Spokane's South Perry District, on the east side of the lower South Hill, has seen a lot change in the last several years, with one of the most noticeable progressions being the number of new businesses setting up shop there.
Since the beginning of 2009 and through the end of this year, a total of at least six new businesses will have opened in the historic district, ranging from specialty retail shops to restaurants and bars. The district stretches along Perry Street between about Eighth and 12th avenues, and about one block east and west of Perry in that area.
Both new and longtime business owners in South Perry say that the eclectic and friendly vibe in the neighborhood is what drew them thereand also is what has allowed them to stay and make a profit.
Early next month, Casper Fry Public House & Eatery, to be located in the north half of the old Altamont Pharmacy building at 928 S. Perry, is scheduled to open.
The southern half of the building has been occupied since last summer by an outlet of Emeryville, Calif.-based Title Nine, a specialty, high-end women's athletic and active wear retailer.
Casper Fry is co-owned by the team that's also behind downtown Spokane's French-inspired Madeleine's Cafe & PatisserieDeb Green; her son, Ben Poffenroth; and her daughter, Megan VanStone.
VanStone says that the restaurant will feature a Southern-influenced menu. She says the eatery is named after her great-great-grandfather, Casper Fry, who was a Southern-born Baptist minister at a church across the street that's now home to the Spokane Buddhist Temple.
VanStone says she and her husband have lived in the South Perry neighborhood for about five years, and her family looks forward to having a deeper tie to the community with the new restaurant.
"We just love the neighborhoodit's so charming, and it's developing and changing and growing," she says. "One thing Spokane has been missing is quaint little neighborhoods. You go to Seattle and all the neighborhoods have a street with shops."
In addition to the introduction of Casper Fry, specialty bicycle shop Two Wheel Transit plans to relocate from 1405 W. First to a 5,400-square-foot space at 817 S. Perry, in the north end of a retail building that also houses a Hico Market convenience store.
Geoff Forshag, who co-owns the venture with business partner Bruce Abbotts, says they'd been looking into moving their cycling shop to South Perry for about two years now. Many of the business's customers live on the South Hill, Forshag says, and he feels the move to the South Perry area would allow the shop to serve those customers better. The business is scheduled to move this fall.
"We definitely like that it's located in a neighborhood that has a good selection of local businesses serving the people that live and work nearby," Forshag says. "There is a lot of energy and community involvement going on in that area, and we want to contribute to that as well as build off the work other community leaders have done."
Summer Hightower, a Spokane-based artist and fashion stylist, opened Veda Lux, a vintage clothing and custom-made accessory boutique, in South Perry a year and a half ago.
Hightower says she grew up in the South Perry area, attending Grant Elementary School, which is in the district. She chose the business district as the location for her shop for the same reasons that many other nearby business owners didthe eclectic atmosphere and small-town sense of community.
"It's a good neighborhood and things are really picking up," Hightower says. "People care about being here, which makes a big difference."
Veda Lux is located at 1106 S. Perry in a 225-square-foot space, next door to South Perry's historic Dutch windmill building that's home to Lorien Herbs & Natural Foods.
Lorien co-owner Chris Imes, who lives nearby with her husband, Roger, says the organic herb and food store has been located in South Perry for nine years, after moving there from Spokane's University District.
"I'm happy to live and work here and be a part of a historic district," Imes says. "We have noticed more people shopping herepeople who visit other businesses while they're in the area come in and see what we're all about."
When someone broke into Hightower's boutique late last year and stole her cash register, the Imes lent her an extra register until she could get a new one.
"I like being here because it's more like being a part of a family," Hightower says. "It's not like going to a strip mall. Perry is almost becoming more like the Portland areavery eclectic and local."
Hightower says she gets a lot of customers stopping in off the street who are drawn into the shop because of the colorful displays she sets up in the store's little front lawn during the spring and summer.
The owners of South Perry Pizza Co. say that since their business opened 2 1/2 years ago, they've also seen the area begin to thrive.
Located at 1101 S. Perry in a former service station building, the neighborhood pizza shop is owned by mother-daughter team Sue and Krista Kautzman.
Pat Kautzman, Sue's husband, who helps out at the restaurant but works full time elsewhere, says that when South Perry Pizza opened in 2009, it was the only neighborhood eatery that was open for the dinner and evening hours.
"When it opened, it was a tipping point for the community," Kautzman asserts.
He says, though, that there were many businesses and community leaders who helped to pave the way for young businesses that more recently have set up in South Perry.
Kautzman credits Mark Camp, owner of the Altamont Pharmacy building and former owner of another South Perry venture, The Shop coffee house, for laying some of the groundwork that attracted more businesses to the area.
"He had a vision for the area and was instrumental in the streetscape work that the city did," Kautzman says.
The street project Kautzman refers to started construction in 2007, and was the first business district revitalization project performed as part of the city of Spokane's Centers & Corridors pilot program.
City spokeswoman Ann Deasy says the streetscape improvements on Perry, roughly between Ninth and 12th avenues, included curb bump outs to slow traffic, shade trees along the street, pedestrian lights, sidewalk pavers, benches, trash cans, and bus shelters. The improvements completed so far total more than $900,000 and mostly were paid for by federal and state dollars, as well as contributions from Spokane Transit Authority, she says.
Located in that stretch, at 1004 S. Perry, for about three years now is The Lantern Tavern, owned by husband-and-wife team Jeff Nordvall and Laura Paisley. Nordvall says that when he and his wife relocated to the South Perry neighborhood from Seattle about 4 1/2 years ago, they were surprised at the then lack of evening activity in the neighborhood.
Nordvall says that as other businesses have opened in the neighborhood during the last couple years, he's seen that growth have a positive effect on The Lantern's revenues.
"We have seen a bump in income each time places have opened up," he says, adding that the collective mentality of most business owners in South Perry is, "the more, the merrier."
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