Unaffordable property taxes forcing beloved Hardwick's Hardware to close

SEATTLE — After three generations in Seattle, Hardwick's Hardware store says rising property taxes are forcing the business to close its doors.

Dean Hardwick’s family business has been in the U-District for 86 years.

“Been here since 1932. This location since 1938; my grandfather started up the street,” Hardwick said.

“Came in here and wow! It’s the coolest place in Seattle, really,” said Elizabeth Alexander, a customer. She was buying a post-hole digger.

“I love this hardware store,” said Mark Biggers, another customer. Biggers walked out with long wooden dominos that go inside a mortising machine.

The price tags are almost all hand-written. The variety of stuff at the store, packed from floor to ceiling, is astounding.

“You have any bells?” a customer asked. “I got some cow bells over there,” said an employee.

“Oh, you can come and get anything you want here,” Alexander said.

“I spent a lot of time creating this,” Hardwick said. “That's been kind of the fun of it all.”

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But like many people - and other small businesses - Hardwick's is struggling with rising property taxes.

News partners KIRO Radio and MyNorthwest.com first reported Tuesday the business's plans to close because the cost of being located in Seattle has become unaffordable.

“They’re basically forcing me out of business because the taxes have been increasing 25 percent per year, from $9,000 to $40,000,” Hardwick said. He says that increase happened over five years.

Hardwick says he’s also just dealing with a different city.

“There’s so much traffic, after 4 o’clock there’s nobody in here because they don't want to fight the traffic,” he said. He also says much of his customer base is getting priced out of the city.

Hardwick says with those factors, his store can no longer survive here.

“It’s an uncertain future. We don't know whether we're going to be here two months from now or 18 months. But at some point, it's over,” he said.

“It’s not only sad, I think it's almost wrong,” Biggers said.

“They lose culture, really. I think this is almost a cultural icon,” said Michael Freund, an employee.

“The thought of this is really just horrible to me. Because it's places like this that make Seattle, Seattle,” Alexander said.

Customers suggested the city should grandfather in property tax rates for certain iconic, longtime businesses.

The city says it is working with small-businesses owners to address their concerns.

But Hardwick’s says it’s out of time.

“It’s too late; they've had their chance,” Hardwick said. “The land is for sale.”

“My son, the fourth generation, he's 30 years old. He wants to continue the business,” Hardwick said. “I don't think we'll be here in Washington State.”

He says the family will most likely relocate to Idaho and open up a more simple version of Hardwick’s.

“Originally, the Hardwicks came up here in 1885 - then the territory. Now I have to move out of the state,” Hardwick said.

KIRO7 reached out to Mayor Durkan’s office to ask what concrete measures its taking to help small business survive in Seattle. Spokesperson Stephanie Formas said:

“Mayor Durkan is heartbroken to potentially lose Hardwick's. She bought her first Japanese cabinet saw there decades ago – and still uses it and other tools from this neighborhood businesses. Mayor Durkan created the Mayor’s Office first Small Business Liaison and Small Business Advisory Council so owners to have a strong voice in their government. She has begun to work with them to address a range of concerns including rising rents and regulations as well as working closely with City departments to examine ways to reduce regulation, speed permitting, mitigate construction impacts, and zoning policies to address the pressures on small businesses. In addition, Seattle’s Office of Economic Development’s team of Small Business Advisors is on hand to help businesses one-on-one to evaluate their business plans, connect them to low-interest financing, learn about lease negotiations and more.”