Good news for North Broadway

It hasn't been that long since the north end of Broadway seemed all dead and forlorn.

Safeway and Bartell's had moved out. QFC had been shunted southward, into sister chain Fred Meyer's former space.

Orpheum Records, the Jade Pagoda and the Elite Tavern had all gone to that great storefront in the sky. The Broadway Market Cinemas, a major foot-traffic generator, had shuttered. Another big area draw, Cornish College, had mostly moved down the hill.

Even Taco Bell closed.

That was the area's winter of discontent.

Now it's spring. And things are looking up, at long last.

The Harem boutique's going strong, selling bellydance-inspired street wear and related styles. Other young women's stores are said to be on the way.

The Brix condominiums, at the ex-Safeway site, are well under way, having begun construction just as the national housing market was peaking.

The former QFC/Bartell's half block hasn't reached the groundbreaking stage yet. But there's still a good chance it will do so this year.

And north Broadway is the new home to one of my own all time fave stores ever, Broadway News.

When the venerable magazine store suddenly vanished from its longtime spot near Broadway and Denny (not long after the demise of its former sister store Fremont News), I was worried.

What with many mainstream periodicals losing ground in the Internet Age, could there be room anymore for a store that offered the more exotic, specialized, and international pieces of print? When you can look up Le Monde Diplomatique or Cooking Light online, why go out to buy a copy? And with so much fun esoterica and cute "user generated content" on the Web, why purchase a dead-tree edition of McSweeney's or Psychotronic?

As it turns out, enough to keep Broadway News going in a new, bigger, brighter space. Yeah, it's farther from the 43 and 8 bus lines than the old location, and it'll be a ways from the future light rail station. But if you're gonna get out of the house to get something to read, a few more blocks won't likely hurt you.


imperfect web

This is where a crankier, more tradition-bound print media employee would preach to you all about the sociocultural value of good ol' fashioned print media, why that bedeviled Internet's just plain no good and why not one thing invented since my own youth is any good whatsoever (with the possible exception of DVDs and certain prescription medications).

But I've never held that geezer-esque attitude. In fact, I've blamed that attitude for a lot of what's wrong with the "old media" industry.

You'll never attract the new audiences you need if you sneer at them, or if you brand them as mindless hordes who'll never know what's good for them.

And besides, some of you are reading this online right now, and enjoying the option to do so.

Still, there are many sensual, tactile joys from print you just can't get from a screen. Especially with magazines.

Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand once said something to the effect that the magazine was the publishing industry's ultimate product. Books, Brand noted, were usually staid, one-shot affairs; while newspapers

were constrained by rigid layout formats and tight deadlines. But the magazine came out just often enough to do its job, bringing forth shiny, full-color visual and verbal stimuli.

As someone who's recently worked in the Web design trenches, I've been frustrated by its limitations, by those eight measly text fonts and the uncertainty of how any given page will look on any given computer. It's made me appreciate magazines even more.

This feast for the eyes is even more spectacular at a large magazine store.

Note how The Believer's design, all cozy and friendly, captures the intimacy of reading. Compare it with the stodgier New York Review of Books.

Contrast the visions of ideal womanhood expressed in American Elle, French Elle, Ms., and Bust. (Hint: You won't find the latter title in the porn section.)

So get over to the new, bigger Broadway News right away.

Just make sure you actually buy something when you go there. As the convenience-store magazine racks proclaim, the place ain't a library.

Clark Humphrey's column appears in the first issue of each month. Reach him at His Web site on local popular culture is

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