Mercer Island 2018 Local Business Year in Review

December 3, 2018 | by Erin Sirianni

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It has been another exciting year of reporting on local business activities on Mercer Island. As is our annual tradition, here’s a look back at the biggest openings, quiet closures, and what you can look forward to in the year ahead.

What opened? 

It was a particularly busy year for the Boyd commercial building at 7605 SE 27th St, where three new tenants opened up shop. With the aim of serving “health-conscious enthusiasts” with juices, smoothies, elixirs, salads, and the like, Sano Cafe opened in February, two doors down from the Chamber of Commerce location, and has been busy ever since.

As Sano Cafe responded to the uber-healthy consumer demand, Island Treats, which opened in June, answered to local sugar cravings – seemingly insatiable considering another chocolate shop and two ice cream shops are located within walking distance. Island Treats brings hand-made chocolates, caramels, marshmallows, toffees, pretzel thingies, and bulk candy to the mix.

Barrels Wine Bar also opened in June on Mercer Island and is located between the Chamber of Commerce and Island Treats. Barrels is a wine retailer and bar that serves wine by the glass or in tasting flights along with local craft beer, appetizers, small bites, and desserts.

Convivial Café was another celebrated opening this summer. The busy bakery-cafe serves up delicious specialty coffee, pastries, quick breads, quiches, soups, and more, and is located in the Islandia Shopping Center near Island Books and Terra Bella.

Several fitness, health, and wellness businesses opened this year. Club Pilates opened in the spring and offers daily Pilates classes, ranging from introductory classes to advanced Cardio Sculpt workouts. OsteoStrong opened in Mercer Island Town Center in July and offers a skeletal strength conditioning program.  Two spas also opened this year, including LeGuerisseur and Spa Celeste.

All newly opened Mercer Island businesses include:

  • Sano Cafe
  • Island Treats
  • Barrels Wine Bar
  • Convivial Café
  • Club Pilates
  • OsteoStrong – a skeletal strength conditioning program
  • LeGuerisseur, The Healer – Hawaiian wellness spa
  • Spa Celeste – Blu Room therapy
  • First Church of Christ, Scientist – Church and Reading Room

New ownership

The Mercer Island Auto Spa changed ownership this year – Suzanne Skone sold the business to Brandon Santos, who was the Auto Spa manager since 2006. Phobulous, located at 3033 78th Ave SE next to Rite-Aid, is now Pho Em and also has new ownership.

What closed?

Freshy’s Seafood Shack, a popular fish-and-chips spot located in a refurbished 76 gas station, closed last week, though shoppers can still purchase fresh sustainable seafood from Freshy’s Local Market, located in the Hadley building. Bark Avenue closed after 13 years serving the local community. Siler’s Dry Cleaning and I Luv Pho also closed this year.

A big move…

After six decades of operating on Mercer Island, Farmer’s New World Insurance moved to Bellevue, leaving one of the island’s largest commercial buildings vacant. The five-floor building offers 146,172 square feet and can accommodate up to 800 people.

What’s ahead?

Though owner Bryce Caldwell just closed his fish-and-chips joint, he is launching a new healthy dining concept in Freshy’s Local Market, in which the fish will be cooked sous vide rather than battered and fried. (Stay tuned for more details.)

For the scoop on other possible business activities and developments, we called Laurie Givan, Executive Director of the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce, who said new businesses looking to open on Mercer Island aren’t lacking, but rather it’s the retail space that’s limited.

“The vacancy rate percentage is tiny,” she said. “If you look around, there are very few retail spaces that are open, and the same holds true for buildings with more than one story.”

She shared that potential tenants are lining up for the desirable commercial space that is available. According to Givan, the Boyd building owner has a list of retailers interested in the former I Luv Pho space, which is in the process of being remodeled.

Givan expressed optimism for the year ahead, especially if a new commercial tenant moves into the Farmer’s Insurance building. “I see 2019 staying very strong for Mercer Island,” she said. “If [the Farmer’s Insurance building] was full, it would be really great for the economic vitality of Mercer Island.”

If anyone has any tips in regard to a potential new tenant of the building, we’d love to hear from you!

Are you a local business owner? Feel free to share your business reflections for the year 2018. Any business news we missed? Let us know in the comments.