After sitting empty for years, the large storefront in Hoquiam’s La Vogue building may finally have a tenant: a public market. Plans for the venture are still in the preliminary stages, but the market could open as early as June.
Space on the second floor of the building could be converted into an assisted living facility.
Building owner Wade Entezar and former Grays Harbor County commissioner Al Carter have joined forces for the market, hoping to lure shoppers downtown. Entezar said the market will feature local food, arts and crafts.
“We’re trying to make a market that’s made in Grays Harbor and that showcases the talent of Grays Harbor,” Entezar said. “We’re not looking for this to be a garage sale or to sell second-hand stuff.”
Besides some minor cosmetic alterations, the character of the storefront will remain the same. The store formerly housed La Vogue department store, commonly called “La Vogue’s,” for about 100 years. Carter said they’ll re-finish the tongue-and-groove fir floors that were installed when the building was first constructed, and the cabinets lining the walls will be used to display merchandise. And, of course, they also plan on keeping the antique cash register that sits in the center of the room.
“We couldn’t let that go,” Carter said. “It’s way to cool.”
The space will be divided into about 15 stalls, which will be leased out for short periods of time. Entezar said he wants to keep costs low for vendors. And the vendors won’t necessarily have to man the stalls — there will be a central cash register.
The market wouldn’t be open every day initially. Carter said he hopes the market will be open Saturdays, and if the venture is successful, they’ll expand from there.
“We want it to be a success so we’re starting off slow,” Carter said.
No vendors have committed to the project yet, but Carter said he’s hoping to rope in local staples like Michael’s Farm Fresh Meats or Jay’s Farm Stand.
While there’s already a market in Hoquiam, the Grays Harbor Public Market located on Sumner Avenue, Carter said he’s not trying to compete. He admitted that he was inspired by the market’s success, but said there’s more than enough local talent to go around.
When contacted about the prospect of the new market, Grays Harbor Public Market Manager Barbara Bennett Parsons declined to comment.
John Larson, director of the Polson Museum, said preserving the La Vogue building will be important for Grays Harbor culture, as the building and the former department store have long been staples of the community.
The building was constructed in the 1900s by the Lytle family, who owned a logging company and timber mill. The Bitar family later purchased the structure and opened La Vogue’s, which remained open and family-run until around the end of 2008. The Bitars began selling bicycles in the 1950s, and the bike shop still operates on the first floor.
“I have long been fascinated with the building,” Larson said. “I’ve been a patron of the bike shop since I was a small boy — and the department store. A lot of people who grew up around here are the same way.”
Entezar, who lives in Bellevue and runs Entezar Development Group, purchased the building in 2009. He initially wanted to open a 19-room boutique motel and restaurant, but abandoned the plan due to the poor economy.
Entezar listed the building with Premier Realty Grays Harbor for $650,000 in December of 2011, but it never sold. He said he plans on owning the building for the foreseeable future, and the public market and assisted living facility won’t be short-term ventures.
The assisted living facility is still in preliminary stages, and Entezar is currently going through the permitting process.
He said he hopes to find a local company to operate the facility.
Those interested in becoming vendors at the public market can reach Al Carter by phone at (360) 581-3220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.