Before and After: Historic Grand Leader Mercantile Lives Again

The Grand Leader Mercantile opened at 1502 Hewitt Avenue on September 4.

The completely redesigned space is a modern mercantile offering vintage goods, gifts, apparel, local art, farmhouse designs, mid-century modern and unique up-cycled finds. You can buy DIY paint, candles, lotions and soaps from talented merchants.

I gotta tell you: it’s pretty swank in there.

Richard Porter

Richard Porter

This is not the first Grand Leader Mercantile.

The first Grand Leader Mercantile occupied the same building in 1904 and served the community for about a decade as a dry goods and department store.

According to my historical research, the first Grand Leader was the higher-end place where rich families like the Ruckers shopped for bone china.

Original Grand Leader photo courtesy Everett Museum of History // Richard Porter

Original Grand Leader photo courtesy Everett Museum of History // Richard Porter

The building has been many things over the years, but by the time Tonya Williams—full-service interior designer—got to the space, it needed help.

A lot of help.

The historic “reset” was no accident. The building is owned by Jim and Karen Staniford, proprietors of the next-door Vintage Cafe. Jim served 12 years on the city’s Historical Commission and would still be doing so if he hadn’t termed out.

Karen had a vision to restore this building and incorporate several merchants while having an open concept for ease of shopping and cohesiveness. Williams was hired as a consultant to design the new look of the old building.

Jim did the majority of the construction and together they “touched every detail,” which meant ripping out drywall and carpet, completely remodeling the bathrooms, ripping up floors and filling many dumpster loads with debris. They even took bars off windows, a symbolic gesture of building-flipping if ever there was one.

“Karen wanted the store to have a similar atmosphere like next door at the Vintage Cafe,” Williams said. “To achieve that, I added wood on the steel columns paired with new lighting fixtures to give the space texture, contrast and interest. While the charcoal painted ceilings sets the mood amid the many chandeliers.”

Behind the plaster and paint were a window and a wall of 2x4s // Tonya Williams/Richard Porter

As they worked, the charm of the 1904 building was recovered. There were 2X4 walls hiding behind plaster, perfectly good windows concealed under layers of paint.

Tonya Williams designed this old mezzanine as a studio apartment // Tonya Williams/Richard Porter 

Today, the Grand Leader Mercantile is an appealing mix of old and new: a perfect aesthetic for a modern boutique that sells vintage furniture.

You can go there to find that perfect something to punch up your decor: local art, a teak armoire, or a designer loveseat. When you visit, be sure to walk up the stairs to the mezzanine and check out Williams’ personal space. I mean this in the nicest way: you won’t believe you’re in downtown Everett when you see it.

Richard Porter

Richard Porter

The Grand Leader Mercantile is not done transforming. “Phase Two” of the modern facelift will be a remodel of the upstairs of the building. The upstairs for years was the Bayview Motel. They  are working to make it into studio lofts for artists.

The new Grand Leader Mercantile is part of the renaissance of Hewitt Avenue and downtown Everett // Richard Porter

For me, it’s good to visit the new Grand Leader Mercantile. It’s good to see new and beautiful things happening to old buildings.

It’s part of a renaissance in downtown Everett, a return of retail to the core of the city and an emphasis on the historic nature of our beautiful old buildings. We may never have the skyscraper glitz of Bellevue (a great thing, IMHO), but we have great character in our infrastructure that must be preserved. It’s part of who we are.

Visit the Grand Leader Mercantile to celebrate the old and welcome in the new.




1502 Hewitt Avenue
(425) 339-1502


(425) 347-4138

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Richard Porter is a writer for Live in Everett.