Commentary: Northgate Mall closing, Part 2

Gary Haakenson, left, founded the Above the Belt store at Northgate Mall with Tom Campion, right. This photo was taken in September 1978.

I read with interest the story by David Carlos about Northgate Mall closing. It flooded my memory with the role that the Mall held in my life. I spent the better part of my youth growing up near Northgate.

It was built when I was very young and lived nearby. My doctor visits and childhood mishaps required a trip to Northgate Hospital. Got my first stitches at Northgate

Then there were the many Saturday matinees at the Northgate Theater.

We lived in the Northgate Apartments while my dad was in Germany so the mall was just across the street and later, we moved a little south and I would play in the woods/swamp that lay between our house and the mall.

For a summer job during college I worked in the stockroom at the JC Penney store.

You may or may not be aware that there was a tunnel under the mall that allowed for deliveries to be made to all the stores. As I learned one morning, it was also a place that the Medical Examiner’s office used to transfer bodies from private carriers to their county van. Another Northgate first for me, seeing a dead body.

It was during my time in the stockroom where I was bitten by the retail bug and I joined the Penney’s management program at that store. Oh, and while working in the stockroom, I met my future wife. I learned you could find just about anything at JC Penney!

After the training program I was transferred to the Auburn store with a promise from the Northgate manager that as soon as he could, he would get me back to his store. And within a year he did just that.

I went on to manage just about all the departments in the store and was eligible to be promoted up the ladder.

But at this time, I was also discussing starting my own business with another department manager. Bottom line, we did decide to go out on our own and opened our first store called Above The Belt at — where else — Northgate Mall. That is another story in and of itself. That was the start of what is now Zumiez with over 700 locations.

Many memories and friends were made at JC Penney, Above The Belt and Northgate Mall during those years. Years that shaped my life for decades to come.

— By Gary Haakenson

Gary Haakenson served as Mayor of Edmonds from 2000-2010.

9 Replies to “Commentary: Northgate Mall closing, Part 2”

  1. Love hearing these old stories. I am so sad the mall is closing, so many memories there. Above the Belt was one of my favorite stores in my jr high/high school years.


    1. I loved Jay Jacobs. And there was a fabric (and yarn?) store called Rumpelstiltskin’s. We hung out there all the time after school. You could take the #5 Metro bus from Richmond Beach to Northgate, and get out in front of The Bon. In the early 80’s my mom worked selling Singer sewing machines for House of Fabrics at Northgate. Good times! I already miss JC Penney’s there.


  2. I would go get the the alcohol bottles turn the bon Marche under the tunnel I was on a drill team my dad worked at Nordstrom’s at Northgate for 5 years and he knew mr. Jefferson who was the manager of the legend room and so I got the bottles for my drill team I was on to make my dues in my payments with bottles and a big Chrysler Newport and then I went to work at the corner House in the bon Marche and then it was called the Radford corner was there from 78 to 93 the fun memories a wait on customers in the bottom of the basement the holidays


  3. I will miss Northgate Mall. I was a student at Lincoln High when the Mall opened. Senior students skipped school and went to the Mall for a lark. I lived fairly close to the Mall and shopped there often. At first the mall had no covering, so when the roof was added we were very glad–no more shopping in the rain. Change isn’t always good.
    I just realized that my niece, Judi Wergeland wrote the note above.


  4. I was given to understand that the mall isn’t really “closing,” per se – not in the sense of going out of business or anything like that. They’re tearing out the center of the complex and rebuilding it as a two story mall, with an NHL hockey rink and hotel attached, the goal being to finish renovations by the time the light rail station opens. So it will be very different, but it will still be a mall.

    Was this wrong?


    1. The PI referred to Northgate as the nation’s first suburban covered mall. According to a site plan shared last October (see link below), that legacy covered mall is being replaced by an open mall with 3 hockey rinks in a center building. Though I don’t think I’ve been in Northgate Mall since Ferrel’s left (it’s been a while!), I’ll probably get down there when the hockey rinks are in!

      Here is a link to a 2018 conceptual site plan —

      (On the plan I think 2, 3, 4, and 5 are what’s left of the existing mall structure. Other retail buildings/spaces appear indicated by “R”. Office buildings are “O” and multi-residential apartment/condo/hotel are “M”).


  5. I grew up in Ballard so we weren’t far from Northgate. It was easy to park free there! My Dad talked to Metro to get a Bus that would go up 24th Avenue West to Northgate. For years I would leave my Real Estate job in Lynnwood and meet my Mom there. We ate for years at the BonMarche, then other Restaurants in the area. I would drive my Mom home to Ballard and then go back to work. Special Memories!


  6. When we moved to Seattle in 1952, we lived just south of the mall in the large farm house that had a carriage house. We lived up stairs. That picture was in the Orange Julius for many years. Like many of you the mall holds lots of memories. Movies, Buddies, Butler Brothers, Totem poles out front and I think they had penguins in there. Bon, Nordstrom’s , Newberry’s, Jay Jacobs. The new updated mall and all the additions will be a nice change. Thanks for the memories Northgate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *