The Promenade Red Apple on South Jackson Street, as everyone who’s lived in the Central District for any length of time knows, is a whole lot more than a grocery store. It’s a community hub. It’s a place to run into friends and neighbors, to say hello to the same cashiers you’ve known for years and years. It hosts barbecues and backpack giveaways, coat drives and Easter Egg hunts. It also sells things people can’t find anywhere else—like unique cuts of meat (beef feet and pig tails and chicken skin, say) and hearty sandwiches that people say taste better than at other delis. It has long been a beloved neighborhood gem, nestled deep in the heart of the historically black neighborhood.
Seattle has been lamenting the upcoming closure of the hallowed spot for the past year and a half, since Vulcan Real Estate announced the $30.9 million purchase of two parcels at the corner of South Jackson and 23rd Avenue South, slated for redevelopment as a mid-rise apartment complex. The store has since become an oft-invoked symbol of gentrification and displacement in Seattle, as well as a model for how all this new development could go (some say Vulcan has done a good job of involving the community in discussions of what comes next).
Lots of patrons seem to have stories like Lewis Wilson’s: A Central District resident for the past 33 years, he’s been a Red Apple customer for almost as long, as have his now-grown children. “All the people that work here are like friends, like family,” he says, “because I’ve known them for 30-some years! I hate to see them go.” Store employees love the place, too; as Wilson suggests, many of them have worked at Red Apple on South Jackson for decades. One cashier tells me that the fact that one of his colleagues has only been working there for seven years makes her “the youngest one of us!”
The store’s official closure date is September 30, although it’s possible, employees say, that it will close sooner, if it sells out of all of its stock before then. The shelves now stand nearly empty. The barren produce section is stacked with boxes and ringed by caution tape. On a recent weekday afternoon, at least one patron murmured “heartbreaking” as she combed the vacant aisles.
And so, here, a homage in photos: A cherished icon on the eve of change.