Ryan Allison has fielded hundreds of emails and phone calls since he shuttered Cellar 46 over the New Year’s weekend.
As word leaked out to his loyal customers, they filed into his shop in the days preceding the closure to express how sad they were and reminisce about the good times they had there.
“I’m going back to my old roots, selling wine over the Internet,” Allison said. “The cost of doing business is expensive — Mercer Island is a tricky environment.”
Cellar 46 was located in The Mercer, an apartment complex on the corner of 77th Avenue S.E. and S.E. 27th Street with retail space at the street level. The Mercer was developed by Dollar Development, owned by Islander James Cassan.
In just the past year — in the same space — Quiznos sandwich shop has moved out of The Mercer, along with Cellar 46, Yoga Bliss and Dooz, a hair salon for kids, which moved to Bellevue. Cobs Bread occupied the Quiznos space in 2007 – 2008, for just nine months.
Allison said he was paying more than $50 per square foot, plus triple net, which means the tenant pays a portion of the property taxes, insurance and maintenance of common areas. His lease expired at the end of October. He got a two-month extension to see if he could make it work.
“It never penciled out,” Allison said. “It was a business decision.”
He’s back to running his website, discountwinebuys.com, which he said has over 6,000 wines available. If you live or work on Mercer Island, he has the wine shipped to the local FedEx office, so you pick up your wine there, free of shipping. And for Allison, his overhead now is almost nothing.
Lori Moll, who is the owner of Dooz, now in Bellevue Square, said she was paying $45 per square foot plus triple net during her five years at The Mercer.
Next door at 7700 Central, residential leasing agent Sarah Delmoral said she was sad to see Cellar 46 leave because it gave their residents a place to go. She said 7700 has three steady tenants, Six Walls — an interior design shop, HSBC bank and Mo’s Pizza. She said they do have three vacant commercial spaces in the building.
The commercial space at 7700 Central is managed by Wallace Properties of Bellevue, as is Island Square.
Monica Wallace of Wallace Properties said the spaces at 7700 Central are available at $30 per square foot plus triple net. There are no vacancies in Island Square, she said. Asking rents were anywhere from in the high $20 per square foot to low $30 per square foot range at Island Square, Wallace said.
Island Square has seen turnover as well in its commercial space losing Maggie Moos, Expressions Salon and two others in the last three years.
Maria Bliss, the owner of Yoga Bliss, moved just down the street to Island Square she has twice the space she had at The Mercer, with two rooms for classes now, showers and more toilets. Bliss also has room for a retail area.
Bliss said she was sad to see Cellar 46 close, and she and Allison had developed a good camaraderie since both were Island residents and small business owners.
She said her rent per square foot did change, not specifying by how much, but she now has twice the space.
“My goal was for the business to grow,” she said. “I took a big chance and signed a big lease over here (in Island Square).”
She said it is tough for small business owners on Mercer Island since there is not the walk-by traffic like there is in Seattle or Bellevue, but there is plenty of demand for yoga on the Island, not only providing exercise but encouraging community as well.
Yoga Bliss is directly across S.E. 27th Street from Tully’s.
Mr. Cassan could not be reached for comment.