The Metropolitan Market atop Queen Anne has closed after 50 years. Terry Halverson, whose company, Fresh Markets Northwest, owned the business, started his career here, at the age of 14 (it's said), bagging groceries. Before long, he bought the place, then known as Queen Anne Thriftway, from its owner, Dick Rhodes, and eventually acquired several other neighborhood groceries around town: Admiral, Proctor, and others, ending up with six stores. In 2004 he turned the Admiral Thriftway into the flagship of the newly named Metropolitan Market mini-chain. After competitor Larry's Markets imploded, Halverson bought the Larry's on Lower Queen Anne and completely transformed it.
Halverson was an innovator, who moved flowers and fresh produce to the front of the store, hired Jon Rowley to promote a better selection of fresh fish, including Copper River salmon (Julia Child was impressed), bought a bakery (Boulangerie) to provide fresh bread, brought in a B&O Espresso bar, and added a mini-kitchen for in-store demonstrations and author signings. All of it is ho-hum today, but was cutting edge when introduced.
The half-block site on Queen Anne Avenue is being redeveloped for residential use and there isn't enough room, Halverson says, for a traditional supermarket. The nearby Safeway is on a full block, and has what Met Market lacks: room for 60-foot semis to back into the loading dock without using side streets. The current building, under 20,000 feet, is barely big enough to qualify as a modern supermarket at any rate, but without easy deliveries and (easy parking for customers) it's a non-starter. The developer, Joe Geivett of Emerald Bay Equity, has developed several other properties nearby and has an excellent reputation for community involvement, but can't make the numbers work for Metropolitan.
Instead, Halvorsen has made another move, buying the Thriftway in Magnolia, three miles away, from its longtime owners Jim and Lynne Penhollow. "We leave Magnolia Thriftway in the capable hands of Metropolitan Market, who will provide the community with the service and quality it so richly deserves," the Penhollows said.
For his part, Halverson said, "We look forward to taking part in Magnolia's rich history, such as the Little League, SummerFest, and its neighborhood schools and churches." Met Market will remodel and modernize the Magnolia Thriftway, on 34th West at Thurman, starting in September.
There's a smallish, mediocre-at-best Albertson's in Magnolia Village, and a new, upscale Whole Foods in Interbay, as well as two traditional Safeway stores at the top and bottom of Queen Anne, but the 98109-98119-98199 zip codes still seem underserved by supermarket standards.
What could go into the space on Queen Anne? Funny you should mention it; there's a well-established specialty grocer just two blocks away, in a cramped and crowded building, who would move in a heartbeat: Trader Joe's.