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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

February 25, 2011 at 7:40 PM

White Center on the move

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Sketched Feb. 23
“Friends don’t let friends drink at Starbucks.” That’s one of the bumper stickers you can get at Rozella, a cozy cafe in White Center that locals refer to as the community’s gathering spot. Since Rozella opened five years ago, many other independently owned businesses have joined the colorful mix of Vietnamese and Mexican restaurants south of the Delridge Triangle.
Rozella was one of the first to come and re-energize a community many still associate with crime, said Al Boss, a regular patron, as he settled into the cafe’s living room to enjoy the free Wi-Fi and a warm drink.
People feared walking around here years ago, but smart, creative entrepreneurs are opening food businesses that are getting great reviews and attracting customers, said Boss. “You are at a dynamic place. Draw quickly because it changes rapidly.”
Here are more sketches from my Wednesday visit to the White Center business district. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to make more stops, but I hope there will be new opportunities to come back in the future.
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Rozella’s barista Darin Spang said he knows every customer by name. “I know at what time they’ll come in and what drink they’ll have. The first guy comes in at 6.45 a.m. and has a soy caramel latte large.”
Spang said many community groups have meetings at Rozella, which also hosts live performances outdoors in the summer, including Spanish flamenco. After he said that, the rest of the conversation centered about his experience running with the bulls in Pamplona, a city I know well because that’s where I went to college.
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Despite the nearly freezing temperatures outside, I saw many people come and go as I sketched at Full Tilt Ice Cream, a family-friendly business just across from and adult “Super Store” — that’s the beauty of this eclectic and fast-evolving neighborhood.
Ronni Olson, of West Seattle, was here for the first time with friends visiting from California. She had heard about it and wanted to check it out.
Full Tilt Ice Cream’s employee Ronda Stapleton said lower rents are attracting new businesses and new residents to this neighborhood. “They want it to be fun and awesome.”
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Joe Trujillo saw me sketching the facade of Full Tilt Ice cream and came out of his store to see what I was doing. He was really friendly. He said White Center is a good location to start a business and get it going. He has a day job in construction but opened his T-shirt printing and design business for his family. His daughter Elena also came out and complimented my sketch.
Trujillo was the only person I talked to who knew the origin of White Center’s nickname “Rat City.” He said it comes from the Recruitment and Training military post that was here during the war.
Trujillo also said that taverns used to fill up the entire street and bikers would get into a lot of fights. But things have changed. “Taverns are going away and small businesses are coming in,” said Trujillo.
Coming up: I plan to take my sketchbook to a different neighborhood every month. Is there one in particular you’d like me to visit next? What’s should I sketch there? Leave me a comment or contact me by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter with your suggestions. Have a great weekend!

Comments | Topics: White Center

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