From left are back row Leonard Vann, Roger Vann and out front are Jeff Vann, James Vann, and Jason Vann and Naomi Vann on their 60th Anniversary in 1982.
Long time West Seattle restaurateur Leonard Vann has passed away
Owner of Vann Bros. Restaurant in the Junction
Long time West Seattle resident and restaurateur Leonard Vann passed away on Saturday, Jan. 25. He was 85. Vann Bros. Restaurant was started by Ruel and Irv Vann and then in 1966 Roger Vann took over Ruel's role. When Irv passed away in 1969 Leonard and Roger ran it, and Jeff Vann and Leonard ran it until 1985 when the business was sold. The restaurant moved three times in its history. It was first in the Admiral District, then moved to Alaska Street, and then in 1935 it moved to 4542 California Ave. S.W.
The services will be held on Saturday, February 15th between 11-2pm at Forest Lawn (6701 30th Ave SW Seattle, WA 98126) inside the chapel. We will have a service from 11-12 followed by the reception from 12-2pm where we will have a catered lunch in their reception room.
The restaurant began in 1922 in the Admiral District in what is now the Admiral Safeway then moved in the 1930's to the West Seattle Junction at 4542 California Ave. S.W. where the Maharaja Restaurant is located now. The building still carries the name "Vann Bros. Bldg" above the door.
Leonard was quoted on HistoryLink.org regarding the history of the Vann Bros. Restaurant
Leonard Vann on the Vann Brothers (Restaurant)
"Back in 1922, Vann Brothers was originally located in the Admiral District on the present grounds of the Safeway Store at Admiral Way, across the street from Lafayette Grade School. The reason it was located there was because it was in close proximity to the high school.
"To begin with it was not a restaurant, it was just a place for the young folks at West Seattle High School to gather and had kind of a gym effect. It also had a soda fountain, candy bars, and so forth, for the kids to gather. And it wasn't until approximately a year later that my grandmother started to cook roasts and hams and so forth. My cousin and my dad's younger brother were going to school across the street at Lafayette. He'd go home for lunch. Then with his little wagon, he'd bring the meat, the roasts, the hams and what not, up to the restaurant. They would slice them and serve sandwiches and that was the beginning of starting to serve food.... Four generations of Vann's, including my grandmother, worked there.
"We served real veal cutlets, the type of food that people would come clear from Issaquah or the north end on a regular basis to have. We were a neighborhood restaurant and depended on repeat trade to make it. My dad and uncle started the business under the premise that if we would serve good food, keep the place clean, and give good service at moderate prices, people are going to come back. And that's basically what happened.
"One time, my dad told me that the health inspector came in and told him, 'I had a visitor from the East Coast (I think he said New York) and I told him I was going to take him to the cleanest restaurant in the city of Seattle.' We thought that was a very good feather in our cap at that point. That's what my dad and uncle wanted to do, to have a good clean restaurant. My dad would always say, 'Check the rest rooms. If the rest rooms are clean, you're probably going to have a very clean operation.' And I think that's a good yardstick down through the years.
"I attribute our success through the generations to the fact that family members are in management and there practically around the clock. They were on top of things and would see that things were kept up and done. They were meticulous in keeping the standards that my dad and uncle had established. Also, our help was just super. We had a waitress who retired after 32 years with us, and a bartender who retired after 25 years with us. You don't keep people that long unless you treat them right."
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