John Franco, 93, was a Sephardic Jew born on Greece's Isle of Rhodes, who came to Seattle with his family as an infant. From 1947 to 1985 he operated Franco's Hidden Harbor restaurant on Westlake Avenue. In 1949 it became the first restaurant-lounge combo to open after the Washington legislature legalized liquor by the drink. (For the previous 16 post-Prohibition years, only private clubs could have full-liquor bars.) Franco died on December 13 from undisclosed causes.
The Chubby & Tubby variety stores on Aurora and Rainier Avenues and in Renton began liquidation sales on Friday, December 13. (The Renton store replaced a White Center site, which closed in 2001.) Heirs of co-founder Irv "Chubby" Frese have put the chain up for sale, and will close it if someone doesn't buy it. Frese and Woodrow "Tubby" Auge started in a hut on Rainier Avenue in 1947, as a part of the post-WWII surplus boom. Their festive, crowded stores became legendary for their inexpensive sneakers, flannel shirts (Kurt Cobain is said to have shopped there), jeans, hardware, sporting goods, toys, and garden supplies, and for their bargain Christmas tree lots (this year's starting price: $6). Generations of customers have prized the stores as a funky, feisty, independent alternative to the big chains. But as the chains kept a-growin', C&T became increasingly vulnerable to the chains' prices, buying power, and ad volume. A buyer could revitalize C&T on the basis of its strong local reputation; whether one will emerge to take this challenge remains to be seen.