In 2004 I started giving Ghost Tours in Pike Place Market during the Halloween season. Rob from Planet of the Puppets helped out through that first October. Together we made quite the team. I wore a black velvet coat and Rob sported a cape. It was a wonderful time in my life: the beginning of a business that now runs year round. I am proud to announce that the Market Ghost Tours are opening a retail and espresso shop in Lower Post Alley, across from IL Bistro, at 1499 Post Alley.
Where, you ask? There is no useable space there? There are posters, gum, art… but commercial space? Even at meetings about this move long time Market officials couldn’t place where I was talking about. Where we are opening has never been used commercially. It was the attendant’s room for the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition bathrooms. 1499 Post Alley, the address, is one of the newest addresses to be assigned in the city of Seattle but the space itself is one of the oldest in downtown.
Right now it’s just a big boarded up window and steel doorway. People sit in the steps smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee. When I worked at the Merchant’s Association, we kept Christmas trees in that space in the 1990s.
Even though it’s roughly 150 square feet the space required a full review for change of use and occupancy. When I found out in May that would take 4-6 weeks I was deflated. On top of that I would need to go to the Health Department, 3-4 weeks for approval. Add to that the construction; new window 3-4 weeks, demo and build out, 2-3, new door, espresso machine, countertop. All of it felt overwhelming. I was looking at opening in August, or possibly September.
I took out my pen and I wrote letters. I found out who was in charge of which department and I pleaded for a quick review. It worked. I learned something very valuable in the process. Architectural plans go through many hands. Through the process people made mistakes, including me. Instead of getting upset I readjusted and asked for help. Many times the people who had made the initial mistake were the ones who proved most valuable in helping me. Now, I have a signed lease in one hand and a building permit in the other.
In this process, I have also learned a lot about patience. After sitting in front of the Historical Commission and explaining each detail, I found myself really seeing the space, feeling the wood, the tile, knowing the exact dimensions of each element. They offered valuable suggestions and I was able to modify my design to meet their approval.
We are now in full construction mode. The window and door arrive this week. The countertop goes in July 5th. The espresso: Cafe Umbria, a third generation Seattle roaster. We open in July, if everything goes well. I am excited to see what activating this small corner of the Alley will lead to. The name is Station Number One, after the original Comfort Station Number One that was once there. As a ‘station’ we hope to become a location that people seek out to meet others and connect before a night out. We will be open late into the evenings. Come by and have a latte or share a story.
This project would not have come together without the help of the Pike Place Market PDA, both their commercial staff and maintenance staff. Also a few key people at the city of Seattle Department of Planning and Development helped get the review through quickly. I really appreciate the help and the encouragement. The tours go rain or shine, Tuesday – Sunday. We offer three different tours; The Market Ghost Tour, the Seattle Lust Tour, and the Mortuary Chapel Tour. Schedule and information is online at www.seattleghost.com.
~ Mercedes Carrabba, Market Ghost Tours