Seattle Press
Shift From Local to Corporate Ownership of Local Grocery Stuns Placid Wedgwood
Alice Nugent protests QFC's move to the Matthew's Red Apple store in Wedgwood.
The message to QFC was loud and clear: Not in my community. Hundreds of Wedgwood, View Ridge, Windemere and Laurelhurst neighbors gathered in the Matthew's Red Apple parking lot Saturday morning, May 15, to protest QFC's intention to take over the store at 8400 35th Avenue NE on June 15.

Red Apple owner Craig Mavis lost the site to QFC when he forgot to renegotiate his lease. A clause in his lease agreement with Western Property Management required that Mavis notify the property owner of his intent to renew his lease six months prior to the expiration of the first term, a period of ten years that ended in November, 1998. Mavis did not send in the written notice, and Western Property Management let him know in late November, 1998, that his lease had expired. Despite Mavis' efforts to renew his lease with Western Property Management, the company signed a letter of understanding with QFC in January. Wes Williams, the property owner and president of Western Property Management, did not disclose this fact to Mavis, and Mavis believed he was still competing with other prospective tenants. Williams played Mavis off QFC for the next four months before signing a lease with QFC in May.

"I would do anything to remain at Red Apple," said Craig Mavis. "I don't want to leave, I never wanted to leave." It's not clear whether QFC and Western Property Management will bow to community pressure. QFC is on record saying that they'll back away from the lease with Western Property Management if the community does not want a QFC at Red Apple. Wedgwood neighbors have gathered more than 4500 signatures in support of their petition to keep QFC out of the Red Apple. But QFC told Craig and Carrie Mavis they want a "broom-clean" of the store by June 15, that is, no stock and no employees. The Mavises aren't putting new stock on the shelves, and they are preparing to vacate the store as ordered.

Gail Carlson, a 21-year resident of View Ridge, doesn't believe QFC will make good on its promise. "QFC had their PR guy over Wednesday night to meet with the community, but he was just figuring out a plan of attack. And they already brought the big freezers in."

"We would like a choice," added Carlson, a 21-year resident of View Ridge. "Matthew's Red Apple is a part of our community. QFC can't be that."

Neighbors are worried that if QFC moves into the Red Apple, eventually the store will expand to cover the three blocks from NE 82nd to 85th Streets. Western Property Management owns the three blocks, which has been developed in strip mall fashion and is home to the popular Wedgwood Broiler. The restaurant's lease expires in 5 years. "Look at this parking lot," said Carlson, pointing to the narrow strip of asphalt abutting the Red Apple. "Is this a QFC parking lot?"

"Those three blocks are the geographic and spiritual core of Wedgwood," said Jane Johnson, president of the Wedgwood Community Council. "We are worried. It could change dramatically. It could become another University Village. Who knows?"

If you would like to register your opinion, you can call Mike Hughes, president of QFC at 425-455-3761; Bob Miller, president of Fred Meyer (parent company of QFC) at 503-797-7138; or Wes Williams, Western Property Management, 206-660-8899.