some helpful information:

Narrated slide show with before and after images
Seattle Parks Foundation – This organization is our fiscal sponsor and the quickest and easiest way to contribute. Click here to donate:
The Friends of Columbia City Gateway Facebook page

Seven Year Old Pedestrian in Hit and Run

This week, the neighborhood had to once-again unfortunately come together to express outrage, sadness, support, and hopes for change when a seven year old girl was hit in a horrific hit and run on Tuesday at MLK and Genesee. Original reports indicated that the girl was struck by two separate vehicles which drove off, but later was updated to only one. As KOMO reported:

Police are searching for a driver who hit and seriously injured a 7-year-old girl in South Seattle Tuesday evening.

The girl was crossing the street near Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South Genesee Street just after 6:30 p.m. when she was hit by a red or maroon Chevy Tahoe SUV, according to police. The vehicle sped away without stopping to help the girl.

Police originally thought the girl was struck by a second car as she lay injured in the road, but investigators have since determined the girl was only struck by one car.

“They hit her like a dog. Just ran over her, not stopping, no nothing,” said one man who witnessed the incident.

The child was originally reported to be in critical condition, and has now been updated to serious condition and remains in the ICU.

Click for KOMO's Coverage

Click for KOMO’s Coverage

Yesterday, the police were able to identify the red Chevy Tahoe that was involved.

This tragedy comes just weeks after an SUV drove through two businesses in the heart of Columbia City and a very concerted neighborhood effort to raise awareness to make MLK and Rainier safer.

All major local news outlets also reported on the scene (click for King 5’s coverage).

Fox13s original coverage can be viewed here.

The Seattle Bike Blog also has this extended piece.

Organizers on The Columbia City Facebook page have put together ways to make donations and show support.

Detectives are asking you call Traffic Collision investigators at (206) 684-8923 with any information you might have about this hit-and-run.

City Arts Interviews Wayne Horvitz, Musician and Royal Room Owner

Wayne Horvitz–the accomplished musician, composer, band leader, and owner of The Royal Roomrecently spoke to City Arts Magazine. In the interview, he discusses Columbia City and the role he aims to have The Royal Room play for Seattle’s music scene as well as the neighborhood itself:


Photo: Jim Levitt. The Seattle Jazz Scene

After one decade in New York and three more in Seattle, Wayne Horvitz has put together an almost absurdly varied musical career. Horvitz, who has led groups ranging from 4 + 1 Ensemble to Sweeter Than the Day, owns and operates The Royal Room in Columbia City while continuing to compose, lead and experiment with a wide range of collaborators. Recently, Horvitz completed “55: Music and Dances in Concrete,” a composition project recorded in the bunkers of Washington’s Fort Worden State Park. With Earshot Jazz Festival around the corner, we caught up with Wayne about running the club, mentoring young musicians, and how he found the work of Seattle poet Richard Hugo…

The Royal Room is about to turn three. Have you run anything like this before?

When I first moved to New York City, five of us rented a rehearsal space called Studio Henry. Within months, everybody from John Zorn to Bill Laswell to Arto Lindsay was playing down there. To call it a club would be a stretch—it was a fire-trap. We didn’t have any licensing of any sort.

I’ve worked as a curator for institutions at different times, so I’ve been involved in programming, but this is another animal. It’s been incredibly rewarding from a creative point of view and way harder than I thought from an economic point of view. I have a completely fresh respect for anyone who owns a venue, especially a small venue. I’m almost ashamed of the complaining I’ve done over the years as an artist. People don’t understand that even if it’s doing well, is it’s an economy of scale. If you’re doing great, but you’re place that holds 120 people, great just isn’t that great. It’s a very tricky business.

That being said, the idea of [The Royal Room] being relatively informal, of having all kinds of great music, and fitting into the demographics of Columbia City, instead of changing the demographics of Columbia City,  that initial vision is essentially the same.

Read the whole interview here.

Update on the Southeast Seattle Tool Library

What started as a discussion on the Columbia City Facebook page is becoming closer to a reality. The Rainier Valley Post is reporting on the neighborhood’s efforts to get a Southeast Seattle tool library up and running:

10299108_466601670137527_4267636844624728351_nNeed a ladder to clean out those gutters? A hammer to hang some pictures? A rake and shovel to clean up the yard so the neighbors will quit complaining?

As much as the local home improvement behemoth would love your hard-earned dough, how would you like to be able to borrow those tools — free of charge — from the local library? Not a book library, but a tool library.
“Tool libraries seek to make it nearly as easy as checking a book out of the library,” said Sally Bailey, founder and director of the new Southeast Seattle Tool Library. “The older tool libraries have been generous with their guidance, their practices and policies. Most have rental fees, on a sliding scale. But we want to take ours in a different direction. Once people become members, we hope that, with the help of grants and donations, we can loan tools, along with advice, at no cost. However, those who can will be encouraged to contribute to cover maintenance, repair and replacement.”

Click here to read the RVP’s full post. 

Family from Crash Speak to Kiro

As you can probably tell from the news trucks that are still showing up in the neighborhood, there’s been a ton of local news coverage regarding last week’s accident at Rainier and Ferdinand. Kiro posted the details of an interview from the family that was in the Grecian Delight and was able to escape. As posted earlier, husband/father, Phillip Moore, is still facing the possibility of permanent eye-damage due to injuries suffered from burns:

Phillip Moore was eating lunch at a Columbia City restaurant Thursday with his wife and daughter when an SUV slammed through the wall.

Only after he was dragged out of the burning building did he see his daughter.

He had been looking for her in the restaurant, which was full of flames.

“My eyes, I couldn’t open my eyes. The burning inside my eyelids was so horrific,” said Moore.

He couldn’t initially find his daughter, who says she ran from the chaos to a back room.

“I didn’t know it was a car, and it just came through the wall and it exploded,” said 7-year-old Meara Moore.

“It was scary,” she added.

Moore thought his daughter was trapped under the SUV.

“I really thought she was dead, and I thought this is it. My life’s finished. So, I wasn’t really bothered what happened to me, to be honest with you,” said Moore.

And so he put his face into the flames to search.

Read Nick McGurk’s entire piece for Kiro here. 

More Details on Yesterday’s Accident

The Seattle Times‘ Sara Jean Green has the a new piece this morning outlining some of the specific events that occurred yesterday at the corner of Rainier and Edmunds. We’re all lucky to have such amazing and caring neighbors who jumped into help without hesitation:


Alan Berner / Seattle Times

When an SUV crashed through a hair salon and Greek deli, pinning a family of three to a wall in Columbia City on Thursday afternoon, a group of witnesses grabbed fire extinguishers from nearby restaurants and raced to pull out furniture and debris to free the people trapped inside.

“God worked a miracle today,” said the Rev. Don Davis, pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbia City, marveling that no one was killed.

“We didn’t hesitate at all,” said Davis, who was among those who ran into the historic building on the southwest corner of Rainier Avenue South and South Ferdinand Street to help.

“It was black, white, all of us, just pulling stuff out. That’s how we do it in Columbia City — we stick together.”

According to Seattle police, witnesses reported hearing the SUV’s engine revving just before it tore through the two businesses. Officers are investigating what caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

The SUV, driven by a woman in her 40s, was heading south on Rainier Avenue South just before 1:30 p.m. when it veered off the street and crashed into the Carol Cobb Salon and continued into The Grecian Delight deli next door, said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore.

A father, mother and their 10-year-old daughter who were eating at the deli were pinned between the front of the SUV and a wall, he said. Firefighters were able to extricate the family within 12 minutes and all three were taken to Harborview Medical Center in stable condition with minor injuries, Moore said.

In the salon, a boy, about 6 to 8 years old, suffered burns to his head and a woman was injured by falling debris, according to Moore. The child and woman were also taken to Harborview, and another woman inside the salon suffered minor injuries but wasn’t taken to the hospital.

The driver did not have any apparent injuries but was taken to Harborview to get checked out, Moore said.

The impact of the crash, which shattered windows and demolished walls, caused at least two large cracks at the building’s crown, raising concerns that the one-story building could collapse, Moore said. Firefighters wedged temporary metal support posts between the sidewalk and the storefront window frames to shore up the exterior walls.

Officials kept people from entering the building and left the SUV inside until city engineers could assess the extent of the structural damage, Moore said…

The article goes on to discuss the history of the 1905 building as well as the customers and employees from around the area who rushed to the scene to put out fires and help those injured by the accident. Be sure to read the whole thing here .

Flying Lion Brewing: Crowdfunding Effort

As many know (and are excited about), the good folks at Flying Lion Brewery (the Williams family) are hard at work on their new space a few doors down from Full Tilt and Watercress. In an effort to pull off the final costs of the build, the Williams have created a crowdfunding site (similar to how Tin Umbrella and Big Chickie reached out) looking for neighborhood support. There are some pretty good rewards as well–stickers, t-shirts, pint-cards, even an unlimited beer for life membersip ($1,000)…which is pretty dang good if you think about it.

The crowdbrewed site can be accessed here, the promo video introducing the guys behind it is below.