Metropolitan Market: say it isn't so

Jeez, is nothing sacred?

I was just getting the hang of making out my checks to Metropolitan Market, not Queen Anne Thriftway, when the news comes about the upper Queen Anne mainstay possibly losing its lease to QFC.

Contrary to Friday's article in the Seattle P-I, it's not a done deal (see Page 1 in today's News).

Still, the possibility is a lump of coal in Queen Anne's stocking.

OK, full disclosure up front: Metropolitan Market is one of this newspaper's biggest advertisers. If they do in fact lose their lease and don't relocate in the neighborhood, we here at the newspaper will blink, for sure. But we'll soldier on.

This is about more than just business. It's about community.

Dick Rhodes bought the store in 1971. Rhodes, who died in 2003, established not only an upscale, destination market known for its fresh fish, fruit and flowers, but an engine that would give back to the community.

Rhodes was one of five founders of the Queen Anne Helpline in 1982. Those were tough economic times. The story goes that Rhodes was galvanized to do something about poverty in the neighborhood when he saw some of his older, harder-hit customers bringing pet food to the checkout line. Rhodes knew those customers well enough to know they didn't have pets. As creation myths go, this one is true.

The Queen Anne Thriftway/Metropolitan Market link with Queen Anne Helpline has been one of this community's points of light over the years. Rhodes retired from the business in 1992, but the tradition of community service continued under business partners Terry Halverson, who grew up in the business under Rhodes, and Rhodes' daughter, Melinda Wilker.

There are now five Metropolitan Market stores, but the Queen Anne version is the flagship and heart and soul of the group.

All along the store has remained committed to helping the Helpline and other causes. And it's continued to feel like home to numerous Queen Anne folk. The bevy of longtime employees, not a few characters among them, speaks well of the business as a place to work.

Shoppers feel that.

If the change comes, we'll be treated to QFC corporate speak about the importance of community and all that. QFC, headquartered in Bellevue, is owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. so we'll get to read only the slickest of press releases. But believe me, Queen Anne would be trading, in terms of business passion, personality and community commitment, a full-bodied Beaujolais Village for Near-beer.

Let's hope, this time next year, we're not counting down the last days of Metropolitan Market on Queen Anne.

And let's not forget - there's still hope.

Mike Dillon is publisher of the News and one of its former editors.

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