Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is Antique Row a thing of the past?

I saw a "closing sale" sign in the window of Beauty & The Beast Antiques today at 747 Market St., in Tacoma's Antique Row. I don't know the rhyme or the reason, but it got me thinking ...

How long will Antique Row still house antique stores?

I'm guessing -- mind you, guessing -- that a big reason behind the row's original formation was low overhead. And as condos crop up and Tacoma land prices skyrocket, especially in a downtown that is emerging from rampant disuse ... well, as demand increases, so do the prices. And often the businesses that helped create the neighborhood's up-and-coming identity are pushed to the wayside.

Whether it's sellout, displacing or not enough business -- is it just one business, or is the row about to go?

It's not surprising when I think about it. And I'm not sure if it's good or bad. I have no idea if this antique store or others will simply head elsewhere and form another Antique Row in a place that, like downtown once did, offers low overhead in a location that's easy to access and will attract bargain-hunters and treasure seekers.

But no matter why or where or how or any of that, I wonder: What's next?

When the antiques are gone, will it still be Antique Row? Or will that soon become some outdated phrase of the once hip?

So, what's next? An expansion of the Theater District? Condo row? Restaurant row? Boutique row?

Empty row? Well, doubtfully, at least not for long.

I just hope it doesn't become Cookie Cutter and/or Big Box Row.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Create Some Local Magic

The final Harry Potter book comes out this summer, which means Potter mania, Potter parties, and Potter pre-ordering.

It also means a clear-cut choice with the consumer over whether they send their money to big corporate chains, or keep their dollars local by ordering from the little guy.

Because here's the thing ... with the little guy, you likely have to pay full price. They don't get the discounts that the big-box retailers get ... so you'll have to pay a couple bucks more for that literary treasure.

But each of those dollars is a vote of encouragement for every entrepreneur, every little guy and gal out there who may be hanging on to their business buy hopefully more than a couple bucks, but often just that.

Each of those couple extra dollars is a vote for the businsses we want in our community.

We set precedent with our purchases, whether we realize it or not.

So I entreat the parents and the Harry Potter fans at large who wish and dream for more and more quality, locally owned businesses ... the couple bucks you save by ordering via Amazon or any other big box just aren't worth it. You can order this -- and virtually any book -- from your local little guy bookseller. In Tacoma, King's Books is taking orders and planning quite the little community party for release night, July 20. For more information, click here.

Our household has already placed our order at King's Books for two copies. (So we can read it at the same time, then pass it on to another fan.) See you there July 20?

Still pondering it? I dare you -- prove your Buy Tacoma dedication and order your books from King's, not Amazon. (Guess where the sales tax goes if you do ...)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Guilty Today, Drooling for "Tomorrow"

Took the kids to The Ram for dinner. A big chain, yes, but one that started in Lakewood -- which is why we try to head there rather than other "family dining" megachains in the area. And in February (and apparently every Sunday), kids eat free. (Well, one kid per adult ... which took care of a couple of ours.) Gotta appease the munchkins every once in awhile with a free-toys-and-a-balloon kiddie meal locale.


But what I'm really looking forward to is an eventual grownup night out (once grandma gets back to town) and heading over to the brand spanking new Stadium Bistro in the Stadium District. (Right next to King's Books and Doyle's.) I looked at the site ... the menu, the classes and events, the special in-kitchen special dining opportunity they have. Oh, it sounds like a foodie's heaven. And healthy to boot! I keep hearing folks talking about wanting a fresher food, vegetarian (and meatatarian) friendly classy but affordable place -- and this seems like it. Wow. I hope reality is half as good as my imagination.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Get Your Gifts From the Little Guy ... or Gal

Went shopping at Trouve on Antique Row recently and found a plethora of treasures, including a Rosie the Riveter "We Can Do It" poster for under $12. For the Francophiles out there, the place is a veritable haven of treasures that will soon become Paradise Lost. And even those of us not so obessed with all things French will find plenty to purchase. In addition to my poster finds (I bought more than one), there were wonderful Herbal eye pillows, keychains, stationary, rugs, candles, tablecloths, funny shot glasses and so much more.

Unfortunately, by summer it will likely be a mere memory, a myth that Tacoma's boutique shoppers whisper to each other when reminiscing of once was and what they hope is to come. After about seven years of doing quality gift business on Broadway, the owner has given up battling the masses of chain-crazed shoppers who walk on by or only call her to ask for a donation to the charity of the day's next auction.

She will be missed.

For those who will also miss her and her shop, or who have missed out thus far ... stop by. There's still time to snag a treasure at a reasonable price. Still time to show you care about the little guy.

Some other "little guy" (or gal) shops to check out the next time you're shopping for a birthday, wedding, baby shower, or just because you like to find treasures, include:

What's your favorite?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Soapbox Speeches and Worn Out Sneetches

Been too busy blogging (elsewhere) to blog here ... so I'm importing my recent rant from But by the weekend I hope to be back on the bandwagon ... back highlighting Tacoma "hot spots" (or should-be hot spots) that I do love so -- and finding new ones to support.

The business of Tacomaness

I've been hearing rumblings on other blogs that have developed a theme: folks looking for specific kinds of businesses and lamenting thtat Tacoma doesn't have it all.

My soap box speech, in a nutshell: We've only just begun.

Tacoma's renaissance has not yet matured. It's barely been going on for a decade. It wasn't long ago that city leaders were tearing down the kinds of buildings that we now celebrate and cherish -- in order to create parking lots. That was stopped, and something better began -- but the end product takes time.

And as for the Seattle and PDX comparisons I have been hearing -- "Seattle has it, why not Tacoma? Portland has it, why can't Tacoma get it together?" -- I'd like to point out that Tacoma is, now, in a spot Seattle and Portland saw themselves in decades ago. Still at the beginning of something really big. And current day comparisons can only go so far realistically: Seattle is nearly three times the population of Tacoma. Give it time, give support to local businesses, and you will see the Tacoma you want grow before your very eyes. And you'll be able to say you were there.

So what I'd like to know, is what local businesses in today's Tacoma do you want to see still flourishing in 10-20 years? And what do you think that future will look like?

Or, for those yearning for bits of elsewhere, I'd like to know what it is about those places that makes you lust to bring their essence here? Names and websites only say so much -- forget titles and tell me what made you fall in love? (I don't get to Seattle much.) For restaurants, was it a dish, type of cuisine, specific ambiance, cute waiter/waitress -- or the coffee? for bookstores, was it the selection, or the friendly folks and space to sit in the corner and read? For farmer's markets, is it the food, the crafts, the people? How often do you go during the current farmer's market season? Would you go weekly if there was one every weekend year-round?

Share the essense of your desires, and odds are someone will be able to point you to a place that's right under your nose -- or perhaps you'll inspire would-be entrepreneur looking for that certain "niche" that matches their passions and has a better-than-average shot at success over bankruptcy.

Our actions today dictate the Tacoma of tomorrow.

Help grow Tacoma's Tacomaness.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Spirit Was Willing ...

Sadly, I woke up sick. My introduction to more new downtown hot spots must be postponed ... on the up side of bummer, at least this gives me time to plot. :)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Penchant to Paint the Town Pink

My lovely valentine arranged for me to have an actual girls' evening out on Monday. The dilemma? So many options, so little time. With mini-munchkins at home, Happy Hour is still a foreign concept to me. (Many happy hours, just not usually at the bar ...) And since some of the gal pals going with are preggers and therefore will only be partaking in the appetizer half of our bar-hopping, I want to make sure that we hits spots that have good, cheap eats as well as drinks. And there are so many spots downtown I have yet to hit -- do I hit old haunts, or try out new spots? Linger at one, or hop around? And if we play it by ear, where to start? I have a day to figure it out. Because while finding the biggest bang for the buck is nice, my and my pals' time is at a premium. I want to make every minute, or at least every other minute, count. Ready, girls? Let's paint downtown red -- or at least pink.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Grilled Cheese and Backroom Surprises

It's always a thrill to introduce visitors and locals to my favorite haunts, nooks and crannies in Tacoma. Sometimes I even trip upon a new one myself. A recent thrill includes ...

Opera Alley & Over the Moon Cafe (709 Opera Alley/Court C)
This hidden treasure is one of my favorite spots to introduce to people. While this tantalizing cafe has been an Opera Alley destination for more than five years, there are still entire segments of the T-town population who either haven't been there, or simply can't find it. So when it comes to meeting folks for lunch, it's a great go-to ... as the location, ambiance and edibles are all completely rave-able. But again, you have to be able to find it.

Recently, I was meeting a former coworker for lunch and this person, having never been there before, decided to locate it in advance to make sure they weren't late. No luck. This person drove all over downtown, through the theater district and around Antique Row -- but could not find the cafe. (So we met at my office instead and walked over.) Which is part of the spot's charm.

Over the Moon Cafe is located in Opera Alley ... a block of buildings and businesses that seem to take you back in time or transport you to some far-off European neighborhood. It's mysterious and charming, and also home to Fibers Etc. (a destination for weavers, spinners, knitters and more), Ruby Collection (decor divine), The Horatio (a black box theater for Tacoma!) and more. It's between St. Helen's and Broadway, between South 7th and South 9th, and seriously is an enchanted slice of Tacoma.

But back to Over the Moon ... I'll admit I've only been there for lunch, but I've heard dinner is divine as well. I can vouch for all their sandwiches, especially the unique French-style grilled cheese that has bread soaked in a white wine sauce and contains various oozing cheesy goodness. And I'm always up for trying one of their specials -- which the other day included a salmon sandwich with crazy-good dill mayo. The crab bisque has become a favorite of mine, and apparently many other folks' -- the used to only serve it once in awhile, and now it's every day. Desserts are also delectable.

And then there's the charm of mismatched silverware and coffee cups, decor done by the divas next door at Ruby's Collection, and a bathroom that's more "gotta see it" than anything Hard Rock Cafe venues have to offer.

And behind door 2 ... it's Ruby's Room
A recent lunching pal and I wandered a little further than the bathroom during our last trip to Over the Moon and tripped upon the "Over the Watch Tower" room, which is a quaint brick-walled, simple-yet-funky room with a eye-popping view of downtown Tacoma charm that's available for intimate dinner parties, wine tastings, dessert parties, etc. It fits about 50 sit-down guests or 60 mingling meanderers. And it's run by the folks at Ruby Collection -- and just as awe-inspiring as their window displays. A mystery room behind a sometimes mysteriously located restaurant on an enchanted hard-to-find block in Tacoma. Does it get any better?