One of Seattle’s most prominent antique malls will operate under new management, after a last-minute scramble to find a new operator before it was scheduled to close at the end of August.
Epic Antique, owned by Seattle antique vendor Tom Gorz, will open a sister location called Lander Street Vintage in the mall formerly known as Pacific Galleries Antique Mall. The new mall, which will initially look similar to Pacific Galleries, is planning to open in mid-September, Gorz said.
“Pacific Galleries has such history … we don’t want to lose all of that,” said Gorz. “But at the same time, we do want to create an excitement that we have created at Epic.”
Lander Street Vintage, a new business owned by Gorz, signed a lease with Seattleite Grace Li, who owns the Sodo warehouse. Li, 72, and her 75-year-old husband have operated Pacific Galleries out of the warehouse since 2003 but announced three months ago they sought to retire.
“It’s a happy ending,” said Li. “It’s a win-win situation for the city, for the antique shoppers, and for everybody.”
Gorz’s professional background is in retail and merchandising. He also owns Tom Gorz Collection and Complete Estate Sales Northwest, and before opening Epic Antique, spent 10 years as a vendor inside Pacific Galleries.
“Tom has a great eye for things,” said Noah Chen, Li’s son-in-law who is a software engineer but also helped with Pacific Galleries. “He personally knows all the dealers in the mall. So he knows who brings in the good stuff.”
Despite Pacific Galleries having been a family business, Li said neither of her two daughters expressed interest in taking over the mall. Li said they are part of what she calls the “Ikea generation” that places less value on old belongings and antiques.
Gorz declined to provide details on the terms and length of the lease because he “doesn’t want anyone to think there’s an end date.” He said he plans to grow the business with many of the initiatives that have worked well at Epic, including special events, promotions, and outdoor flea markets.
In the last three months, Pacific Galleries had significant closing promotions, marking many items down approximately 20% to 50%. During that time, foot traffic increased drastically as people flocked to make their final purchases, said Jackie Bailey, a vendor and dealer of nine months at the mall.
“They wanted a piece of the mall,” Bailey said. “They were willing to walk all the halls and the aisles, and stand in a line with 25 people to get their little treasure.”
Elly Balandova, a customer who works at an urgent care location near Pacific Galleries, said she has visited the mall almost daily in her scrubs during her lunch breaks for the past six months. She was disappointed when the mall initially announced it would close.
“I like the fact that the vendors constantly update their merchandise,” Balandova said. “Eventually it kind of started feeling like a growing, breathing organism that evolves … on a regular basis.”
Balandova hopes prices at the mall will stay relatively the same, noting that she perceives Epic’s products to be more premium. She prefers to buy small knickknacks from vendors instead of “furniture from the Victorian era,” which the mall also sells. “I’m one of those ‘oh, a rusty old cigarette case from the ’60s. Yeah, I’ll buy that for nine bucks.’”
“I kept hoping that there would be a Hail Mary at the end,” said Balandova,” which ended up happening.”