1499 Post Alley


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.

Just before the Gum Wall, Lower 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.

1499 Post Alley currently.

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.

1936 Photo of the Comfort Station.

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

Draft computer image of Station Number One.

Harvey – Never Lets Us Down

Old Reliable – Harvey the Market Truck welcomes shoppers to Farm Days on the Cobblestones

Walking down Western Ave. I looked down into the open air parking lot and saw two young girls taking turns climbing up onto the market truck and snapping pictures of each other.  The bunches of grapes and flowers brightly called out to them. A reminder to me that the summer market season is truly here and of the memory of how this workhorse of a vehicle got it’s name.

How many cans of spray paint does it take ?

Last year, local artists, Jeff Jacobson and Joey Nix spray painted the old white CSA truck into a mobile mural showing off Pike Place Market farm products.  Its new look deserved a new name befitting it’s reliable and enduring service to the market community.

Crafters, buskers, farmers, submitted suggestions.  “Harvey” was chosen.  Why – You might ask?  Now Harvey was a man. A man that most of us who work at the market knew. Harvey had been a “cart pusher” for over 20 years. Extremely reliable. A necessary cog in the wheel. He would never let you down.  He delivered.  He delivered our carts to us so that we could run our businesses.  He never wanted to let us down.

This old CSA truck. With new life painted on to it, never lets the market down.  A mobile storage unit for tents, tables and everything market, you can see it at the Pike Place Market Express at City Hall from 10-2 on Tuesdays  and on Thursdays at South Lake Union from 10-2:30.  Both locations are within walking distance from Pike Place Market.  Have a long lunch hour and you just need to take a walk?  Come down and visit us at the market. More fun and satisfying than a trip to the mall or a stop at the grocery store.  You may see “Harvey” – the truck, setting out on the cobblestones at the market.  Some say that the “real” Harvey is still with us.  I sometimes feel as though I’ve caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye when I’m down in the locker spaces.

I have no picture to share of Harvey. He was elusive that way. But what I do have is a picture of the love and care that his community shared with him..

I want to share this remembrance of Harvey McGarrah with you that I wrote after his passing :

Harvey, Harvey. He’s my man. With Harvey, Harvey, Yes I Can

A little ditty that I would greet Harvey with as he stood in front of my table at the end of each market day, waiting for payment for the work he did pushing my cart up from my locker in the morning and back down at night.  I didn’t have to worry. Pack up. Go home. Harvey took it from there.

Harvey. Old and ageless.  Same soft brown pullover with little flecks of meals past and present.  Tooth challenged, he would often have a dribble that I would see splash onto the silk scarves used on my display.  I would just bundle them up and take them home to wash.

He had a conversation constantly going on in his head.  He would blurt out whatever part of the conversation he was in at the time he saw you and it was up to you to jump on board and go with it.  “Hey, you know…

this guy in Auburn…”
this guy used to own a restaurant…”
now this guy had money.  I mean real big money…”

Most days he just wanted conversation, contact, friendship.  Other days may have started in a more challenging way for him and by the time I arrived at the market he was spitting mad.

“Say now..I’m telling you..That’s what I mean.  You can’t tell them a f***ing thing.  Those pot heads in that place can’t make a f***ing hot chocolate. Not even a goddamn chocolate !”  He would bend at the waist, put his two hands on the handle of the cart and push.

Start of the market day.  Harvey is swearing up a storm. “goddamn guy is spraying water on the street and got my shoes wet.  I had to take off my socks.”

Despite the gruff exterior his voice would soften, his eyes brighten as he chatted with small children in strollers and to dogs.  Always a kind word.

For months I thought that he didn’t know my name and then one day he shows up and says “Well Kathi. How’re ya doin’?”  He looked pleased with himself and I felt as though I had been accepted into the club.

A few years ago Harvey suffered a terrible beating.  He had left some carts too long to push down to the lockers.  It was late and a rowdy crowd was out and about.  He is said to have mouthed off to one of them that had been giving him a hard time and ended up being beaten with a pipe.  The community was stunned.  No Harvey.  How’s he doing?  Will he be alright?  He did come back.  Probably way too soon.  Blackened eyes and bruised face.  Limping more than usual.  Bound and determined, he knew that he had a job to do.  He came back and got those carts taken care of.

His last illness, admitted to the hospital, was different.  He seemed to know that he wouldn’t be able to come back.  The nurses said that he was as gentle as a baby.  Never put up a fight.  He was quiet.  Quiet? Go figure.  I guess he had finished all of his conversations.

So – market friends gathered round him acting as surrogates for the entire community.  He passed peacefully on.

A Market Maintenance fellow overheard me telling a busker about Harvey’s death.  I’ve seen this tall, thin man for years now.  I don’t know his name.  But the conversation heard in passing stopped him in his tracks.  “Harvey? Harvey is dead?”  His eyes filled with tears.  He said that he had been visiting him in the hospital once a week since he was admitted.  I didn’t know.

People thought that the market would stop running without Harvey pushing the 40 some carts that he was responsible for.  But it didn’t.  Others have stepped into the void.  The market does go on.  A lesson, perhaps, in that anyone can be replaced.  But it’s the character and personality that can never be.

Cheers Harv.

Post by Kat Allen – Symbols in Art
Art tile reflecting World Religions and Cultures

For more information on the life of Harvey McGarrah –
Seattle Times Article – Market Community Loses a Beloved Figure

Summer Where The Sidewalk Ends

And there I sit under a sunflower light

I sell our art at Pike Place Market all year long. For six months of the year I set my business up outside of the north arcade building. So far at the end that I usually have one foot on the sidewalk and the other on the red cobblestones of Pike Place.  I have a yellow sunflower umbrella. I sit. Watch. Interact with visitors. This year’s winning question – “where is the wall of gum?”. The Gum Wall?  You are at the north end of the market, I say.  Continue on through the market until you see Rachel the Pig. Look for the sign that says “Market Theater” and walk down the stairs. It’s gross. You’ll love it. Giggles from the visitors.

I also interact with the greater market family. People who walk back and forth through the market each day to pass the time. The homeless, the semi-homeless, the out of work, the seniors, the people who love being a part of the life and breath of the market or simply have nothing else better to do.  The market gives them a sense of community.

Isaac comes down on the bus from Everett once a week and sometimes brings me almonds.  He assures me that he also brings me good luck for sales.  An aged Hindu man passes by as he laps the market and attempts to teach me Hindi.  So far Namaste, How are you, I’m fine – are as far as we’ve gotten in 5 years.  One of the motorcycle regulars works at Etta’s and spends Tuesdays volunteering at the Food Bank in the market.  Nice girl.  Always takes the time to chat.  My business is set up right in front of the only two motorcycle parking spaces in the market so I’ve learned some “Harley” etiquette over the years.  Most of the riders now give me a heads up before starting their engines.

And then there is Momma Sue. 10 years ago Sue picked up the wooden chair I had forgotten as I packed up for the day.  Homeless at the time, she lugged that chair around with her for days until she caught up with me to give it back.  She has never asked me for anything. We have shared time and conversation with each other over the years.  She moved into an apartment of her own and I asked her what she really wanted to help make it feel like home. A toaster. I got her a red one to match the color she always wears.

There’s the woman who sits on the bench and asks everyone “Can I borrow two dollars for a drink?”. Security – please make her stop. I must say that her dollar amount is spot on but does she really plan on paying it back?

The busker who in the summer rarely wears a shirt or shoes. Long flowing hair to his waist, waves as he breezes by with a guitar over his shoulder.

And then the people in the park across the way. Never ending entertainment for me.

Don’t mess with a native woman.

And when I tire of people watching I kidnap poetry
and make it my own. My apologies to Shel Silverstein. It just fit.

Summer Where the Sidewalk Ends
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins.
And there the sun is warm and bright
And there I dream of what only children might
And there I sit under a sunflower light
To cool in the misty wind.

Let us leave the place where streets are black
And the huddled mass of ordinary bends.
Past the park where the native flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is carefree and slow
And watch where the red cobblestones go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

We shall walk with a walk that is carefree and slow
And watch where the red cobblestones go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Poem adapted from Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends”

Post by Kat Allen – Symbols in Art
Handcrafted art tiles reflecting World Religion and Culture

Movies at the Market

As the Seattle International Film Festival prepares to wrap up its three plus weeks of cinematic adventure this weekend, my thoughts turned to films shot at the Pike Place Market.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be an extra in a big Hollywood production shot in the North Arcade (my scene was cut) and also lucky to be in the audience enjoying the way our Market looks on screen.  Here’s a short list of recent or well-known movies shot in or around the Market.

Love Happens (2009) was the aforementioned big Hollywood production shot at the Market.  Several signs in and around the North Arcade and Outside Slabs area were added and the large tree at the very end of the slabs was festooned with fake fall leaves (this was shot in the late winter when the trees were totally bare) as the film was supposed to take place in autumn.  A rain-making truck was also on the scene to augment our famously moist atmosphere.  Trust Seattle to be dry as a bone on days when a rainstorm is needed for a take!  Though we never spotted Jennifer Aniston, her handsome co-star Aaron Eckhart was seen both while being filmed walking up and down the mainline of the North Arcade and on breaks, shopping amongst the crafts line.  He was, I can report, a pleasant, understated fellow and the rest of the crew also did their best to minimize the disturbance that shooting a movie has on running a business.  Several of my hats went home with crew members and many members of the crafts line and busking community were also paid as extras for our presence as convincing background atmosphere in a number of shots.

Late Autumn (2010) is a delightful Korean romantic drama set here in the Market.  It features the accidental melancholy romance between a Korean-American woman out on furlough from prison to attend a family funeral and a handsome Korean rent boy who is on the run from gangsters.  Yes, I know, it doesn’t _sound_ that delightful or romantic or Market-centric from that brief description, but, trust me, it’s a real gem and showcases how charming our Market can be at night after all the hustle and bustle is over.  Our star-crossed couple even encounter a Market Ghost Tour group in their evening excursion around the Arcade as he tries to woo her and she does her best to resist his charms.  Bring a hankie to this one.

Sleepless in Seattle (1989) You  know I couldn’t have a list of Market movies without mentioning this classic Seattle-set romance.  Shot at the venerable Athenian Inn in the Market, Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner perched on bar stools, discussed their problems and knocked back a few cold ones (probably ginger ale in reality) and you can too!

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) Wow, 1989 was a great year for films shot at the Market!  The daystalls provide background for Jeff Bridges to stroll past as he makes his way around scenic Seattle in the film’s opening sequence.

Television has also been good to the Market.  Though most of the show was never actually shot in its Northwest setting, Frasier did reference quite a few real life Seattle locations and their memorable 100th episode was shot in town, with a classic scene of Niles getting hit in the face with a fish thrown by our famous Pike Place Fish fellas.

I have no doubt that there will be many more future films shot at the Pike Place Market: we’ve got some of the best scenery in town and a whole cast of extras waiting for our close-ups!