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.