Eric's Heroes: 'It's a dream come true' -- meet the 3 who saved Swanson's
SEATTLE -- In 1924, August and Selma Swanson found their place in this world -- 10 acres at 15th Avenue NW in Seattle.
They planted a field of flowers and built greenhouses and called the place "Swanson's Land of Flowers," and by all accounts it was beautiful.
In 1940, they handed the business over to their son Ted and his wife Frances, and the two of them grew old together running the place.
In 1976, they sold it to a local businessman, Wally Kerwin. And for more than 40 years, Wally was the steward of one of the most beloved businesses in all of Seattle.
People come to Swanson's to work. And they stay.
People like Gabriel Maki, who came here 14 years ago, and Leslie Bruckner.
"I've been working her for 16 years," she said.
Brian Damron recalled his job interview with Wally 12 years ago.
"One of the first questions he asked was, 'What do I want to be doing in 10 years?'" Damron said. "And at that time, I was rather reluctant as to whether or not I wanted to be down here, and so the instinctual answer was, 'Sitting right where you are asking somebody else that exact same question.'"
The workers sat they love it here because it is special. Customers stroll around as if they were visiting a park, soaking up the calm.
"Ah, well it's definitely my happy place," said shopper Marilyn Crawley.
You can stop for coffee, or to look at the coy. You can marvel at the beauty, and then take some of it home with you.
"It's a park, a home away from home," said Gabriel Maki. "You get to come out and be in an open, beautiful space and see beautiful things."
But everything changes, and whereas you and I see acres of tranquility, developers see many houses and dancing dollar signs.
Wally Kerwin decided it was time to sell Swanson's.
But Brian, a numbers guy, had an idea to save the store.
"I immediately got on the phone and started talking to people," he said.
He talked to Leslie.
"Well, we needed a lot of money was the first challenge."
And he called Gabriel too.
"'Well, Brian is a wizard," he said. "He knew how to do this. Nobody else anywhere could have pulled that off."
They got the money people to believe in them, and they pulled it off.
Brian, Leslie and Gabriel are now the owners of Swanson's.
"It's a dream come true," Gabriel said.
I asked Brian if this was something scary for him.
"Not as scary as the alternative of Swanson's not being here," he said. "To me, that would've been more scary, so I was pretty motivated to make sure that was going to happen."
The store is theirs to nurture and take care of.
"I've worked in this industry my whole life," Leslie said. "Studied horticulture in college. I worked in wholesale, I've worked in retail, in all sorts of ways. But to actually own a piece of Swanson's? That's just... it was unimaginable."
And the dream of August and Selma Swanson, of an oasis in the city, to be a place to be surrounded by beauty and calm, is still alive 94 years later. Because losing it was unthinkable.