THIS LOW-RISE commercial avenue with diverse signs, street awnings and poled power is Roosevelt Way Northeast looking north through Northeast 64th Street on Sunday, May 7, 1946. It is a typical midcentury American hodgepodge, by now nostalgic. Similar to a few other local intersections then, this one displays one commanding eccentricity, a Van de Kamp bakery’s landmark windmill.
At this northeast corner everything within and without was, to quote the company’s promotion, “artistically decorated in delft blue and white,” except, of course, the baked goods. There were 150 of these, including “17 kinds of old Dutch coffee cakes,” noted on the sign above the awning. All were “guaranteed fresh every day.” Inside the windmill were the “Dutch Girl” hostesses, who wore flamboyant hats that resembled the wings of a plumpish swan extended for a landing. For the formal opening Aug. 7, 1929, the company invited all Seattle to visit its 15 “beautiful stores.” Less than four months later Van de Kamp’s claimed 19 locations. The company continued to grow during the Great Depression and promoted products into the 1980s, but by then within supermarkets. That is how I remember them, with windmills limited to in-store signs and on logos for its products.
One door north is Brehm’s, a pickle fancier’s deli that got its modest Pike Place Market start in the teens and, like its neighbor, kept growing, reaching 14 “convenient locations” in 1941. At the north end of this block is Sears, which opened at the corner of Northeast 65th Street in 1929 and kept selling there for half a century, closing early in 1980. A Seattle City Light neighborhood service center on the left at 6401 Roosevelt Way N.E. also opened in 1929. The state later stocked one of its first post-Prohibition liquor stores next door.
The Sunlight Café is on the corner now. Its longevity is impressive. When it took occupancy in 1980 the Sunlight was one of merely three vegetarian restaurants in Seattle. Now there are dozens. Although he is no landmark windmill, Joe Noone, one of the Sunlight’s worker-owners, is mildly eccentric. Joe is a classics scholar who might be found reading ancient Greek after creating a vegetable tofu sauté.
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