This is not the first story written about the newsstand at Pike Place Market, especially in the last few weeks. But it could very well be one of the last.
On Dec. 31, the newsstand at bustling Pike Street and First Avenue for 40 years will close for good. And on a recent Monday morning, nearly everyone who drops by says they regret that news.
“I’m sorry you’re closing,” says a woman carrying a freshly bought centerpiece from another stall.
“This is part of the character of the market,” says another passerby.
“Which way to the Gum Wall?” asks a woman with some kids in tow. (They get a lot of that, here.)
Greg Schroedl has been buying magazines for his family at the newsstand for 30 years.
“It’s a Christmas tradition to do stocking-stuffer magazines that match our family’s interests for that year,” he says, opening a tote bag to reveal magazines about European design, trucks, photography and more.
Schroedl buys things at other times of the year, too, including car magazines for himself.
“It’s going to be really sad” when the newsstand closes, he says.
But people like Schroedl are the exception, not the rule. People just aren’t buying print publications like they used to, says Lee Lauckhart, owner of First & Pike News, the official name of this stand.
“All media has been under attack by the digital world,” he said. “Some of it’s been great, but some of it not so great. That’s been affecting this business for a long time.”
At one point, this newsstand routinely carried 180 papers from around the world. Today it’s five, including the Nome Nugget, from Nome, Alaska. The newsstand used to have 2,500 magazine and journal titles. That number is smaller today, too.
But Lauckhart hasn’t really made money off the newsstand for about a decade. He doesn’t take a paycheck and instead lives off his Social Security income, using the money from the stand to pay employees above the minimum wage.
“I’ve never paid the minimum wage,” he said. “I’m proud of that. It’s expensive to live in this part of the world.”
The clerk on duty today is William Ward, who has been on the job here for five years — and he’s one of the new people. Lauckhart says he has employees who have worked at the stand for 20 or 30 years. (Ward says he already has a new job lined up in a warehouse, not far from where he lives.)
Lauckhart worked in Manhattan at a newsstand near East 23rd Street and Park Avenue. He came back to Seattle and worked at businesses in Pike Place Market, and friends there told him to start a newsstand of his own in Seattle.
He says he’ll miss seeing the regulars every day, but will be glad to step away from a business that’s been losing money for so long. And if someone wants to take over and give it a go, more power to them, Lauckhart says.
As he’s talking to KNKX, someone comes up and politely interrupts.
“I wanted to wish you the best of luck in your next adventure,” says the man.
Lauckhart smiles, saying “my next adventure will be a rocking chair with a book.”