Seattle Area White Front Stores

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Brian Lutz
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Seattle Area White Front Stores

Post by Brian Lutz » 10 Jul 2008 16:24

Wikipedia seems to indicate that the White Front stores in the Seattle area were rather short-lived (opened in 1969, closed by 1972,) and the Valu-mart/Leslie's stores were converted to Fred Meyers just a few years later.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that the former Bon Marche/Current Macy's store at the Everett Mall was a White Front store as well, and predates the rest of the mall by more than a decade. When I was over there recently putting together the profile of that mall for my site, I noted similarities in design between the Macys and the Overlake Fred Meyer, but was not aware of the direct connection between the two at the time.

Here's a photo of the Macy's storefront at the Everett Mall:
Image

I don't have a photo of the Overlake Fred Meyer currently, but in spite of the extensive remodeling that has taken place there a few years ago, the similarities would be quite obvious.
Last edited by Brian Lutz on 15 Sep 2008 01:05, edited 1 time in total.
The Sledgehammer - Version 2.0 - Seattle Area Malls, Retail History, and other random things.

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Brian Lutz
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Re: Looking for info on Market Basket stores in the Seattle area

Post by Brian Lutz » 13 Sep 2008 02:00

I finally got a chance to hit the library last night and do a bit more research on the White Front stores. I found out that the Bellevue/Overlake store opened on November 13th, 1969 (a lot of new stores seemed to like to open in November back in those days,) although another article states that the supermarket portion of the store would open six weeks later. Another interesting fact about this store is that the store was opened a mere 75 days after construction was started, which is a pace virtually unheard of today (especially around here, where even getting the permits for something like this would probably take the better part of a year if you're lucky.) Oddly enough, aside from one small ad offering free double-decker bus rides from downtown Bellevue to the store, I couldn't find any White Front ads in the paper. Here's what I did find though (I apologize if the text is unreadable on these, if anyone would like to get readable versions let me know and I'll see what I can do.)

Image
An artists rendition of the new store. When I get a chance, I need to go get a current photo. From the October 16th 1969 edition of the Bellevue American.

Image
An article announcing the opening of the store, with a photo of the interior. From the November 13th 1969 edition of the Bellevue America. Apparently the grand opening was appropriately star-studded, featuring Burt Ward (Robin from the Batman TV show), Linda Cristal (who appears to have been a frequent bit player in Hollywood Westerns), The New Hope Singers (just a bit too obscure to turn up on a Google search or Wikipedia, it would seem) and Kaye Stevens (a singer who performed with Bob Hope and made a number of game show appearances over the years.)

Other items mentioned in the article to have been included in the store are dry cleaning (probably in one of the spaces in the back that Fred Meyer leases out to other businesses these days,) Tires (if I had to guess, this was in the outbuilding in front the store which now houses a Les Schwab Tire Center,) Keys (there is still a freestanding locksmith kiosk in front of the store in the parking lot,) and a gas station (presumably long gone.) One of the articles mentions the Aurora, Burien and Tacoma stores but says nothing about the Everett store that became the Bon Marche/Macys at the Everett Mall. I'm wondering if this one might have come later?

I still need to dig some more and find out when the White Front store closed and changed to Valu-Mart / Leslie's, then subsequetly find some articles from when it became a Fred Meyer (I've got an opening date from another thread, I just need to find it in the papers.) Another thing I found was that there was in fact an existing Valu-Mart nearby at the time at the corner of Bel-Red Road and 140th, where the Evergreen Village Shopping Center (anchored by a Safeway and a Staples) is located now. I believe this one would have opened sometime in either 1962 or 1963, but I'd need to go confirm this.
The Sledgehammer - Version 2.0 - Seattle Area Malls, Retail History, and other random things.

tkaye
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Re: Seattle Area White Front Stores

Post by tkaye » 15 Nov 2008 16:27

This page lists the grand opening of the Everett White Front store as May 13, 1971. (It also notes the Everett Sears opened Feb. 12, 1969.)

The Tacoma store opened Nov. 2, 1967. Valu-Mart (owned by Weisfield's, better known for their jewelry stores) took over in April 1973 -- I would assume that they took control of all the stores they acquired around the same time. After the sale, the supermarket portion of the Tacoma store was leased by Gig Harbor grocer Keith Uddenberg, who operated it as Mark-It Foods. Mark-It was an early warehouse operation with products displayed in their shipping boxes and required customers to use grease pencils to write prices on their merchandise before checking out (hence the name). V-M changed its name to Leslie's about a year later. Since Fred Meyer already had two stores in Tacoma that were built from the ground up, they did not purchase this site -- instead it became Cascade Plaza, with home electronics retailer Jafco and the "Tacoma Super Flea Market" as the initial anchors.

Get up close and personal with the massive ex-White Front sign in this Google Street View... if you tilt down, you can see there's a walking path between the legs of the structure -- that's how big this sucker is. The distinctive White Front exterior wall pattern is still visible on the west side of the building as well.

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Re: Seattle Area White Front Stores

Post by Bubbabear » 09 Mar 2013 18:47

What happened with the Everett location was that particular store was the last White Front location constructed in the Puget Sound area. According to The Seattle Times archive research, this store closed shortly after it's opening. The timing of the store was bad since the area was feeling the affects of the "Boeing Bust" which plummeted the unemployment rate to 25-30% of the working age population. The exterior White Front signs were visible on the back of the building from I5 until the location was integrated into Everett Mall in the late 1970s. At the time of it's closing it was said that the Everett White Front was closed "while the paint was still dry on the parking lot stalls". White Front left the Seattle market in 1972 with the Burien and Tacoma locations being sold to Valu-Mart. The Tacoma store was purchased to replace an original store built in the 1950s (now known the Pierce County Annex). The Burien store became Valu-Mart's flagship store to replace the flagship Georgetown location that was an original store from the 1950s. The North Seattle (or Shoreline) location became a Kmart which closed in January of 2013. The Seattle PI website has an article on the Kmart closing with White Front photos. The Burien store is still a Fred Meyer and is one of the larger stores in the system. Even with extensive remodeling (there were three remodeling jobs since the White Front opening), traces of the original walls are visible from the back end of the store. When Valu-Mart took over the location, the arch was covered with brown vinyl siding. Fred Meyer painted the the siding teal green until tearing the arch during a late 1990's remodel. The Tacoma location became part of Michael's. The towering sign still is in use at the Tacoma store. I don't believe Valu-Mart took over Bellevue White Front because of the existing location they already had in Bellevue (as was the case with Everett). That didn't happen until Fred Meyer bought the site in the late 1970s probably to get out of the lease they had with Valu-Mart and perhaps a better location.

After Valu-Mart purchased the locations, they leased the grocery, beauty salon, restaurant, and automotive sections of all of their stores to other companies. Because Valu-Mart was leasing the sites to Fred Meyer, Keith Undenburg's lease with the food section of the Burien Fred Meyer still stood until the first 1990s remodel when Stock Market Foods was relocated to the former Gov Mart site where it would become under QFC shortly thereafter. Once Kroger took over Fred Meyer (and QFC), Kroger purchased the Burien and Midway properties from Fred Meyer which lead to third remodel of the Burien location integrating the food sections into the rest of the store while the original Midway store was completely torn down and rebuilt. The problem with the buildings was getting the food and the regular stores without departments or walls separating the two sections to fit into the current one stop shopping center model in use.

Valu-Mart was nearby on Evergreen Way using a location that was designed under the same style as the Midway (Kent) location (built in the mid 1960s). When Fred Meyer took over Valu-Mart (or Leslie's as it was known by 1974) this store was vacated and sold to Fluke for it's electronic plant. A newer Fred Meyer was built a few blocks away from the Valu-Mart location and is still in use today.

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Re: Seattle Area White Front Stores

Post by marshd1000 » 09 Mar 2013 23:36

Bubbabear, you are pretty accurate on most of what you said about White Front. But I do believe that Valu Mart did take over the Bellevue White Front. Until Leslie's/Valu Mart was sold to Fred Meyer, there were no large Fred Meyer stores in King County. All of the Fred Meyer owned stores were bannered (at least in their ads) as Fred Meyer-Marketime. The Broadway store actually did have a Fred Meyer-Marketime sign on the building as they put in a Fred Meyer Foods next to the Marketime Drug. Also the Bellevue Valu Mart did move into the former White Front store and also had a Valu Mart Foods, which I think was owned by Valu Mart instead of being leased out. So when Leslies/Valu Mart was sold to Fred Meyer, there were a few years where the Bellevue and Midway stores were the only ones with food.

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Re: Seattle Area White Front Stores

Post by tkaye » 15 Mar 2013 23:56

How many stores did White Front have in the Portland area? I know they opened one at Mall 205 that had the standard exterior seen on the Everett Mall store.

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