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February 02, 2015

Holy high-rise: Developer snaps up century-old religious supply store

Puget Sound Business Journal

Marc Stiles

A San Francisco real estate company has paid $11.7 million for a half-acre Seattle property where it's planning to build a 25-story apartment tower next to Amazon.com's growing headquarters.

The acquisition is prompting Kaufer's Religious Supplies, a 111-year-old company, to relocate this summer to South Seattle. Another company that operates on the property, the seven-year-old City Hardware, is closing for good, owner Marc Gimbel said. These are the latest small businesses affected by Amazon's explosive growth.

According to public records, real estate developer MacFarlane Partners bought the property at 901 E. Harrison St., where it has been planning the tower since at least last summer, when it applied to the city for a master-use permit. The city still hasn't issued the permit.

In November, a MacFarlane spokesman said the company hoped to start construction of the 292-unit tower in late 2015. The project also will have 8,200 square feet of retail and 185 underground parking stalls.

Sinclair Holdings Limited Liability Co. - which the family that runs Kaufer's manages - sold the property to MacFarlane. Jim Sinclair said Kaufer's operated in downtown Seattle at Fourth and Stewart for 70 years before moving to the building on Harrison at Ninth Avenue North in 1979. The plan is to move the business to a former NAPA auto-parts store at 5201 Fourth Ave. S., near Costco, probably in June.

"We don't like to move very often, but sometimes the world dictates that you do," said Sinclair, a member of the fourth generation of the family to operate the business.

Sinclair said virtually all of Kaufer's customers have been "happy to hear we are getting out of this neighborhood" because Amazon's growth has made it difficult to find parking. Across the streets to the north and west is where two more big Amazon office buildings are under construction.

Stepping inside Kaufer's showroom is like entering Catholic Europe, according to 2009 a story the Business Journal published about the company. Up near the ceiling, the entire perimeter of the store's walls is studded with religious statues, paintings, panels, wood carvings, and Jesus or Mary images looking down from every corner.

Today Kauger's has bookstores and showrooms in Seattle, Spokane, and San Francisco, and a growing presence online, according to the company's website.

Other small businesses have moved from the area due to the expansion of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), and some small retailers are finding homes in South Seattle. Kaufer's will follow Antique Liquidators to this part of town.

Commercial real estate brokers Jim and Ross Klinger of Kidder Mathews marketed the sale of 901 Harrison for Sinclair LLC.

For the full story, go to Puget Sound Business Journal.

© 2015 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved.

© 2015 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved.

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