By Scott Schaefer
After being in business for 60 years, the Boulevard Park Thriftway will be closing at the end of April or early May, owner Bill Knowles told The B-Town Blog on Monday, April 15.
Bill will be retiring after working in his family business for 55 years, and he gave official notice to employees last Wednesday, April 10.
He’s worked at this location for 30 years, but he feels that at age 66 it’s time to hang up his grocer’s apron.
“In my case, I’m just done,” Bill told The B-Town Blog. “People should know that I’m not actually going out of business – I’m retiring. But it’s not an easy game…the margins are small, and I only have one store now.”
Bill and his wife Rebecca have owned three stores at a time before, which allows for better buying power.
“The grocery business can be very tough, you’ve got to be careful,” he added.
This closing is the second one in our area over the last few months, as the Normandy Park Market (which Bill at one time also owned) closed in February.
“I’m not going to blame the internet though, as the grocery business is more about the economies of scale,” Bill added. “I run a union shop and pay the same rates for our employees as Fred Meyer or QFC do. We have similar expenses, but you just need to generate more sales to do well.”
Like when the QFC closed in Des Moines, a Dollar Tree store will be taking over this location.
“It’s sad,” Bill said, “and the fact is I looked for two years to find a grocery buyer for this place, preferably union. But no luck.”
Bill’s family has been involved in the grocery business since 1926. Rebecca joined the company in 1992 following a successful career at Bank of America.
The family grocery tradition was started in 1926 by Bill’s Grandfather, Howard “Howie” Mansfield. The first store was located across the street from the current Boulevard Park location. The original store had two gas pumps and a snack bar serving chili. The family lived in a house attached to the back of the store.
Among the most innovative grocers in the Northwest, Howie installed the first ice cream machine in 1929. He added the first meat shop in South Seattle in 1934 and converted to customer self-service in 1935. The first electric meat saw was purchased in 1939 and conveyor belts were also added to the check stands at that time. The innovations did not end with Howie.
When his son, Richard, returned from World War II and took over the management of the company, he began several remodeling projects, enlarging the existing store to its maximum capacity in the mid 1950’s.
In 1958 and 1959 the Mansfields purchased the property across the street, built the Mansfield’s Shopping Center and relocated the store to its current location.
Boulevard Park Thriftway was purchased and subsequently remodeled in 1989. Another major remodel of the store was completed in 1999. In 1999 the Knowles purchased the shopping center from Mansfield family members.
Bill says to watch for a markdown sale starting around the first week of May. Later they’ll sell all the fixtures, and once it’s empty he’ll hand the keys over.
The Dollar Tree will be investing $1 million into the building, and will open sometime within a few months.
“It’ll be nice,” Bill added.
Boulevard Park Thriftway
12000 Des Moines Memorial Drive South
Burien, WA 98168
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Phone: (206) 246-5697