Roundabout pushes out Fall City businesses

Guest Columnist

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 5:41am
  • Opinion

What started as an interview of two successful Valley residents/merchants ended with an awkward and unhappy good-bye.

Fall City Firearms and Fall City Greenhouse and Nursery will both disappear in a cloud of construction dust and asphalt next year. Now seemed a good time to talk to these merchants to learn how they came to locate their businesses here and to record their views on their impending demise. They occupy the northeast corner at the intersection of state routes 202 and 203. The state will purchase a portion of the property and three businesses, including Jett In Java, will be but a fond memory by January 2007.

The state 2003 nickel funding package (It’s Your Nickel – Watch it Work!) earmarked a nickel from each gallon of gasoline sold to fund highway projects. Included in the list of projects were improvements to the high traffic volume intersection of state Route 202 and state Route 203. While the busy intersection provides great visibility for a business, the state sees this same intersection as increasingly congested and dangerous. Many in the community may feel other projects are more important, but the bureaucratic adage “use it or lose it” in terms of discretion on where to spend the nickel tax dollars applies. The planned solution will be a giant roundabout that will safely route cars and hundreds of large commercial trucks through this intersection daily. The roundabout will replace the existing intersection, but requires additional land as well.

But, back to our local businesses. When Russell Stallman retired from the Seattle Police Department in 1984, he decided he wanted to go into the firearms business. Mr. Stallman and his eldest son Don purchased a three-acre parcel at the northeast corner of state highways 202/203 in 1989. The property contained a commercial building that operated as a Shell gas station from 1967 to 1974. Fall City Firearms opened in the old gas station on July 15, 1989.

When Mr. Stallman was a police officer, he achieved his federal firearms license and was credited with arresting more than 3,500 driving-while-intoxicated drivers. Mr. Stallman’s arrest record stands to this day. Proudly displayed on the wall at Fall City Firearms are framed letters of commendation from both President Reagan and former Gov. Spellman in acknowledgment of his distinguished record.

Son Lee, who now runs the gun shop with his sister Julie, is a former police officer, too. He also has 32 years of retail experience and left the Carnation Police Department to run the gun shop. For 17 years, Fall City Firearms has catered to local hunters and gun collectors and its business has grown steadily. The Stallman’s operate another thriving business on the corner, Jett In Java. The drive-in coffee stand is run by Lee’s wife, Kim.

Lee is especially proud that Fall City Firearms has not been burglarized. He attributes this to his family’s commitment to safeguard their business. Gun shops are particularly vulnerable to burglaries and smash-and-grab types of break-ins. Fall City Firearms includes living quarters in the back so that round-the-clock security can be accommodated. Several large concrete blocks placed around the perimeter of the building also make it extremely difficult for someone to use a vehicle to smash into the building and gain access.

Fall City Nursery and Garden Center, owned by Larry and Wilma Stacey, has operated on the Stallman property for 17 years as well. Lee Stallman and Larry Stacey are good friends who met while working at Ernst Hardware in the early 1980s. With plenty of room to spare on the property, Lee suggested Larry open a nursery right next to the gun shop. Larry jumped at the chance to go into business for himself.

The nursery was opened by Larry and his grandmother, Helen Stacey, to whom he attributes his love of gardening. Larry, who grew up in the Snoqualmie Valley, says he has been in or around the nursery business since age 14. The large greenhouse was added 10 years ago, which enabled the Stacey’s to expand their business to include gardening gifts and other items. Larry and wife Wilma are well-known for their creative, beautiful containers; each one a vignette composed of flowers, vines and statuary. Fall City Greenhouse and Nursery is always one of my first destinations when springtime comes.

The Stallmans had heard of the proposed roundabout in 2004, but were finally approached by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in late 2005. WSDOT informed the Stallmans of the need for a portion of their three acres. Lee says they could dispute laws of eminent domain, but their case would be governed by binding arbitration and any decision reached would be final.

Under the circumstances, the Stallmans determined that to pursue arbitration would be futile. The state also informed the Stallmans that they would like the property vacated by October of 2006. Lee informed WSDOT that the fall is their busiest time of the year, with hunting season and the Christmas holiday close behind. The department of transportation acquiesced and the Stallmans now have until January 2007 to vacate.

Frustrations grew when the Stallmans proposed moving all three businesses farther east on remaining property. The proposal was rejected by King County because most of the remaining property lies in flood plain. Both Lee and Larry say that they would love to relocate their businesses in the Fall City area, however no potential sites have been located to date. Lee says Fall City Firearms may relocate to Cle Elm or Enumclaw should no appropriate site in the Valley be found.

Larry and Wilma Stacey are not sure at this time what they will do.

I, for one, will miss the quirkiness of the “Guns and Roses” intersection. They make strange bedfellows; a well-respected firearms dealer and a nursery known for beautiful planted containers and nursery plants. It’s another facet of our rural character and culture that’s going away. That’s progress, I guess.

Those interested can get more information about this project at WSDOT Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR202/PrestonFallCity_SR203/.

Laurie Needham

Fall City


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