HEARTBREAK?! We have a call into the Department of Planning and Development, and Goldy's going to go investigate—we will update tomorrow. Meanwhile, Slog reader Jennifer writes:
I know that in the past, the Stranger has written great reviews about the Silver Fork so I thought you might be interested in my thoughts about Safeway seeking to replace it with a gas station and minimart.
We moved to the Rainier Valley—with our two children—in the fall of 2007. The very first restaurant we ate at was the Silver Fork on Rainier. While it was a bit shabby compared to newer restaurants in the area, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Perhaps it was the influence of the music—either soul or motown or gospel—but people actually said good morning to each other. Customers with children could count on a handful of crayons and coloring book pages to keep the kids busy until the meal arrived. And breakfast itself was, well, darned yummy. I quickly became addicted to the biscuits and gravy. As our family expanded, we continued to patronize the Silver Fork for breakfast and always left full and happy and humming. At one point, the kids and I would tear in every other Friday morning. We got to be familiar with the group of retired gentlement who seemed to have regular Friday breakfast club. When my youngest child decided that pancakes were best with gravy, our server just laughed and bring him a gravy boat full for his pancakes...
I must confess our visits dropped off in the last year—for us, breakfast out was a family thing and when our oldest went off to middle school, it threw the family schedule for a loop. But still, for me, nothing replaced the Silver Fork.
Last week driving down Rainier, I saw the first time a notice board off to the side announcing that Safeway was seeking a permit to tear down the building and put in a gas station and minimart. My initial thought was that the restaurant owners must be tired from all those early mornings and were selling their restaurant and retiring and while I would be awfully sad to see them go, well everyone who works hard should have the right to a nice retirement, right? So I figured I would be sad and do one last visit for the biscuits and gravy, but I would be happy for the restaurant owners.
So we went to the Silver Fork today for our classic breakfast special and to learn more about the closure. What I learned was the the building that restaurant was in was actually rented from someone else and that it was this owner who had sold the land to Safeway and it was Safeway who was working to tear down the restaurant and install a gas station and minimart. Contrary to what I had speculated when I saw the sign, it would seem the restaurant didn't want to close but the lease was up and well, they were being given no choice.
Now I understand maybe some people think we need another gas station in the area. I would beg to differ but that's okay. But even if we do need a gas station must we really lose the restaurant to gain the gas station? Oh I know the business logic—the Silver Fork is on a corner and that would give lots of access to the gas station from two sides. Still it seems like an awfully big parking lot at the Safeway—a lot which I have NEVER seen full except for maybe at Seafair. Can't the plans be shifted more to the middle so the restaurant can stay on the corner? And do we really need a mini mart? Isn't the Safeway enough?
What I find more startling is the silence about the whole thing. I thought I had been slack (I often am) and missed hearing about the restaurant closing. But when I googled the topic, I couldn't find any stories. All I find are great reviews about the Silver Fork. That started me thinking that a large number of the patrons of Silver Fork appear to be late middle aged or retired people of color—is the problem that they don't think it will matter if they do speak up? Would there be such silence if the restaurant being closed was popular with the gentrifiers of the Rainier Valley—say maybe Geraldine's in Columbia City (which is a fine restaurant but definitely attracts a different group of people)?
As I tell my children, the neat thing is we live in a democracy and we have a voice. So I am speaking up. The time for comments on the gas station permit has not closed. In that the people who eat at the Silver Fork are many of the same people shopping at the Safeway, I would think our voices should count for something.
I would encourage the Stranger to at least make the community aware of this development. If no one wants to speak up and oppose destruction of the building, well then at least the opportunity to be heard was publicized.