KidStrong Edmonds opening in Pacific Plaza

Jessica Johnston stands at the front desk of KidStrong Edmonds, a new gymnasium training-and-play business she and her husband Jamie are opening this month in the newly rebuilt and renamed Pacific Plaza in Edmonds. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

Nearly three years after a devastating fire nearly leveled what was then called the Plum Tree Plaza, there’s new life in the Highway 99 strip mall as a gymnasium training program for kids is preparing to be the first business to open in the newly rebuilt complex.

KidStrong Edmonds is slated to swing open its doors on June 24 and owners Jessica and Jamie Johnston are anxious to see their venture become an anchor tenant in the reborn shopping plaza.

In September 2021, a three-alarm fire gutted many of the 14 businesses in the complex, located at 22315 Highway 99 in Edmonds. While fire damage was limited to just a few units in the strip mall, the entire building became unusable due to extensive smoke and water damage.

Following the fire — which was ruled as arson — the complex went through an ownership change and then a lengthy rebuild. Now new tenants are lining up to lease space in the 20,000 square-foot shopping center which has been renamed Pacific Plaza, starting with KidStrong Edmonds.

KidStrong is a national chain whose goals are to help develop the brains, bodies and character traits of kids ages 1-11 through weekly 45-minute age-based activity classes, what the company calls “athletic play.” The Edmonds location is just the fourth in Washington state and the second to be opened by the Johnstons.

Owner Jessica Johnston tries out the newly installed equipment at KidStrong Edmonds which opens on June 24. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

Jessica Johnston, who also owns Rain City Fitness in Arlington and is herself a personal trainer and bodybuilder, is excited to see the doors of her second KidStrong location open.

“It is by far the most fun, professionally developing job I’ve ever had,” said Johnston. “Nothing is more amazing than seeing a kid accomplish something that, when you rewind six months before, they couldn’t do.”

Johnston and her husband opened KidStrong Everett in April 2023 and has watched how the curriculum of KidStrong’s body-in-motion classes is able to develop the minds, strengthen the bodies and instill positive character traits into kids. But the mother of four had a more personal reason that sold her on the KidStrong programs in light of her own children.

“The biggest thing that initially engaged us was being able to have a business that was inclusive of kids with unique needs,” Johnston said. “We have two kids with very specific unique needs who are not successful in team sports or group activities. KidStrong is a place that it doesn’t matter what your needs are because every child has unique needs — where kids can come in with their parents and be able to develop social confidence and learn how to make friends.”

Johnston and her husband are so pleased with the KidStrong business model and its results that the two Stanwood residents already have plans to open a third KidStrong location, most likely in Lake Stevens.

The Plum Tree Plaza lost all of its 14 business tenants after a three-alarm arson fire gutted the building in September 2021. (File photo courtesy of South County Fire)

As for their Edmonds site, Johnston admitted that opening in a complex that was nearly razed by an arson fire did give her some initial concerns.

“That fire caused a little fear in me,” Johnston said. “You look at the businesses that were here and it was a lot of mom-and-pop and I don’t know if much of them were up to code. So it’s a nice thing that the city (of Edmonds) was very stringent and purposeful in making sure everything was done correctly (with the rebuild).”

(Nearly three years after the fire, the Edmonds Police Department investigation still has not produced any arrests.)

Once the rebuilt Pacific Plaza was ready for occupancy, it took the Johnstons another six months to remodel their 4,000-square-foot unit to meet KidStrong corporate requirements. Now after a couple weekends of open houses and the training of 15 “coaches,” the business is nearly ready to open.

The Johnstons aren’t the only ones looking forward to welcoming kids and their parents inside what for months had been a fire-damaged building; city officials are also pleased to see life return to the strip mall.

“The fire was such a traumatic event for the community and we’ve been saddened by the loss of businesses which were an important piece of the culture of the area,” said Todd Tatum, City of Edmonds Community, Culture and Economic Development Director. “We are, however, excited to see activity returning to the rebuilt space and look forward to supporting these entrepreneurs.”

New gymnasium tires are at the ready for use in the 45-minute “athletic play” sessions that begin later this month at KidStrong Edmonds. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

Three more businesses will be joining KidStrong Edmonds at the Pacific Plaza over the next few months, said Claudia Moore, the leasing agent for the complex, including an Asian restaurant, a Bubble Tea shop and a veterinarian.

“We’re excited to welcome KidStrong and what it will bring to that Highway 99 area and the Edmonds community,” Moore added.

While KidStrong Edmonds won’t have any Pacific Plaza neighbors when they open their doors on June 24, Johnston is anticipating that plenty of activity — and good vibes — are in the near future for the rebuilt Pacific Plaza complex.

“I think the city of Edmonds will be delightfully excited for what the center will look like in the next six months,” Johnston said.

— By Doug Petrowski

  1. Love this! How many more units are available to rent in Pacific Plaza? Awesome Jessica Johnston.

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