A downtown DuPont is emerging, but it doesn’t look anything like a traditional downtown.
Instead, it looks uniform and almost too perfect, like a movie set out of “The Truman Show” or “Pleasantville,” some examples that locals used.
“It looks like Main Street, USA,” said Steven Shaffer, who owns the DuPont Family Vision Clinic. “It could be a scene out of a 1930s movie with all the quaint shops in a small community.”
DuPont’s big boost came about a decade ago when the housing development of Northwest Landing began.
These days, driving on Interstate 5, it’s easy to spot the Northwest Landing shops, which are only about a year old.
The downtown is more of a small shopping center with no more than a dozen opened shops and restaurants.
A two-way road separates two rows of storefronts about one block long. On one side, businesses are open.
On the opposite side, construction crews still are completing the storefronts. The two-story buildings are practically identical with the same salmon-colored bricks and large windows covered with an awning.
Old-fashioned streetlights illuminate the walkway at night, giving it a small-town ambience.
There are small parking lots around the shopping center, but most people choose to parallel-park their car right in front of the shops.
DuPont city administrator Bill McDonald said the shopping center was intended to have a reasonably complete commercial area for residents.
But for now, the residents have an odd mix of shops, services and restaurants.
Walking along the storefronts, residents pass the popular Farrelli’s, where they go for their special applewood pizza. Next door they can visit the DuPont Family Vision Clinic and the Family Chiropractic Center.
They have a florist, a dry cleaner and a library. For food, they have a Quizno’s, Koko’s Teriyaki and Caffe Pegaso, the center’s homey version of a Starbucks.
“We want this to be a community gathering place,” said Bob Pottorff, 46, who owns Caffe Pegaso.
Tucked away around the end corner of the shopping center is Dee’s Licious, which serves gourmet desserts, especially the popular Triple Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake.
Around lunchtime and dinner, the restaurants begin to get packed, mainly with families or soldiers from the nearby Fort Lewis.
“It’s nice to get off base once in a while,” said Spec. Brian Skolrud, 23, who lives on Fort Lewis. “If there were more things to do around here, we’d come more often.”
And downtown promises to have more shops come. Starbucks, Subway and a Taco Del Mar are in the works.
Most residents agree a grocery store is long needed and the most anticipated, but none is soon to come, city officials said.
“It’d be nice to just drive or walk down the street to pick up groceries,” said Janice Cook, 59. “Instead I have to drive seven miles south or nine miles north just for a Safeway.”
Most welcomed the expansion of DuPont for the convenience of nearby shops.
“People in DuPont like to stay in DuPont,” said Shaffer, an optometric physician.
Others realized DuPont sacrificed some of its history for the expansion.
“There was a large oak tree that was a favorite hangout for some old-timers,” Pottoroff said. “Now, all that lies there is a stump.”
The businesses are slowly growing, the owners say, as more people start realizing there’s a small downtown forming.
“There’s more something now than there ever was before,” said Linda Jean Davis, 60, of DuPont. “Thank goodness, now we have places to eat and shop without going too far.”
Number of licensed businesses: 70
Number of employees for major businesses in the city: 2,755
Laurie Au: 253-597-8646