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Reliving Pike Place Market’s past

A photographic history in locals’ memories

Alex Garland

There are a lot of changes going on at Pike Place Market, one of the oldest continuously operated public markets in the United States. The landmark recently expanded when a new section, Marketfront, opened, featuring connections to the waterfront below. On one side, the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s days are numbered to make way for a brand-new waterfront. On the other, a 14-story hotel could be replacing a century-old building across the street.

While the market may seem sacred now, there was a time when we almost lost it. In the 1960s, the site was slated to become offices and hotels, until a ballot initiative preserved the 7-acre site as a historic district. Still, around the market, downtown Seattle is changing rapidly, and the market itself is not immune to the flux of a growing city.

Like many Seattleites, local photographer Alex Garland has built years of memories at Pike Place Market. In this photo essay, he recreates other locals’ most vivid experiences.

Alex Gallo-Brown

Poet, workers’ rights advocate, author of The Language of Grief. Born and raised in Seattle.

My favorite memories from Pike Place Market took place during the summer when I was 16, when I worked at Mr. D’s Greek Delicatessen. Mr. D—there really was (and still is) a Mr. D!—didn’t allow me to make the gyros themselves. Instead, he assigned me to the more mundane tasks of buttering the pita bread and boxing up the spanakopita (spinach- and feta cheese-filled filo pastry) and skewering the chicken kebabs. I wasn’t always crazy about scraping the leftover beef off of the meat grinder in 90-degree heat, but at the end of the day I was getting paid to immerse myself in the fascinating cultural milieu of Pike Place—still, to my mind, one of the greatest places in Seattle.

Leona Moore-Rodriguez

Business owner, mom, 32-year Seattle resident.

My grandparents liked taking the grandchildren to different places around Seattle, kind of like a staycation. Pike Place Market was one of my favorite places to go with them. They would pile my cousins and siblings in the van and drive us there. Grandpa always managed to find parking right in the parking lot of Pike Place. We’d walk through the crowd and take our time looking at all the merchandise. I would try and read all the names on all the tiles on the floor while trying to keep up with everyone else.

My favorite store to visit was the magic shop, which I believe is still there. It scared and fascinated me at the same time. And always before we left, we’d stop at a fruit stand and Grandma would let everyone pick out a piece of fruit. My grandparents also took my mother and her siblings to Pike Place when they were kids and I always felt a sort of tradition was being passed on to the next generation. I’m so proud to have been part of that, and now I spend time with my own sons at Pike Place.

Amanda Knox

Exoneree, journalist, host of the Scarlet Letter Reports. Lifelong Seattle resident “except for a four-year hiatus when I was wrongly imprisoned in Italy.”

My favorite memories of the Pike Place Market are from high school. I took public transit home from school—one bus downtown from Capitol Hill and another from downtown to West Seattle. My bus stop was on First Avenue, right next to the market, and because the wait for my second bus was always at least a half hour, I’d often wander the market for an hour or so, visiting the comic book shop and this cool Egyptian artifact shop on the bottom floor. Even if I didn’t spend an hour wandering around, I very often dropped down into the market to pick up a hum bao or scone for on the way home.

Sometimes I took my guitar to school with me to noodle on between classes. One day, I pulled it out of its case while I was waiting at the bus stop on First. I wasn’t good at guitar. I was okay. I knew a few chords and some simple songs, like “You Are My Sunshine,” that I could sing along to. So when I played my guitar at the curbside, I didn’t make a spectacle out of it. I was strumming and singing quietly to myself, not looking up. Next thing I know, someone drops a dollar in front of my guitar case. It took me a second to realize that the dollar was for me, and by the time I looked up to say something like, “No, I wasn’t actually playing,” whoever gave me the dollar was gone. At that point, I thought, “Heck, why not?” so I cracked open my guitar case, played and sang a little louder, until a couple more dollars were thrown my way. After that, I grabbed the cash, put my guitar away, and ran down into the Pike Place Market to grab a scone. So I wasn’t busking, exactly. But I wasn’t not busking, either. I ended up feeling pretty pleased with myself, and my scone, either way.

Meghan Trainor

New media artist and digital strategist, lifelong Seattle resident.

When I was a young child I would get little carrots from Pasqualina Verdi every time I wandered down the arcade with my family. As a teenager I worked for her son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Sue Verdi, in the market selling produce.

Jill Mangaliman

Queer, Filipino community organizer. Lifelong Seattle resident “with the exception of three years I lived in Japan.”

My favorite memory from Pike Place Market is coming here as a kid and visiting the magic store. I was really into magic. The funny thing is that I actually wanted to be a magician at some point. I’d spend hours in the magic store looking around until my parents would come get me. I admit I still like magic. My friends and I used to see the Cliff the Magician at the Twilight Exit on Wednesday nights. Cliff always did this cool trick that made Rainier cans appear out of his sleeves, and then [he’d throw] cards up on the ceiling, and the one with your name would stick. Right after Cliff passed away, I stopped by the magic store again, this time as an adult. I can’t do any of those cool things he did, but I got some flash paper and burned some in his memory.

Derek DeWolf

Runner, yogi, real estate broker. “Born in Bellevue then found my heart in Seattle.”

My childhood in this market was a stepping stone to a romance of a lifetime. At 5:30 a.m., the sun is starting to crest and the city is still asleep. I lace up my shoes and head out the door. The light touch of my footsteps as they skim across the cobblestone road like a smooth stone on a still river. The blanketing peace surrounds my soul as I take in the breathtaking beauty of this city we are fortunate to call home. Pike Place Market at its most vibrant expression is the epicenter of our city. It’s a grocery store to downtown dwellers, a tourism destination for those experiencing what it feels to be a Seattleite, and a business place for talented craftspeople. My morning runs through Pike Place were a divine time... each day, my love affair with Seattle began all over again. The city continues to grow and Pike Place seems to evolve, but what never changes is the simplistic bliss of experiencing the stillness of Seattle in the middle of the bustling market.

Cary Moon

Activist, former mayoral candidate, 25-year Seattle resident (cumulatively).

It was summer 1985 or 1986, I think. I had just finished college. My sweetie in college, William, invited me out to meet his family—he was from Bellevue. We walked through the market, marveling at all the lush abundance, amazed at the quality of everything and the richness of the experience. We then stood there on Western Avenue watching the ferries and container ships and sailboats and mountains. I had that feeling of epiphany: I could just move here? And so I moved here in 1987 and stayed until 1991. Then went to work in our family business in Michigan, then grad school in Philly, then back for good in 1997. Twenty-five years total in Seattle so far.

Ken Workman

Retired Boeing systems and data analyst, retired Duwamish Tribal Council member. Born and raised in Seattle.

Seattle is a brand-new city, less than 170 years old, which means I’ve been alive for about a third of its lifetime. When I was a child, my mother would visit the farmers market, mounting me on one hip, holding me with one hand, and pushing my brother in a stroller with the other. Down off Capitol Hill we’d go, shopping for food for the day.

As years went by, not much changed. My father would take us out fishing in the bay just outside the market. I even got to fly in an airplane over it once!

One day my father said, “Let’s all go down to the market and shop around.” The day was bright and sunny. It was one of those days where there was no better place to be in the world than at the market with all its sights, sounds, smells, and commotion.

Then we got to this place where the vendors seemed to stop. There was a narrow hallway and steps leading down. A strange smell wafting up. I asked my father “what’s that?”

“Never mind what that is,” he said, and he hustled me away.

50 years later I visited the market and went to where the vendors stop. I looked down the hallway. Memories abound, worn away flooring, worn away steps—the only thing missing was the of aroma of the “wacky weed.”