By Richard McLeland-Wieser
Tukwila Historical Society
Doors can be physical or symbolic. The front door of the O.C. Thompson building is both. For almost a century, businesses have come and gone: a hardware store, shoe repair, a rock shop, antiques and today, Friendz Cafe. Yet, one thing remains constant: Thousands of customers have entered the same front door.
Comparing a 1937 photo with a current image reveals, not only the door, but the door knob is the same.
At the Northeast corner of the Riverton Crossroads of Valley Highway and Glenwood (now East Marginal Way and South 130th Street), the building was the epicenter of a thriving commercial center. During its heyday from 1920 to 1950, Riverton had an Interurban rail station, post office, general store, public school, butcher, cobbler, mercantile/feed store, grocery, auto repair, tavern, church, bakery and even a hospital.
In addition to Thompson Hardware, the building originally housed other businesses. The large open second floor hosted community meetings, dances and even boxing. Now, it is divided into apartments. The basement was home to a card room and pool hall.
In the 1930s, Stuart Naylor opened a bakery in the north part of the building. Success led him to move to a larger space near Southcenter. Today, that space is home to Bella Materna. Proprietor Anne Dimond offers beautiful apparel for pregnant women and new mothers.
Since 1922, the storefront on the east has housed a barber shop. For more than 40 years, Johnny and Gertie Dennis kept Riverton residents well-coiffed. Men’s haircut: 25 cents. Women’s permanents: $1. In the 1940s, Mike Yellam took ownership. He cut hair into the 21st Century. Today, enter the door next to the striped barber pole into Lisa’s Barber & Salon. Lisa Larrabee-Nitschke operates a modern salon with a touch of the past, including a vintage barber chair.
Head down to Riverton Crossroads. Friendz Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and will be open evenings with wine and beer beginning Jan. 10. Lisa will make you look sharp. A new mother or expecting? Anne will get you looking stylish.
Richard McLeland-Wieser is vice president of the Tukwila Historical Society, which operates the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center, 14475 59th Ave. S. The center’s phone number is 206-244-4478 and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.