MEDINA — Tuesday afternoon at Medina Market was meant to be an open house for longtime customers of the corner grocery store to see the owners one last time before its red doors close.
Still, some customers wanted coffee, or their standing-order sandwich, or a 10-cent Lifesaver candy. Between hugs and photos, owners Jung Won “Jay” Jin and Hae Sun “Ann” You kept working, like they’ve done nearly every day for 11 years in the store that’s been a Medina fixture.
Medina Market has several names: Medina Grocer & Deli, as it says on the business’s overhang; or simply “the market” — it’s the only grocery store in Medina — or “the green store” because of its signature green exterior. And the store has had several owners since it first opened in 1908, been torn down and rebuilt, and served as the center of a lawsuit, zoning objections and historic preservation debates.
But on Thursday, Jin and You will close for their final time. A moving truck will take away the small buckets that held candy for kids stopping by after school, the banner of paper sandwich orders and the display of holiday cards customers sent to the couple each year.
The closure adds to the growing list of “mom and pop” shops that have struggled to survive amid rising property values and supermarket mergers.
“I was so sad, but now I feel better, because I can say goodbye to my customers,” You said Tuesday.
The building is staying, but their lease is ending. Jin, 59, and You, 57, want to take some time to rest and travel back to Korea, where one of their two sons is completing his two years of required military service. They originally moved to the U.S. for the children’s education and looked at upward of 50 stores, Jin said. They settled on the Medina building because, You told Jin, the neighborhood seemed peaceful.
It hadn’t always been calm. In 2000, the building’s owner closed the store, intending to rebuild it with the same look as before, and tore it down five years later. The green store was rebuilt and modernized, but disputes over zoning and historic value, and objections from some neighbors, delayed the reopening until 2008.
Three years later, You and Jin began running the store, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
The customer base ranges in this wealthy enclave, which counts Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Charles Simonyi among its about 3,000 residents. Billionaires have stopped by to purchase bottles of wine, and construction workers come in for lunch. Jin wouldn’t identify his famous customers — it was clear they wanted to be private, he added. Sometimes people come in and ask where Gates or Bezos live, but Jin won’t say. He likes that anyone, the billionaire or the hourly worker, can come in and feel welcome.
“Everyone here, they’re so kind to us,” he said.
Effie Magnano and her family were new to the neighborhood when she stopped by the store and asked if she could set up a house account — an in-store account where the customer gets a regular bill. Jin told her he wanted to wait to “see how you operate,” Magnano recalled with a laugh. The Magnanos passed the test, and they became close with the owners over the years. When she was pregnant, You gave her homemade gifts. Her children come by now for treats.
Customers joked that the market, one of the only commercial businesses in the city, served as a makeshift community and child care center. Some boys were acting up one day, so Jin called their parents. Parents have called them to say that their kids were officially cut off from their house account after they got an unexpectedly high bill with ice cream and candy.
“Everyone feels very seen,” Heija Nunn said.
This week, residents gave You and Jin one more send-off, raising $75,000 for the couple in their retirement.
You’s favorite memory has been watching the kids who stopped in after school grow up, then stop back in during college breaks as adults.
“When they’re back, they come by to say hello,” she said. “I love them. At those times, I was so happy.”
She went behind the espresso stand to take another coffee order. For a little while longer, back to work.
Material from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.