The moon is no longer rising: Longtime astrology shop to close

After 30 years in the 4700 block of University Way, one of the Ave's quirkier stores, Astrology et al, will close its doors on Halloween day.

The specialty store not only stocks more than 1,500 astrology related books but also carries tarot cards, incense, posters and a lot of other random items relating to astrology and spirituality.

Owner Gregory N. Nalbandian noted several reasons why the longtime business, the largest of its kind in Seattle, must close.

"With the state of things on the Ave, my customer draw is down to nothing. (With) rising gas prices as well as book sales on the Internet, there's just no way I can stay open," said Nalbandian. He will still operate the business over the Internet (

Nalbandian said he doesn't think the Ave is bad altogether, just above 47th Street where his store is located.

"It's the crack dealers. I see them almost every day; they give this block a bad element and make customers fearful to come this far up the Ave," he said. He pointed out the window at a group of young people across the street meandering about.

Historically the upper blocks of University Way haven't always been as segregated as they are now. Nalbandian noted that before it was Astrology et al his location is where Bruce Lee opened his first dojo to teach his new form of martial arts called Jeet Kun Do while Lee was a student at the University of Washington.

Part of the reason Astrology et al is closing is that the official "window-shopping" corridor of the Ave ends at the 4700 block. To compound the problem, three of the stores south of Nalbandian's have vacated so developers can install high-end condos in their place.

"I had faith the street work would improve conditions on the Ave," said Nalbandian, referring to the street and sidewalk makeover that took place on University Way between 40th and 50th streets in 2003. He might not have realized that improved conditions would attract condominium developers.

Nalbandian described how the Ave has changed over the 30 years he has known it: "In the '70s it was the hippies-a lot of pot selling going on. In the '80s there were a lot of homeless kids-but they were harmless. In the '90s is when the crack started to come around-and now everyone knows that the U District is where you go to get crack."

Nalbandian described what he thinks the Ave needs to do in order to get rid of the bad element. "Simply, the Ave needs better management and an image makeover," he said. "Cosmetic improvements can only go so far."

A decisive moment came for Nalbandian recently when a customer, a first-year UW student living in the dorms, told him that his RA (resident advisor) told his floor that pretty much there was no need to go past 47th on the Ave where Astrology et al is located.

"How am I supposed to get new business when students are told not to go this far up the Ave?" he said.

BRIAN KERIN is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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