Beehive Bakery closes, cites lack of foot traffic and city rules

When it opened in August, the Beehive Bakery was big news for the troubled corner at 23rd and Union. After years of being shuttered, the old Philly’s Cheese Steak building was finally occupied again.

But just a few months later, the bakery has closed, citing a lack of foot traffic and city rules that prevented them from opening the shop’s drive-through window.

“It’s a great corner for car count,” said Jane Collins, who operated the kosher bakery and coffee shop with her husband Ken. But the shop was only getting about 40 people per day, which is not enough to keep it going.

“We had a lot of fun, and all the customers who came in were so nice,” she said. “If we had a full breakfast, lunch and dinner going, it would be different.”

They had hoped to use the drive-through window when they started plans for the bakery, but the old permits had lapsed and new city rules designate the corner as a pedestrian area. After a lengthy re-permitting process, which delayed the bakery’s opening, Jane and Ken found out that drive-through windows are no longer allowed. So they had to go forward without it.

Before the bakery opened, the building had been vacant ever since the 2008 murder of Philly’s owner Dejene Berecha inside the shop. The shooter, Rey Alberto Davis-Bell, was found guilty in 2010, but the space had remained closed.

Work is still underway to do some weatherproofing to the building, as they have been in the process of removing the building’s old awning and stucco siding to reveal the building’s 60s retro design. A window was also accidentally broken in the process, but a replacement pane is on the way. In all, Eisenberg said the building will get finished off a little more than it is right now.

In the long-term, property owner Ian Eisenberg is hoping the corner will be redeveloped into a mixed-use residential and commercial building. But like a similar plan for the vacant lot catty-corner from the Bakery, funding for such projects is stalled.

In the short term, it’s unclear how quickly the property will be occupied again.

“I don’t want to sign a long-term lease with anyone because it’s a potential development site,” said Eisenberg. “Now it’s a decision I have whether I want to lease it long-term or shutter it like the property across the street.” But Eisenberg said changes for the intersection are coming.

“I’m more encouraged now than ever for the future of the intersection,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when.”

42 thoughts on “Beehive Bakery closes, cites lack of foot traffic and city rules

  1. sorry that the beehive didn’t make it. they seemed like they were working hard to make a go of it.

    but how could anyone expect more than 40 customers per day at a cafe with hardly any signage and a building that looks derelict?

    it was hard to tell what the place was, and the building screams “go somewhere else.”

    if the newly-remodeled carwash up the street remained the same pile of crap it used to be, would we be surprised at its demise?

  2. Very well said – I used to drive by it (not a week ago) and wondered if the place was even open. I absolutely commend you guys for trying but maybe for future ventures, do a bit of marketing so it’s 100% clear that you’re open for business. Good luck!

  3. I can’t argue with that! The car wash is doing great but largely because we sunk a lot of $ and effort into getting it into top notch shape. We still need to finish paint and a few minor issues.

  4. Sad to see them closed. I saw the work on the awning and thought they were continuing to remodel.

    But it’s not surprising. We were ready to visit 3-4 times/week, but they didn’t have a variety of pastries, nor bread, and what they had was over priced. A bakery should have more than four kinds of pastries, and bread every afternoon.

    There’s also an issue with over saturation of coffee shops in that neighborhood. There’s Katie’s two blocks west, coffee accross the street at the gas station, and there’s a coffee hut between the tax place and the post office. So, people aren’t going to stop in for coffee. You gotta get them with the bakery aspect, and that was weak.

    And they could have done a Groupon/LivingSocial deal to bring people in.

  5. Does Mr/Ms Eisenberg own the rest of the corner? The single-story liquor store, mini-mall, post office and whats-it shop on the southeast corner, or the gas station with the huge — really huge — asphalt lot on the northwest corner?

    Union and 23rd has to be the most under-utilized space within a mile of the downtown core. Yet it’s a commercial and residential wasteland, year after year. It’s not walkable: the shops — such as they are — are set far too back from the street to encourage that. It has no residential space. It’s aesthetically ugly: huge amounts of asphalt and flat-roofed, featureless buildings. It looks neglected, and it is.

    It’s really regrettable that when the iron was hot, the property owners and the city didn’t leap on the untapped potential of that corner, level it and rebuild it into a vibrant neighborhood corner, instead of the gas-and-liquor wasteland that it continues to be.

    It _is_ a neighborhood corner, but apparently that point is lost on the folks with the most power to do anything about it.

  6. Bubba – No, I do not own the other corners. I am in total agreement with you that the intersection is completely underutilized. All the property owners are working together with each other and with the city to do what is necessary to get to the point of redevelopment. It really is a catch 22 – lease property out to long term tenants necessary to sink real $ into tenant improvements or have it sit vacant or with month to month tenants so it can be redeveloped sooner rather than later. These threads tend to jump to strange conclusions so I am being pretty transparent here because I know all the readers really care about the community, as do I.

  7. im not surprised the city would refuse to let someone have a drive thru due to permitting restrictions. its crap like this that makes people anti government….

    but then again we deserve the government we elect.

  8. Mr Eisenburg – I really do get the sense you are trying to be a good neighbor. Thank you for that. Also, what many people don’t realize too, is that these developments take large loans from the bank, which, of course are next to impossible to get right now. Even for developers who have the capital invested, have good track records and are not in the red.
    i am sad that the bakery didn’t make it. I was waiting for that drive thru to happen!!

  9. Coffeecup – Thanks. A lot of these threads turn into negativity rants. In reality I think everyone wants basically the same thing for the neighborhood and its residents. Unfortunately, I think the banks are hesitant to loan on projects in the immediate area just because there are no comparables. Hopefully the mixed use project on the SW corner breaks ground in 2012!

  10. to open shop in this location? i never went to this shop but too many bake shops are overpriced, have scant selection and do not resemble the stand-alone bakeries of the past in any way. overpriced bread is not enouugh to bring someone in. remember, when you open a business someone might not like kosher bread with garlic and tons of onions in it. you have to make what sels not what tastes good to you.

  11. Hilda – No grant from city. I am no bakery expert but their products were pretty cheap – far cheaper than any place like a Starbucks. None of their bread had “garlic and tons of onions in it.”

  12. I doubt that the lack of drive thru was the main reason for closure. None of us can be sure exactly why they closed. I assume it had to do with a lack of customers, the business plan, and how long they had to turn a profit. The area already has a number of popular coffee shops. Maybe it just didn’t fill a niche that was lacking or lure customers away from their current places.

  13. I’m glad they don’t allow drive-through there. Drive-through windows are for the must-drive-everywhere suburbs. They are not compatible with places where we’re trying to create a pedestrian-friendly environment.

  14. This would be a perfect place for a taco stand. Get the guy who owns Rancho Bravo to open up another place there.

  15. long term you might be right. short term it keeps historically poor areas depressed. We have a several non conforming uses in the area (gas station, car wash). If they are shuttered too long they lose their non conforming status and can’t reopen like the drive through and then sit vacant and boarded up for an extended period of time until finally developed. But I agree with you long term the future of urban business cores are pedestrian (& bikes & public transportation) friendly mixed use higher density projects.

  16. Tres Reyes is delicious. I’ve enjoyed their food.

    Also there’s the tasty taco truck in the gas station parking lot at 23rd and Cherry. Their food is pretty good too.

    That being said, if Rancho Bravo opened a location at 23rd and Union I would be extremely happy, because I think their food is frickin great.

  17. Sad to see this place go. I faithfully went there a couple times a week for the first few months they were open – yeah, I had to drive, but I was usually out running errands in the morning. Not a lot of variety, but really good cinnamon rolls, and the promise of more as they got the business going.
    I would guess the combined pressure of all the remodeling, plus the drive-through, the late start in opening after so many months getting permits etc, that they really needed a lot more bodies through the door just to stay afloat.
    The Soul Food restaurant next door is reopening as a vegetarian place, so there is hope that the corner can have some vitality – driving more people to the location.
    I wish the former BeeHive business owners and the property owners luck.

  18. I can’t help question as to why our neighborhood’s various projects can’t seem to get off the ground while so much new development is popping up just blocks away. Cap Hill has just a much crime as we do, yet I don’t see any hesitation in either banks, developers or business owners investing capital into that area. Columbia City used to be a wasteland without many comps as well. Now look at it. What is the hold up? I feel that we are truly geographically central to all that this city offers yet appear to be abandoned – only considered when someone needs to locate a social service or a church. It is getting so depressing.

  19. @ Dennis – wasn’t it originally a Taco Time? Taco Time And Taco Bell food is utter garbage.

    But anyway, why does that matter? So what if the building was originally a Taco Time? It also was a Philly steak joint and a bakery. So?

  20. Nope. Jack In the Box. Go to google images and type in “vintage jack in the box restaurant” and you’ll immediately see pics of other Jack In The Boxes that look just like it….We think the metal wok that was recently removed was a Taco Time addition.

  21. The building was originally built to be a Church’s Chicken. I can’t remember why it left but then Jack in the Box moved in.

  22. How long is it going to take to transform that area into a little urban village vs. a through-way between the UD and the valley? Is that future even possible in our lifetime? I mean let’s be real.

  23. Why shouldn’t it be possible. I moved here in 1997. At that time Madison was just as bad. The Safeway was an old Safeway, turned bowling alley, turned Planned Parenthood. The new Planned Parenthood was, I seem to recall, an exterminators home base and the nice building across the street was a car towing lot/garage. The Deanos corner was a hangout for dealers and prostitutes. It was all pretty nasty, not so much anymore. Is it totally an urban village yet – no it has some time to go before it gets there, but there’s certainly a lot more foot traffic in the neighborhood and there are new developments still happening. If we get enough people actually living right there the demand for services will follow.

    The problem that I seem to see with a lot of new businesses is that the owners don’t plan for enough time to grow the reputation and the clients… You can’t expect to open something like a bakery and immediately have enough customers to be in the black… you have to actually have a period (and more than a month or so worth) of planned time that you know that you will not even break even… time for people to come, like your goods, be repeat customers, tell other people… It doesn’t just happen here in the CD either. There was a bar that opened on 12th – right across the street from the precinct station that was open, seemed like, for just a few weeks before it closed…

  24. I’ve lived in the CD since 98 and keep hoping that 23rd & Union will turn around … it seems like so many things keep it from becoming vital and inviting. The store fronts on the SE corner are a problem and I think it really stems from the design of the building with the cold, barren sidewalk/plaza. The post office building has a similar issue with the parking in the front … think how much more inviting it would be to have these buildings at the sidewalk.I can’t even talk about what a lost opportunity the gas station is, it’s just too depressing. I hope that Jim Mueller can get financing for one of his projects on Union or on Madison … I’ve heard that Whole Foods is looking at a “this side of the hill” property on Madison and no matter what you might think of WF ..they would be a great anchor tenant and a boon to all the other projects that are looking for a jumpstart. Fingers crossed, all the small local property owners who would love to improve, develop their property on 23rd and Union would most certainly benefit.

  25. A taco bell would be great there. Sure their food is crap but so is all fast food chain stuff. I do like taco bell now and then, mexican pizza is tasty at times!

  26. while that would be nice, I really cannot imagine a whole foods sitting on that corner right now.

  27. It drives me crazy. Without any signage what so ever, how did they expect people to come there. The baked goods were actually pretty good and with a community like ours, there is a good sized market for this, but the fact is that nobody who was not paying attention would have any idea this was a bakery.

    There was a period where they were pulling off the awning and I was hoping that a new sign would pop up, but to no avail. So sad.

    I hope the next tenants of this place have both a great product and good business sense.

  28. I think their target market is further east and this is the closest available real estate … it’s just a rumor though…. there are 3 projects on madison that could handle their footprint.

  29. There was a really fat lady who worked the drive through there when it was Taco Time in the 80’s and everytime she pushed the open window button with her fupa I about died laughing. Ah, good times.

    Sorry to see the building shutter, it’s a busy location for sure, but I think still a little rough around the edges, and redevelopment potential is going to keep any serious tenant out of the running.

  30. The owner and the other baker that worked there were super nice, and the pastries were great! People I’d mentioned it to (while it was open) had no clue what the place was. I think if they had stuck around they may have gotten the business they deserved. Sad to see it close so soon.

  31. Driving by, there was no aesthetic at all, not only on the outside of the building (which is certainly true) but inside, either. It was not clear at all what the business was, either. Agree that basic marketing could help with that.

    It will be wonderful when that corner develops. I think some of the people loitering there are a turn off for parking and visiting, as well (maybe playing country music on the sidewalk like they did at a downtown location would help?)

    I also don’t think drive throughs are inherently bad, if they are managed well, and can be helpful for elderly or mothers with very young children. I’d go for a Starbucks with a window! Certainly something to consider.

    In the meantime, I hope any future businesses use both business sense- and the related aesthetic sensibility- to draw people in.

  32. that would be amazing. it would be even more amazing if the eyesores on MLK between Union and Cherry went away and Whole Foods (or Metropolitan Market) replaced them.

  33. whats the rent on the beehive spot? it would be nice to know…to do some back of the envelope calc’s on how much revenue/traffic it needs

    too bad the city cant give someone a break/loan to move in there – seems like they have plen to flush away on job training for 3 people at the old nova school, and 100s ofmthousands for SPS diversity contractor programs.

    ps would a little landscaping and some paint be that costly to spruce up the place? the little bit they did at the gas station makes a big difference

  34. Would it be so wrong to have a Fred Meyers back in the area either. The one on Broadway Market closed eons ago and it is a trek to Fre-lard or Greenwood (now being redeveloped?)

    Our area is desperately missing needed services and goods and the draw to this area comes from the entire central-east-side of Seattle.

    The City can’t do much, having it’s hands tied by State laws against acting as a development authority. There is the community development corporation model though, such as behind Pike Place Market, that might be employed.

  35. I would love to have a Fred Meyer here. We talked about it on this web site when the 23rd and Jackson site (southeast corner) was sold, but nothing ever happened.

  36. Maybe we can coordinate a business recruitment strategy. If you can pull in partners such as low income housing development (Capitol Hill Housing?) such as was done at Broadway and Pine, you can leverage City and state funding.

    Here is the Fred Meyer real estate contacts; maybe we need to give them done incentive to look into our neck of the woods:

    What else might we need?

  37. The city won’t allow any nice landscaping in the 23rd and union area. Only chain link fences and 5 foot tall decidous trees are allowed. The police department treats the area like the DMZ (They even had a spy bunker next to the liquor store). Cops want line of site on all businesses in the area without having to get out of their squad cars. Until the city and the developers of this area change the zoning regulations and invest in some beautification themselves, it will continue to suffer. I tried talking to the police department about this, but I recieved the most obtuse answer.

  38. I live less than two blocks from what apparently was Beehive, and I pass through that intersection numerous times every week. I had no idea they were even open. Maybe, uh, a better sign?