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Hard times for Hardwick’s: Seattle taxes out small business

Seattle's Hardwick's Hardware store is leaving after 88 years in business. The neighborhood is evolving and taxes are too high, owners say. (Courtesy of Hardwick's Hardware)
LISTEN: Seattle Hardware store closing after 86 years because it's owner feels like a

The latest casualty of Seattle taxes is the University District’s quirky 86-year-old family business. It’s been hard times for Hardwick’s Hardware.

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“I have customers who, when they have relatives come in from out of town … they bring them by the store to show them a piece of eclectic Seattle,” owner Dean Hardwick told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “According to Google, good old-fashioned hardware stores, they list about 22 of them around the country and we are one. Hardware Sales up in Bellingham is the other one in Washington state. And there is nobody else in the West Coast.”

But Hardwick says that the store cannot keep up with Seattle taxes as the city evolves. Recent upzoning has affected real estate prices and that factors into property taxes. About five years ago, he explains, his tax bill was $9,800 for the 16,000-square-foot location at 42nd Avenue and Roosevelt.

“Since then, they’ve been increasing our property taxes 25 percent each year,” Hardwick said. “Now it’s up to $40,000. It’s going to get worse because last year the city increased zoning from 65 feet — six story buildings — to 75-240 feet. In other words, you could have a 24-story building. Property taxes are based on the sale of the property in the neighborhood … that means in a couple years I could be paying over $100,000.”

Seattle taxes out business

Hardwick’s family moved to the U-District 99 years ago. He is the third generation running Hardwick’s Hardware. His son hoped to be the fourth. If that happens, it won’t be in Seattle.

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Hardwick tried to get answers and help from the city. He was told the problem is with King County, which handles property taxes. He says the county’s response is that it’s a city issue — Seattle handles the upzoning. Responses from Olympia haven’t yielded much help either.

“We are just going to move out of state,” Hardwick said. “I know it’s not proper for me to say, but I feel like I’m becoming a slave. They are taking all my life energy out for their health care that I can never afford, for pensions that I will never see. And for their Soviet-style summer houses called dachas that I will never have.”

“I service people who repair your houses, who build your boats that go out and fish, and I supply tools to tradesmen and they are all distraught that I will have to leave,” he said.

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