Dean of Fourth Avenue
Dean of Fourth Avenue
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I suspect that everyone who falls in love with Seattle adopts a neighbourhood, gathering place, park or street as the object of particular affection. Sometime Seattle resident Robyn Hitchcock wrote a song about it, Belltown Ramble, listing all his favourite haunts while – naturally enough – rambling around Belltown. For me, it is Fourth Avenue. It’s a great place to live. When I first arrived in Seattle in the fall of 2002, it was a walkable feast of shops, attractions and cultural assets – and at the head of the street there stands the constant beacon of the Space Needle.


But things have changed due to economic circumstances: first, one of my favourite pit stops walking home was Borders bookshop. But they went out of business, what with competition from Barnes & Noble and also Amazon. Then there was the metamorphosis of The Bon Marché – Seattle’s very own imposing department store, launched here in 1890 – into Macy’s, where at least the tradition continues of its magical star at Christmas.  But sadly, across from what’s now Macy’s, another Seattle icon went out of business in the Fourth Avenue corridor. Sherman Clay Pianos didn’t make it in the cut-throat digital world. The Steinway dealer, where the Beatles had rehearsed on the second floor, had been on Fourth since 1926 but is now gone.


Some, though, continue to defy the odds, such as the old-school grease monkey establishment of Dean Transmissions. It’s been there since 1971, with its wonderful period neon signage still going strong after 43-years. They say it is still in business due to the good service and competitive pricing; and no-one has a bad word to say against it. And after 43-years, I think it is now the longest-continuously running business on the corridor, definitely making it the Dean of Fourth Avenue.


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