Rat City Records & Relics — gone. Cow Chip Cookies — gone. The famous downtown Elephant Car Wash — also gone. If you just arrived in the Emerald City, you can be forgiven for not noticing that Seattle’s cultural and business landscape has been … terraformed. Yes, I know the old saying: “The only constant in life is change.” But what happens to a city when the places where people gather, connect, and build community disappear? What happens to a city’s soul when locally owned and quirky is replaced by corporate-owned and … well, boring? Since 2018, Vanishing Seattle filmmakers Cynthia Brothers and Martin Tran have been documenting Seattle’s rapid transformation in a six-film series, so they’re intimately acquainted with the city’s metamorphosis. I had the opportunity to speak with them about how the city has changed, why they’re documenting disappearing places, and how they’ve been personally impacted by it all.
The owners of four beloved South Seattle cafes — Beach Bakery, Cafe Avole, Cafe Red, and The Station — recount the stories of their opening, discuss the impact of the pandemic, and look cautiously towards the future.
Beach Bakery’s proprietor, Amy O’Connell, has been around the block and back in food service, whether it’s waiting tables, cooking diner food, bartending, washing dishes, or cooking gourmet cuisine. She’s sought further insight, travelling on a shoestring budget to experience the food cultures of various countries in Europe and provinces of Mexico. Amy’s also been to hell and back. Fortunately for the South End, she eventually figured out exactly how she wanted to express herself in the industry: “The more down to earth, the more comfortable food is, the more comforting food is, the better I am with it, and the better I am sharing it with other people.”