A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods


Businesses affected by last year’s natural gas explosion call Puget Sound Energy negligent and call for the utility to accept responsibility

January 25th, 2017 by Doree

Several business owners affected by last year’s natural gas explosion that destroyed two buildings, heavily damaged many others and sent nine firefighters to the hospital, are demanding that Puget Sound Energy accept responsibility and pay some kind of restitution.

The business owners gathered at Taproot Theatre, half a block from the explosion site, this morning for a press conference with Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

Eleni Ponirakis, owner of Kouzina/Zoey Catering, tears up as she announces her business will close after continuing insurance problems after being damaged in the March 9, 2016, natural gas explosion. She is surrounded by other business owners affected by the blast.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s department of Pipeline Safety announced in September that the explosion was caused by an improperly decommissioned gas line between two buildings, where a damaged threaded coupling above ground let natural gas accumulate until it was ignited. Pipeline Safety staff recommended a fine of up to $3.2 million. At the time PSE called the findings and proposed fine “disappointing and excessive.”

O’Brien said State Rep. Noel Frame, who lives in Greenwood, told him the state has scheduled another hearing with PSE in July.

Davey Oil, co-owner of G&O Family Cyclery, whose building was adjacent to the destroyed buildings and was too damaged to reoccupy, said he wants Puget Sound Energy to take responsibility and proactively check all its gas lines to make sure this doesn’t happen again – with deadly consequences.

“The blast only took two seconds to occur, but the real violence has been every day since,” Oil said. “Ten years prior (PSE) improperly decommissioned a gas pipe and they lost track of it. As a society, we need to know that our vital infrastructure is well secured, and is monitored for safety. We trust that someone has checked the brake lines on a speeding bus. We want to know that someone has checked the explosive gas lines that lead into our homes and our businesses. We have no choice but to have that trust.”

O’Brien said he’s spoken to PSE representatives several times, most recently yesterday to invite them to the press conference (the company did not send a representative), but that he believes the company is dragging its feet because it has the money and time to do so.

“We need to hold Puget Sound Energy accountable to make sure that every neighborhood is safe,” O’Brien said. “Some independent entity needs to watch over their shoulder to make sure that mistakes that happened here haven’t happened elsewhere.”

Neptune Coffee, Mr. Gyros and Greenwood Quick Stop were destroyed and have not reopened, although Mr. Gyros has locations in Ballard and Wallingford and regularly brings its food truck to the explosion site.

Meanwhile, other neighborhood business owners are still struggling to get insurance settlements, G&O has moved twice (first to a temporary location, now they’re about to open in a permanent location a block away), and Kouzina/Zoey Catering will be closing its doors for good in a week.

Kouzina owner Eleni Ponirakis said her insurance company paid her just $6,000 for the 10 days she was closed after the explosion, but refuses to pay relocation expenses. Her front door was unable to be used after the blast and she had to use the back door, but the kitchen was intact, so she continued to bake gluten-free foods for her catering customers, including Seattle Children’s, Evergreen Hospital and Victrola Coffee.

“We worked very hard to make sure our kitchen was properly set up for the gluten free…doing the right thing for our community, serving the right products,” Ponirakis said through tears. “When the gas explosion happened we didn’t think this is going to be the end for us. We were closed for almost two weeks. After that we were back and doing our wholesale and delivering to our customers.”

But after growing concerns about mold caused by explosion-related water damage in her back room, and unable to share an established kitchen because of cross contamination with gluten products, she concluded Kouzina had to shut down.

Part of the ceiling is falling down and black mold grows on the back wall of Kouzina/Zoey Catering, which was damaged in the March 9, 2016, natural gas explosion. Owner Eleni Ponirakis is at right.

Nikki Visel, marketing director at Taproot Theatre, encouraged people to call or email PSE President/CEO Kimberly Harris and demand that PSE pay the businesses restitution.

“Please tell her that unlike malls and big box businesses, in small neighborhood ecosystems part of what’s exciting is that the businesses are often indigenous to the neighborhood and are very unique. They’re also fragile,” Visel said.

Taproot didn’t sustain heavy damage, but the frames on four sets of entry doors were bent, preventing them from closing and locking properly. Staff had to scramble to figure out a way to keep patrons – especially the hundreds of children in its acting programs – safe.

Chris Maykut, owner of Chaco Canyon Organic Café directly across the street, said his business was luckier than most, “even though the inside of our storefront was completely blown in, all the windows broken; everything looked like it had been put through a blender,” he said. “I’m really outraged, not for myself, but for Eleni, for Davey, for all the businesses that have been affected, destroyed, displaced. We have a billion dollar corporation…and all they’re doing is looking at a piece of paper in a big office saying, hey, if we stonewall these guys, if we don’t accept responsibility, if we don’t admit guilt, even though a nonpartisan body has found us to be liable for this, then we might be able to save some money.”

M. Louise McKay of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center directly across the street from the blast site, relocated its programs to the Phinney Neighborhood Center for several months, but its store – Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. – was closed for five months. The store’s profits support BFI’s programs, and BFI did not receive any kind of reimbursement for that. “We are disappointed by PSE’s inaction,” she said.

Oil encouraged people to support Greenwood’s small businesses.

“Puget Sound Energy’s negligence blew a hole in our dreams, but it doesn’t have to kill them,” Oil said.

Puget Sound Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on today’s press conference.

Update 3:20 p.m.: I spoke with PSE Spokesperson Christina Donegan, who said, “We know it’s been really tough for the whole neighborhood and especially for small businesses. Ultimately we are waiting for the process to fully play out. It takes time. We understand it’s a difficult time in the interim. Ultimately we’re about doing what’s right for safety and the businesses.”

She said the Utilities and Transportation Commission has a settlement hearing scheduled for July 6. Meanwhile, UTC and PSE are working to learn from this explosion and how to ensure high safety standards, especially regarding decommissioned pipes.

“How do you accurately analyze abandoned pipe? That’s what we’re working on with regulators right now because they want to make sure it’s done right too,” Donegan said.

She said 10 businesses filed claims against PSE, and seven of those have been resolved. The other three claims are “more complex.” She couldn’t tell me which businesses filed claims, but she did say claims could be for things like physical damage or to cover lost payroll.

“Again, we care about the community. We’re there; we serve the community. Those businesses are our customers too. I understand they may not feel that way right now, but ultimately we want to do what’s right.”

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Frock Boutique at Phinney and 65th is closed

January 10th, 2017 by Doree

Frock Boutique at 6500 Phinney Ave. N. closed on Dec. 31 after 1-1/2 years. It had replaced Frock Shop, which had been in that space for nearly nine years (Frock Shop moved exclusively online).

Frock Boutique is keeping its original Portland store on NE Alberta Street, and also has a new downtown Portland boutique at 902 SW Morrison. The owners tell me foot traffic and sales at the Seattle store were not what they had hoped.

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‘Cash Mob’ at Metropolis Gift Shop on Wednesday

December 6th, 2016 by Doree

Metropolis Gift Shop, 7319 Greenwood Ave. N., was closed for seven long weeks because of a burst pipe inside the store, which damaged merchandise and required owner Sue Pasha to move everything into storage during repairs. The store finally reopened last Saturday, and now a group of neighbors have organized a “Cash Mob” at the store on Wednesday.

What are we doing?
On December 7th from 10am-7pm, we invite you to be part of a “cash mob” by going into Metropolis and making a purchase of any size. Even if it’s just $5, a large number of people making small purchases would make a huge difference.

When and where?
Wednesday December 7th
Metropolis Gift Shop, 7319 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

Metropolis reopens on December 3rd after being closed for several weeks due to some unexpected major work that had to be done on the shop floors. Owner Sue had to move all of the stock out of the shop to get the work done and put it in storage, and is now moving all her stock back in. Let’s get together and support Metropolis in bouncing back from having to close during one of the busiest gift-buying months of the year!

What’s a Cash Mob?
Wikipedia defines a cash mob as “a group of people who assemble at a local business to make purchases. The purpose of these mobs is to support both the local businesses and the overall community.”

Thank you for supporting Metropolis with us!

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Happy 5th anniversary to A La Mode Pies in Phinney Ridge

November 10th, 2016 by Doree

A la Mode Pies in Phinney Ridge turns five years old this week with special “throwback pricing” today (Thursday) with $5 slices of pie and $25 whole pies (prices on opening day in 2011). Current pie prices are $6 per slice and $29 for a whole pie.

A La Mode recently opened a second location in West Seattle.

Both locations are now taking pre-orders for Thanksgiving pies.

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Greenwood Walgreens closing Dec. 1

November 9th, 2016 by Doree

The Greenwood Walgreens at 87th and Greenwood will close on Nov. 30 Dec. 1. All prescriptions will be transferred to the Walgreens on NW 85th Street and 15th Avenue NW in Crown Hill.

An employee told me this afternoon that employees were notified about a week ago and signs put up at the store a couple of days ago. He said employees were told that rising property values affected the store’s profitability, and they would be transferred to other stores.

Thanks to Alan for the tip!

We’ve got a message in to Walgreens corporate headquarters and will update if we receive more information.

Update: Here’s Walgreens headquarters’ emailed response:

I can confirm that we plan to close our store on Greenwood Avenue. We have operated this store for 19 years and the decision to close was not easy. When the store closes, prescription records will automatically be transferred to our store located at 8500 15th Avenue in Seattle (corner of 15th Avenue and 85th Street). Pharmacy patients will receive a letter with more details about their prescriptions. We expect to place all of the store’s employees in jobs in other area stores. The store’s last day of business will be Thursday, December 1.

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Stumbling Goat restaurant becomes The Goat

November 7th, 2016 by Doree

Stumbling Goat owner Angie Heyer, who closed Phinney Ridge’s popular Stumbling Goat restaurant at the end of August, has reopened The Goat in its place.

The Goat serves Southern-style comfort food and craft cocktails, and has a large-screen TV and game room with seven pinball machines.

The Goat owner Angie Heyer in the pinball room. Photo by Mike Veitenhans.

The Goat owner Angie Heyer in the pinball room. Photo by Mike Veitenhans.

The Goat is at 6722 Greenwood Ave. N. for the next year or two, until the building is demolished to make way for the Phinney Flats development.

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The Barking Dog Alehouse celebrates its grand reopening with new owners on Wednesday

October 28th, 2016 by Doree

The Barking Dog, 705 NW 70th St., changed hands a few months ago, and now it’s having a big grand reopening celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 2, starting at 5 p.m. and going until close, with food and drink specials all night.

The Dog’s new owners are Dan Anderson and Tom Matzelle. They’re inviting neighbors and frequent guests to come between 5-7 p.m. for hosted drinks and passed appetizers. Then from 7 p.m. until late, they’re inviting industry folks, family and the general public to enjoy specials from Stoup Brewing, Bulliet Bourbon, Fernet-Branca, and Kendall-Jackson Wine.

They’re asking folks to RSVP on their Facebook event page.

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Bluebird Ice Cream celebrating 5 years in Phinney Ridge Friday evening

October 11th, 2016 by Doree

Bluebird Ice Cream is celebrating its fifth anniversary in Phinney Ridge this Friday evening with special flavors (from some of their greatest hits to “favorite one-offs” and some retired flavors), plus face painting and other fun activities.

The celebration at 7400 Greenwood Ave. N. runs from 5-10 p.m.

Next door, Caffe Vita will offer an affogato bar (vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of espresso) and Cornuto Pizzeria will have $5 personal pizzas.

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Hunger Goblin’ Trick or Treat at neighborhood businesses coming up on Oct. 29

October 11th, 2016 by Doree

Our neighborhood’s annual trick-or-treating in the business district is set for 12-3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29 at businesses all along Phinney-Greenwood avenues. Look for the Hunger Goblin’ Trick or Treat posters in the windows of participating businesses.

Anyone in costume can trick-or-treat, but you can also buy a $2 sticker or donate a can of food for the food bank at various donation stations along Greenwood-Phinney avenues, or at Umpqua Bank, 7120 Greenwood Ave. N., to get a special Hunger Goblin’ sticker.

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