Friday, March 11, 2016

The Power of Community: It's Still Going in Greenwood

Just last spring I blogged about the vibrant, resurgent north Seattle neighborhood of Greenwood. Its charming, quirky "downtown" along Greenwood Avenue, full of independent small businesses, had bounced back happily from a series of devastating arson fires 7 years ago.

After a leaking natural gas line explosion on March 9 destroyed or damaged over three dozen businesses in the heart of Greenwood, you might think this neighborhood suffers from some seriously bad karma. 

But adversity often brings out the best in people, bringing them together. The Greenwood community (and beyond in Seattle) is jumping to help. I call that pretty good karma.

People as far away as Kenmore, over 20 miles north, were awakened by the 1:40 a.m. blast, although some (like me) less than a mile or even a few blocks away, slept through it. Many thought it was an earthquake.

Gas explosion fire 3/9/16. Photo credit to
TV helicopters buzzing overhead finally woke me up. In the predawn darkness, I immediately thought of the morning 7 years ago when I was also awakened by helicopters and sirens from the major arson fire that destroyed several businesses

 Thanks to social media, I learned what was going on quickly. #Greenwoodexplosion was all over Twitter, then I hopped to reddit, Nextdoor, and finally old-fashioned radio and television. 

Within hours, several fundraising campaigns to support the many small businesses and employees affected were set up. A gofundme site has already raised over $44,500 (as of 3/13) through small private donations.

This morning I wandered over to check out the damage and support a few of the small cafes open, despite boarded up windows.

This stretch of Greenwood Ave and these popular businesses now look like...
This block, where the explosion occurred on the left, now looks like this...
Okay, so it's winter now. But still, sad.
First at Chocolati Cafe and then over at Coyle's Bakeshop, the lines were long, longer than normal on a weekday morning. Within an hour after the blast, the "superstar" manager of Chocolati (Darla) was onsite cleaning up the shattered windows and serving coffee to the first responders.

For about a 2-block radius, shattered windows are boarded over, but most businesses are open. 

 I strolled down Greenwood across the street from the blast and stopped to chat with a man holding a very cool bicycle. It was David Giugliano (Davey Oil) of G&O Family Cyclery, whose business next to Neptune Coffee was heavily damaged. For seeing his business shattered, he seemed surprisingly calm and upbeat. 

"People say bad things about the low-income and homeless people in the neighborhood, but they were the ones who discovered the gas leak and called it in," said David. He wants to stay in Greenwood. "It's my neighborhood."

David Guiglano of G&O Family Cyclery on Greenwood Avenue

 Glass shards were still visible scattered on the sidewalk, and I almost tripped over a bucket of debris.

So this morning I'm headed back over to Greenwood Avenue to get morning tea, and I'll probably refill at a few businesses, just to help in a small way.  A good account of the City's response and resources to help are described in this Seattle Times article.

How about you? Did you hear the explosion or know anyone affected by it? Think about joining the conversation with a comment below, and then checking out the link below for ways to support the Greenwood community and businesses. Thanks!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.   

How to help

The Phinney Neighborhood Association’s website,, has a list of merchants that are collecting money to help the businesses impacted by the blast. A gofundme page has also been set up for donations.


Unknown said...

Heartbreak, Jill. I admire the resurgent emotional energy. Going over to Gofundme. however, because money always helps.

Unknown said...

Great photos, coverage, and post Jill! I really like the lead photo of the open sign, and the bike shop owner. I read this with interest, as I had a meeting at Chocolati the prior week. Thankfully this didn't happen during the busy daytime, though folks would've probably taken action quickly, such as airing out the businesses. Shows the danger of such a common utility such as natural gas. May all who were effected by this recover and move on!

Anonymous said...

It's a mess, a pretty big one and the broken glass is probably expensive but shouldn't take a long time. The bike shop, still standing but hard hit is tough deal and the three businesses leveled are gone. The problem there is replacement structures are a long way out. Clean up, redesign, permits, community input, constructed- betting as long as three years. Sounds like the businesses will need to relocate. Interesting, we live on phinney and didn't hear a thing. Mary lou