A couple weeks ago, I had one of my best alley outings yet. A friend of mine took me to the International District to see Canton and Maynard Alley, the only two alleys I have discovered in the city thus far that have their own names. Both alleys are a block apart and incredible. About midway down the buildings that border these alleys, storefronts and large windows create actual alley facades. It appears as if these buildings were designed to have programs that would engage the alleys, and apparently continue to do so.
Maynard Alley is home to the fantastic Liem’s Pet Shop and the somberly legendary Wah Mee Club. Upon entering Liem’s store, you feel as if you are in a different city, and perhaps even a different time. Bubbles, tubes, blinking lights and flitting fish are everywhere in a cavernous shop with a friendly automated “welcome” voice that greets you upon entry before you can say hello to the talkative and kindly Mr. Liem. This is literally one of Seattle alleys’ monuments. The shop presses far into the building and the owner informs me it used to be a noodle factory.
Canton Alley faces the new Wing Luke Museum which has some great photos hanging of what the place used to be like. There will be much to explore with these two spaces. They appear to be loaded with a lot more recorded culture than their downtown counterparts.