Jerry Robinson
The ladies of the Epicure. Elsbeth (3rd from left) became Jerry's wife.

The Epicure was the place to meet

Thumbing through an old volume of the White Center News this week I
spotted a picture of the officers of the Kiwanis club taken at a
meeting at the once famous Epicure restaurant. Now empty, the Epicure
was the focal point where the "elite met to eat" in the glory days of
the 1950's. It was a lot more than another Duffy's tavern.

The "EP", owned and operated by Joe Boothby, who also owned the Sky
Room at the county airport, was where you took your family or your best date. It was also where every service club (White Center had five or six active men's service clubs) had their lunch meetings. There was a lower level for large gatherings and banquets. Vi Childs, a West Seattle born entertainer, spent many
nights singing in the "Huddle Room" with her piano and accordion. (Vi
passed away last year in retirement in Florida)

The kids loved the Juicy Ray roast beef that cooked on a spit near the
front window. Turning slowly under the glare of blazing infrared
lights, it dripped enticingly. It was an automatic favorite of ours as
well. Pancakes were a family favorite too. The service clubs held
annual pancake breakfast fundraisers downstairs. White Center was
buzzing with activity.

In those days White Center was a lot more than a skating rink, five or
six taverns and a great baseball stadium. It had three new car lots,
six major grocery chain stores including an A&P and Volkswagen
dealership. Four television stores, three furniture stores, a camera
store, two bowling alleys, three drug stores, three hardware stores,
numerous garages and several real estate offices. It also had two
banks and six attorneys. There was a wrecking yard we called Filthy
Phil's. We had one hay and grain store next to the News office on 17th
SW; some people came in to buy oats.

The Salvation Army had a heated swimming pool and great gym for kids.
White Center was home to Lou's 19-cent hamburger drive-in stand and
one funeral parlor, several cleaners and one dime store. Having a
department store was a big deal for our town too.. Oh..we had one
newspaper. The White Center News. We were busy too but I had to have
my morning coffee.Tall and thin, Jim Willis, managed the Epicure at
the time. I was such a frequent visitor, Jim had a telephone installed
in my favorite booth. What a good guy! By keeping me there he allowed
me to meet his best waitress, Elsbeth. I liked the food and service so
much I married her.

On 16th avenue, down from the Goodyear store, was the state liquor
store (robbery in 1959 made big news). I could count three shoe stores
and a Chubby and Tubby surplus store and one or two doctors and one
dentist.It was a vibrant community.

In the late fifties Burien woke up and blossomed with many new stores.
Many of them were store owners from White Center. Our growth was over
as they moved south to Burien in the popular suburban sprawl of those
years. The war housing east of town was decaying. King County tore
down much of it and replaced it with duplex units which lasted about
25 years before they became shop worn. The business district suffered
more as the population shrank visibly.

The Epicure struggled along for thirty five years, changing hands and
styles. It was a Chinese place for a while.The Fred Oldfield paintings
on the walls were forgotten. The doors were shuttered and reopened and
shuttered once more.  By the late 80's the growth of Westwood Village
and the giant Southcenter expansion had a huge negative impact on
White Center and Burien. The energy was sapped from the town. Many
store fronts were empty. In the last few years the Epicure spiraled
down to become a medical marijuana outlet (since closed).White Center
was never meant for this when George White and Hiram Green flipped a
coin to name the town in 1918.

But things are changing again. the improved housing in what is now
called Greenbridge is a good step and there is much more low and
moderate housing planned on the east hill. This may create more demand
for retailers to venture opening new stores on 15th and 16th SW. I
Hope so. I love seeing the skating rink back in operation.

   Burien city council members believe they can rejuvenate the White
Center business district if the eligible residents vote to annex to
Burien.They will have their hands full and I wish them well. Westwood
Village, inside the Seattle City limits, is booming and offers major
stores and good parking.

Burien city councilman Gerald Robison is an advocate of annexation
and says there are more empty store locations in Burien than in White
Center. That might be true but Burien is twice the size of White
Center and I have not counted; but neither area has a waiting list for
new stores while South Center and Westwood Village are both happily
humming.

   Meanwhile back in Burien the new Ross Dress For Less looks to be
doing well. I hope their expansion into Burien is a success. Looks
like a wise decision.

Maybe some smart guys like White and Green will flip a coin on the
annexation issue or maybe Joe Boothby will decide to reopen a spot
like the Epicure in White Center. We need a nice place to take our
dates.

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