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Updated: Jan 3, 2020
When we think Seattle, we tend to think new. As far as cities go, you don’t get more cutting edge than the jewel of the Pacific Northwest; the home of Microsoft, the birthplace of a boundary-pushing music revolution and the only city whose defining landmark looks more like an EPCOT attraction than a sightseeing destination. It’s easy to assume that mom and pop’s aren’t welcome in the Emerald City – heck, it brought us Starbucks for crying out loud. And yet, Seattle boasts some of America’s most storied small businesses, each one an essential part of the history of one of America’s most iconic cities.
Jules Mae’s sure is proud of its history. Walk into this Georgetown bar and you’ll see plenty of signs boasting the tavern’s founding year: 1888. The building is affectionately known as the “Brick Store” and had previously been home to the Georgetown Grocery Company. Reopened in 1939 after that whole pesky Prohibition thing, Jules Mae’s has plenty of barstools and banquets to keep regulars satisfied. The saloon is even a mainstay on many of Seattle’s “haunted” destination tours so come for spirits of all kinds!
With a slogan like, “Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1959,” we just had to put the 5 Point Cafe on our list. Opened in 1929, The 5 Point is the longest run family eatery in Seattle. Famous for its legendary jukebox and 24 hour breakfast menu, there’s nothing grungy about this beloved dive bar. In the 70’s, 5 Point turned Seattle into South Beach with tropical vibes and roller skating waitresses delivering menu staples like the 11 ounce chicken fried steak, Seattle’s biggest.
Perkins Glass and Mirror has been specializing in commercial glass and mirror installation since 1906. Like most small businesses whose ledgers go back a century and counting, Perkins is family owned. The business has literally shaped the city it calls home, having installed most of the showcases at the famous Pike Place Market. You’ll still find the Perkins manning the store on Broadway between Pike and Union, a historic location of a small business that’s a true reflection of the city’s amazing history.
We can thank Seattle for giving us iconic musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, and businesses like Bop Street Records have helped make Seattle one of the music capitals of the world. Owner Dave Voorhees has amassed a collection of over half a million records since opening his shop back in 1984. With LP’s, 45’s, 8-tracks and even cassette tapes, Bop Street spans a multitude of genres and is sure to keep audiophiles captivated as they stroll through the aisles. Dave personally greets every customer that walks into his store; a dedicated fanbase that includes Radiohead and The Roots.
On the hunt for rare and out-of-print records? Stop by Golden Oldies on 45th and step into a collection of over 10 million vinyl titles. Since 1973, the knowledgeable staff accepts wish-lists from customers on the prowl, and will notify collectors when they’ve found an item. But if you’re just a walk-in, don’t worry if you don’t have a specific album in mind, vintage Billboard charts line the store’s walls to jog your music memories.
Sorry Starbucks. Locals know that Cafe Allegro is Seattle’s oldest coffee shop dating back over 40 years. With brews both local and hailing from “family farms around the world,” the city’s oldest espresso bar is a living breathing part of its coffee history. And don’t fret if a trip to the Pacific NW is not in your plans. Coffee subscribers can get 1 or 2 pounds of Allegro’s signature espresso shipped to them monthly all around the country!
Opened in 1969 and still under its original management and ownership, Champion Wine Cellars received the very first wine license ever given in the state of Washington. Owned by Emile Ninaud, a French born wine enthusiast, Champion Wine Cellars keeps its customers educated and satisfied with a stock of over 1500 labels. Boasting the largest selection of French wine in the Northwest, Champion Wine Cellars has turned the Emerald City red and white.
It doesn’t get more mom and pop than this corner store that’s been providing, “an uncommon mix of groceries, beverages, fresh produce and household goods,” since 1911. With decor that is more museum than supermarket, Carleton Avenue Grocery is a testament to the city’s history. Sourcing its inventory from local vendors, the shop keeps a supply of Seattle’s signature tastes and smells. Fans can even find beloved recipes on the store’s website, so that you can bring the Carleton Avenue Grocery into your very own kitchen.
The University of Washington’s independent bookstore has been in business since 1900 keeping students and locals well-read for over a century. Student-run in its first years of existence, University Book Store is unlike any other college bookstore in the country. It leads all other college stores in its sale of books and supplies and is one of only a handful of such enterprises that are classified as independent and the only college bookseller with matriculating students serving on its board of directors.
Seattle Curtain Manufacturing has specialized in “high quality workmanship and world class service” for three generations. Originally solely a supplier and then later a manufacturer, the family owned business has boasted top notch customer service for over 75 years. Offering window-treatment solutions based out of their 20,000 square foot facility on 12th and Yesler, it’s no wonder Seattle Curtain Manufacturing has been sprucing up Seattle’s homes and buildings since 1930.
Samantha Novick is a senior editor at Funding Circle, specializing in small business financing. She has a bachelor's degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Prior to Funding Circle, Samantha was a community manager at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Her work has been featured in a number of top small business resource sites and publications.