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Roslyn Cafe, famous for the ‘Northern Exposure’ camel mural, is for sale

The iconic mural grew from a love of camels

Courtesy of John L. Scott

Most of downtown Roslyn, Washington is instantly recognizable for fans of 1990 comedy-drama Northern Exposure—because it looks about the same as it’s looked since Mort the moose was filmed wandering through it in the opening credits. One of the more colorful highlights of the sequence is the Roslyn Cafe mural, depicting palm trees surrounding a central image of a camel, with the words “An Oasis.” That historic sandstone building, including five office spaces upstairs, is up for sale with an asking price just $10 short of $1 million. That includes the cafe business, although it’s available without.

Current owners Cody Martz and Jessica Koeth have operated the cafe for the last eight years—and Koeth has worked there for about 15. They purchased it in 2012. “We love it,” Martz told Curbed Seattle, “but are ready to embark on a new project in Roslyn.”

As a Roslyn native, Martz said keeping the cafe around is important to him. He’s also seen the evolution of the town post-Northern Exposure.

“What I actually find amazing is how long it has persisted,” said Martz. “There are Northern Exposure fans around the world. They come and take photos in front of the mural on a daily basis.”

The town name “Roslyn” is right on the mural, but Northern Exposure producers added a temporary apostrophe to make it fit in with the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. Roslyn has been a few small towns in its life, thanks to a historic district dating back to 1890 that keeps it looking like a postcard of a mining town. The cafe is part of it, as are other recognizable “Northern Exposure” locations, like the Brick Saloon (Cicely’s local watering hole) and Cicely’s Gift Shop, which was used as the location for Dr. Joel Fleischman’s office.

In short: Roslyn Cafe’s neighborhood looks like it was plucked right out of the Gold Rush, making it an ideal replica for small-town Alaska. But the mural is newer, painted in the 1980s by local mural artist Dan O’Conner, adding the palm trees and the Northwest landscape before finally adding a camel staring right at the viewer.

“Immediately, locals and tourists both asked, ‘why the camel?’” previous owner Kim McJury explained in a 2017 blog post. It turns out that it’s mostly because McJury really loves camels.

“It goes back to my curiosity about the camel and ensuing vision of its long and amazing journey on our planet,” McJury continued. After seeing Lawernce of Arabia in 1962, she dove into camel research, fascinated by the rabbit-sized protylopus of 40 million years ago and the giant camels of northern Canada that migrated over the Bering Strait, growing into the camels we know today in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East before coming back to America with human beings. “This extraordinary animal has come full circle, back to its place of origin, a trip lasting well over 15,000 years or more from the dates of the last Ice Age.”

This particular camel is named Irving, who McJury met visiting a ranch in California. They figuratively adopted him—the same way someone can “adopt” an animal from the World Wildlife Fund—but after a certain point, it was like he had just disappeared, and McJury said she couldn’t get an update out of anyone. Through the mural, said McJury, “Irving lives on here in Roslyn.”

Behind Irving’s watchful gaze, there’s still a cafe. It was last restored in 2003, so its fixtures and finishes are more modern-day, but exposed brick and stone bring in the historic character.

Another bonus feature: A large back patio, complete with an outdoor bar.

The building started as a general store, but switched to a butcher shop for a while before hosting a steady string of fraternal orders for miners, eventually becoming the cafe it is now. Like the noble camel, it has persisted through generations—and evolutions.