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February 18, 2013 at 10:00 PM

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Changing face of the Central District


BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Earl Lancaster, left, owner of Earl's Cuts and Styles at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street in the Central District, of Seattle, cuts Ron Brown's hair while Ben Heimerman has his hair cut by barber Stuart Reed, 24, of Lynnwood on Tuesday February 5, 2013. Lancaster grew up at 20th Avenue and Union, and first started cutting hair between classes at Garfield High School - he has owned the shop since 1992. Brown has lived in the area since 1978 and has been getting his hair cut at Earl's since he was a sophomore in high school. "I see a lot of gentrification, it is what it is," said Brown. He said that all but four families on his block are relatively new to the area. "They say change is good, but I liked my neighborhood the way it used to be." Heimerman, right, has lived in the Central District about two years, and said he's noticed it improve in terms of cleanliness and overall positivity over that time. Reed, of Lynnwood, is the first and only caucasian barber to work at Earl's, a historically black hangout. "I know it's a cliche, but he reminds me of myself," said Lancaster, who hired Reed because he greatly admires him as an up-and-coming barber. Lancaster added that he also considered the change in the color of the neighborhood when he hired Reed. "The community is getting more diverse," said Lancaster. "I wanted to reflect that. It's not just a black barbershop. It's a men's grooming palace."

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Saad Ali, left, the owner of the 99 Cent Plus store on the southeast corner of 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, gets a high five from Simone Poindexter as the two of them figured out a problem with her cell phone plan. Ali has owned the 99 Cent Plus for about 10 years, and Poindexter is a regular customer. "He's got everything in here, between my phone and my hats," she said. "Real good service, respectful and all that. Good place to do all of your business." The neighborhood store sells food and household supplies as well as clothing, gifts, and cell phone plans. Ali has heard rumors of developers buying up the land around him since he first moved in on his lease. As the area changes with gentrification, he's hoping that if the land he's on does get bought, that he might get a new shot with a mixed-use building. "I'll just go with the flow," he said.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Stephan Mollmann opened The Neighbor Lady in the Central District spot at 23rd and Union where Thompson's Point of View, an old soul food place, used to be. He also owns The Twilight Exit and has lived in the Central District for twenty years.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Sam Bull, left, and Mark Munro come up to close their tab while Cecil "Uncle Johnny" Moore, 82, sips on a gin and orange juice at The Neighbor Lady bar in the Central District at 23rd and Union Wednesday January 30, 2013. Moore has lived in the CD since he got out of the military in 1949, and Munro lives in neighboring Madrona. "When I first moved here, Thompson's was a place I'd consider going in, but then it just became very unwelcoming," Munro said. "This corner, five years ago was much less inviting." Moore agrees: "It's better since these guys moved in, they re-did the whole thing." The building where The Neighbor Lady is used to house iconic soul-food restaurant Thompson's Point of View.

JOSH NASH / SEATTLE TIMES FILE

JANUARY 30, 2008: Police investigate a double shooting at the Philadelphia Cheese Steak Restaurant on the corner of 23rd and Union. Restaurant owner Degene Berecha Dashasa was killed by Rey Alberto Davis-Bell who also seriously wounded a customer in the shop, and fired at another employee. In 2003, the owner of the restaurant on that same corner was gunned down several blocks away. The building stood vacant for a couple of years following the shooting.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Earlier in February, the lunch crowd dines at MedMix on 23rd and Union, which is a fusion restaurant that serves mediterranean food as well as fried chicken, burgers and sandwiches. The restaurant, which is a spin-off of the owner's Pioneer Square location, opened there last spring, after a bakery had opened and closed in the space, following several vacant years after a fatal shooting at the Philadelphia Cheese Steak restaurant, which was the previous tenant.

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