The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

March 10, 2008

Totem Lake Mall: An Update and Info Dump

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:28 pm

 Update:  Yeah, it’s still empty.  The fly-by-night ink store in the lower mall shut down and it looks like a small closeout store is currently occupying the former Grab Bag location for the time being, but there’s not much to report.  The City of Kirkland hasn’t reported anything  new with regards to the redevelopment plans, and the DDR webpage for the mall hasn’t even bothered to update to reflect the closing of the CompUSA store more than a year ago. 

With that out of the way, I would like to go ahead and give a quick summary of what I have been able to learn so far with regards to the history of this mall.  When I originally wrote my Totem Lake Mall profile, just about all I had to work with was a mostly empty mall sitting in the middle of Kirkland and a few random facts from a Wikipedia article.  Since I wrote that post, it has become one of the more popular ones on my Blog, since information on this mall seems to be rather scarce on the Web.  Since then, I have begun doing some research into the mall and its history in order to show the mall in better days, and give some more insight into how the property has reached its present state.  I intend to do the same with the other malls in the area (I am trying to collect info on the history of Crossroads now, although I haven’t found a lot there yet.  Factoria Mall and Bellevue Square will come later.)  Most of what I have found so far has come from some (admittedly brief) searching in microfilm archives from the East Side Journal, which was a weekly newspaper based out of Kirkland at the time.  The summary can be found after the jump.

 What I have been able to find out so far:

  • The mall was originally known as Totem Lake Center.  The picture above shows the mall’s original logo, and is one of the few things that I have been able to get a clear picture of from the microfilm.
  • The mall was originally scheduled to open on May 1st, 1973, but the opening was delayed.  A few of the larger stores opened on May 12th, while the mall itself had its ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31st.
  • When the mall was first opened, the Lamont’s store was still under construction.  It would not open up until October 17th, 1973.
  • The newspapers from the time when the mall opened include a number of advertisements for the newly opened mall.  Among these can be found one with a complete listing and map of the stores which were in the lower mall when it opened, and another provides a few details on those stores.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the whole thing onto one page, so I will probably need to go back to make more copies and make an image that I can stitch together. 
  • A significant portion of the mall was originally occupied by the various brands of the Pay ‘n Save corporation, which included Lamonts, Pay ‘n Save Drugs (which later became first Thrifty, then Payless, then Rite Aid), Ernst Hardware and Garden (which closed down in 1996,) Malmo Nursery (later integrated into Ernst, with the same fate)  and Schuck’s Auto Supply (which is the only former Pay ‘n Save subsidiary to remain in operation today, under the CSK Auto corporation.)  The Ernst store occupied the space that currently has the Ross, Famous Footwear and Car Toys stores, and used to have a mall entrance which was removed when the space was subdivided.  The former CompUSA space was originally occupied by Olson’s Marketplace, a local grocery store chain that was merged into QFC in the late Nineties, which was subsequently purchased by Fred Meyer in 1997, which was then purchased by Kroger a couple of years later.  In fact, the QFC in Bella Bottega where I do much of my grocery shopping these days was an Olson’s when I first moved here.
  • The whole entire mall was decorated to look like an Indian longhouse, and included a number of totem poles, including a very large one which served as the mall’s sign.  According to Loita Hawkinson of the Kirkland Heritage Society, the original wooden totem pole is still underneath the current Totem Lake Mall sign in the front.  The sign itself exceeds the current height regulations for signs in the City of Kirkland, but this particular sign was grandfathered in.

What I still need to research:

  • The history of the Upper/East Mall.  It appears that this was completed roughly a year after the lower mall was opened, but I need to see if I can determine what businesses were there at the time.  I haven’t gone into the 1974 microfilm yet, so there should still be some good info to find here.
  • Key milestones.  I am told that the decline of the mall began when Bellevue Square was rebuilt as an enclosed mall in the late Seventies, and was hastened by the decline of Pay ‘n Save

 What I would really like to find:

  • Good pictures of the mall in the early days.  There are pictures in the microfilmed newspapers, but those are basically xerox copies of xerox copies at this point, and most are too indistinct to really be useful.  I have just found out that the Redmond Historical Societyis receiving a donation of archived copies of the Sammamish  Valley News (another newspaper based out of Redmond) which should cover this time period, so I will have to check to see if this might include anything that might be of interest.  In fact, any older pictures that people might have of this mall would be interesting.  If you happen to have any; please let me know (my e-mail address is found on the sidebar.)

I still intend to put together a more comprehensive post on the history of this mall when I have completed more research and found more info, and this is just an incomplete summary of what I have found so far.  At the same time I am also trying to find similar info for Crossroads, although I think I should have some leads for that one.  Again, any info people might have would be greatly appreciated.


  1. I don’t have any more info for you. But I have to say this all rocks. Your posts about the malls in the area are interesting to me. (I channel David Byrne in True Stories when I read these posts.) I used to live in the area, but still work here. (I work off the end of the cul-de-sac on 134th.) My apartment I lived in when I moved here is now one of the condos behind the former Billy McHales on 85th.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to see your post on Crossroads Mall. (Which had a cameo appearance in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.)

    Comment by J. John Johnstown — March 11, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  2. […] a number of things from comments made to the original post.  Previously, I put together a brief info dump on some of the things that I have been able to determine so far, but since then I have continued to […]

    Pingback by Totem Lake Mall Research Update - A Map of the Lower Mall from 1973 « The Sledgehammer - Version 2.0 — April 10, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  3. Do you know if DDR is actually going to go ahead with reviving this thing, or is it going to sit and decay?

    Comment by Omri Jonas — May 2, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

  4. Funny you should mention that… I just noticed this evening that the DDR page for the mall has a new proposed site plan up, dated February 28th of this year. They’ve been flying under the radar for a while on this, but at least it looks like they’re still working on it. Check out my latest post for some more info on this.

    Comment by Brian Lutz — May 6, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

  5. I’m copying and pasting this from the later post with the map, since it seems like this post has later comments…

    Down around 16 or 17 in your picture was (maybe not in 1973, but not too long after that) a record store called DJ’s, IIRC. I used to go in there and buy 45 singles of things like the “Theme from S.W.A.T.” Maybe that was what became of Scent of the West, because I don’t remember that. There was also a candy store nearby. I lived in the Kingsgate neighborhood, not far from Totem Lake, in 1973 to 1977.

    There was also an office supply type store down by Ernst in the front of the mall (30/31?). I remember when they built the Upper Mall (what you call the east mall) and I thought it was a bad idea to have to cross the road, and I was just a kid!

    I’ll add one more thing. For a short time (“in between real jobs”) my dad worked in the Radio Shack store in the mall.

    Comment by trr — June 16, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  6. UPDATE!
    The Old Country Buffet closed just a few days ago. It dissapeared off their website and everything. We called the nearest location in Lynnwood and they said the closure was due to the redevelopment. It’s getting closer!

    Comment by Colin H. — August 28, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  7. I’d heard a rumor about that yesterday, but hadn’t been able to confirm it yet. As far as I know, the Factoria location is still open, but with that redevelopment even closer than the Totem Lake one, who knows how long it’ll be around for?

    Comment by Brian Lutz — August 28, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  8. Just for the record, Since it filed for bankruptcy in February, the Old Country Buffet on Aurora Avenue shuttered a few months back. The Totem Lake location wasn’t part of that closure.

    Comment by Colin H. — August 28, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  9. All you’ve done re: totem lake mall is great! What I think is a real hoot is that I’m on the listserve for the city of Kirkland to receive all updates regarding anything to do with the mall. I was just lurking around today, happened to find your blog and wah-lah . . new info on the Totem Lake Mall! Think I’ll send a link to your blog to the person in charge of the listserve ;-)

    I, too, have been researching bits and pieces of Totem Lake – the mall & area history. I’ve also delved into the micofilm/fische at Bell Lib. I’d love to colaborate with you to share info.

    Anyone who has further info on area history – no matter how far back or topic you can reach me through the the Totem Lake NA Meetup website – . I’m the organizer. I’m looking forward to sharing info on malls and more! :-)

    Comment by Lynda Haneman — October 3, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

  10. Hi Brian! My name is Terri Klemmer. Ironically, I grew up in Kirkland and my maiden name is Lutz. I doubt we’re related, though.

    Anyhow, I have a plethora of memories of Totem lake mall in its heyday! I was reading the comments and I also remember the DJ’s sound City store. I would spend HOURS there as a “tween” looking at records.

    If I really think about it, I can probably map all the stores out in the mall from the mid 70’s to when it pretty much died in the late 80’s.

    Lower mall….
    Starting from the far end, there was a bar called “Sit n bull pub”. The pub and Thrifty Grocery store did not have mall entrances. They were located where CompUSA was. The former Rite aid was always a drug store. It was originally Pay n Save and then changed to Payless and finally to Rite Aid. If you exited the drug store through the mall, there was a store directly across from it that changed alot through the years. It was a pretty sucky location for a business. I remember it being a carpet store for quite awhile, though. Ok, on through the mall…. Sundy’s candy and ice cream shop was next to pay n save as you went towards the main area of the mall. Now for the main part of the mall… To the right was Warren Jewelers and DJ’s sound City. Across from that was the GTE phone store. Moving on down, to the right, was a womens clothing store called Main Street, inc. My mom worked there for several years. I think they changed the name about a year before they went out of business. Lamonts eventually took over that space and expanded their own store in the late 80’s. Back to the left hand side of the mall, there was a John Patrick’s hair salon and another women’s clothing store called Betty’s apparel. Next to Betty’s was Big Scoop Ice Cream parlor and restaurant. They had the BEST burgers EVER (next to Dicks drive in, that is.) I recently found out there is still a Big Scoop in Mount Vernon. I’m definitely going to make the trip up there to check it out. Anyhow, across from the three stores I just mentioned was of course, Lamonts. (where I worked in ’87 as a “Theft prevention associate” aka checking people in and out of the dressing rooms.) That was basically the center of the mall. Then moving on down was Jay Jacobs clothing store next to Lamonts. Jay Jacobs was geared towards teens and young adults. I bought my first pair of Guess jeans there. Radio Shack was next to Jay Jacobs. There was also a restaurant, in which the main entrance was in the back of the mall on that side. It was called “Larry’s back door”. I don’t think that name would work for a restaurant today. ;) Across from the Radio Shack, there was Keeny’s office Supply and the Christian bookstore was still there. It was originally called “Nobles”. I think there may have been a store in between there too, but I can’t remember what it was. Then of course at the end of the mall was Ernst/Malmo. You could enter Ernst from the mall. I really think the owners of the Mall should not have allowed Ross to close that entrance off.

    That was pretty much the lower mall except for on the Pay n Save side in the back, there was a dry cleaner. And of course, Shucks was still in the same location where it is now.

    Upper mall…
    Where Trader Joes is now there was a store called “American Sport Diver”. The outside stores (from what I remember in the 80’s… it may have been different in the 70’s) were Vitality Health food store which housed 3 tanning beds that were very popular amongst Juanita High School students in the mid-80s. Then there was Piccolino deli. Loved that place! Where Guitar Center is now, that used to be the mall entrance. Yes, that store used to be a living breathing indoor mall. The only stores I actually remember in there were the kitchen store (which also had an outside entrance), post office, the Hallmark, and a clothing store for teens called “Strawberry Patch”. If you went back outside, you would have found Pizza Haven (where I spent most of the summer of ’83 eating pizza and salad while watching General Hospital on the big screen tv), Denny’s pet world, TURBO TUBE… the most awesome mall waterslide park EVER and Sports West (which is now Big 5). The movie theater was built in the early 80’s. I remember my mom taking me to see E.T. there shortly after it opened.

    There may be a few upper mall stores I’m forgetting, so maybe another reader can fill in the blanks.

    They used to bring alot of community events to the mall too. Car shows, carnivals, arts and crafts fairs, etc… I remember when I was little (in the 70’s/early 80’s) and it was supposedly “safe” to let your children roam free in a mall, I used to stand by that candle booth where they dipped and cut the candles into different multi colored designs. I could watch that for hours! I also remember taking my first “Pepsi challenge” at Totem Lake. I also remember that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny would visit the mall every year. My son had his photo taken with the Totem Lake Santa in 2000, which was the last year Totem Lake had a Santa.

    I really hope that the mall does get re developed. It’s a perfect location. It really could be great again.

    Comment by Terri Klemmer — October 9, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  11. Oh my goodness! I totally forgot about Totem books in the upper mall, which was the storefront right before Pizza Haven. I live in Monroe now and we actually had a Totem Bookstore here until about 6 months ago. I’m sure I’ll remember more as I continue to remember stuff.

    Comment by Terri Klemmer — October 9, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  12. I moved into the Totem Lake area in 1986 and the mall was still going strong. Rather than Bell Square’s redevelopment leading to TL’s downfall, I saw it as Lamont’s and Ernst’s going out of business. Those were the anchor stores. I have photos of my daughter at the Lamont’s Santa. It was also right about that time that the giant totem pole was encased in the big steel box – yes, it is in there. I remember that lower mall as busy busy busy, like a real mall. To see it now, empty all the time, is just strange. December now, no redevelopment yet. We wait…

    Comment by Curt D — December 5, 2008 @ 7:23 am

  13. We have a print(79/100) given to us probably 20 years ago. It appears Eskimo or Inuit;signature Bill Ray Jr.”The Frame Up”,apparently a store or vendor,is written on the back,along with Totem Lake Center name.Also a phone number(no area code)822-2622. Can anybody out there furnish any additional info? Thanks,Jay and Judy Verhaag Carmichael,Calif.

    Comment by Jay Verhaag — December 14, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  14. Google “Bill C. Ray” for the artist – in particular, his website is though it seems to be down (the google cache has contact info though). He seems to be a Juneau native who moved to Berlin, and did a lot of Tlingit paintings like you describe.

    Comment by John Butts — December 17, 2008 @ 6:52 am

  15. I grew up in the surrounding neighborhood and spent much time in the Totem Lake Malls as a youth. You’ve done a great job putting all this information together. I know a couple businesses that I don’t think have been mentioned yet.

    In the Upper Mall (east) there was a pretzel store in the interior portion. Next door to the pet store there used to be a yarn store. Most people recall the great Turbo Tubes which were two indoor waterslides. The pool for Turbo Tubes emptied into the building adjacent to the existing Big 5 Sports.

    Somebody gave you the Sit N Bull pub information which was at the far south end of the Lower Mall. I will dig through some pictures as a child and see if any were taken at The Mall.

    Comment by egan — January 14, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  16. Hey Brian, great info here, I will someday soon post some of my many, many memories of almost 25-30 years of going to that depressing mall with my mom. Hah! She loved it, I couldn’t stand it.

    Although, since you are interested in old unpopular malls, I do recall the one place that I hated more than the Totem Lake Mall was the Lake Forest Park Mall. At least Totem Lake had Computer City or before that Pietro’s Pizza and Radio Shack, not to mention, of course, the movie theater. Lake Forest Park has consistently been devoid of interesting shops for the totality of it’s existence! what do you think of that place?

    Comment by Scott — February 13, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

  17. I’ve only been to Lake Forest Park Center a couple of times (most recently when Alton Brown did a talk and book signing about a year ago) but they seem to have a bit of a scaled down Crossroads type place going on there with Third Place books and the Third Place Commons. It’s definitely not the kind of place you’d typically go to do your shopping (grocery stores aside) but that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the intent. It works in its own way.

    Comment by Brian Lutz — February 13, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

  18. In the upper mall, was the Pretzelwich (think an early version of Annie’s) and the Strawberry Patch which was a clothing store. We use to do a modeling show for them to raise money for a Horse Show Association. I spent many many long hours at Totem Lake as a Juanita Rebel class 1980. I also know
    a story about the race horse stable that was just above the site accross from Evergreen hospitol. It was called Swiftshore farms owned by the Sebastian family (?).

    Wendy M

    Comment by Wendy — February 17, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

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