Letters to the Editor

Mom-and-pop store lives on as a landmark

Mirror staff

Time has passed the Lake Geneva/Sutherland grocery store and gas station by, but history hasn’t.

Even though it’s been mostly vacant since the mid-1980s, official status as a King County landmark has been bestowed by the county’s Landmarks and Heritage Commission on the building officials call a “unique example” of the rapidly vanishing mom-and-pop stores that once served small, rural communities.

“Built in 1931 during an era when the automobile was becoming an American way of life, the old store building ... continues to embody historic and architectural significance due to its association with rural commerce and roadside commercial architecture,” commission officials said in a report late last year that led up to the landmark designation.

Roadside buildings of its ilk typically had oversized roofs and gable extensions. The Sutherland’s structure, with its “primarily American colonial revival” architecture, is among the few like it left in King County, the commission said.

The building at 34051 Military Road S., near the South 342nd Street intersection, gets its name from Victor Sutherland, whose family settled in the area in 1912. He ran a seasonal fruit stand at the site before the store was built. The Sutherlands moved into the upstairs. Downstairs, the store sold staples to nearby residents, saving them a shopping trip to Auburn or Redondo.

In 1934, a filling-station wing was added and Sutherland contracted with Shell Oil Co. to sell gas.

Ten years later, Sutherland died. His widow, Ida, and his brother, Alfred, ran the business until 1947. Then his son, Lloyd, took it over until 1953, when it was sold to Roy and Florence Blackburn. The gas pumps were removed, but Roy Blackburn operated the store through 1984.

The business is gone. The building is now owned by Karen Kelley, David DeGroot and Eric Oman, according to the commission.

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