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Originally published Friday, December 31, 2010 at 7:40 PM

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Totem House near Ballard Locks closes doors

For 71 years it has stood across from the Ballard Locks, its totem poles and other Northwestern art a draw for the fish-and-chips connoisseur. But the Totem House Seafood and Chowder closed Friday, a victim of the economy.

Seattle Times staff reporter

For 71 years it has stood across from the Ballard Locks, its totem poles and other Northwestern art a draw for the fish-and-chips connoisseur.

But the Totem House Seafood and Chowder closed Friday, a victim of the economy.

"The recession overcame us," said restaurant owner Dianne DeLatour, who has owned the iconic restaurant since 1995 and was born the year it was built. "Everything slowed down and slowed down."

The Totem House was built in 1939 as a place to sell Native American artifacts. It closed during World War II, when the Locks was closed, and reopened as a restaurant in 1945, said DeLatour, the restaurant's fourth owner.

Sitting in the restaurant Friday, DeLatour said she was saddened at its closure. "It's going to be very sad for a lot of people, a lot of regulars," she said.

One customer, named Darryl, came in every day for 14 years and ordered a chocolate milkshake, DeLatour said.

"We're a big family. We're all sad, the employees are sad," DeLatour said.

DeLatour said she made sure all her four employees have other jobs.

DeLatour doesn't own the building. She said it's owned by an investment company and she doesn't know what will happen to it.

"Every day we hear stories from people who used to come here with their parents and grandparents," DeLatour said. "We loved our customers."

She said business has been falling off for the past three years. She survived 2009, but everything dropped in 2010 as people ate out less.

While the economy may be improving, it wasn't enough to save the Totem, DeLatour said, as crews carried out everything inside the restaurant, including newspaper articles that praised it.

A sign on the door said, "goodbye friends."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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