New ownership brings the possibility of new beginnings for a long derelict and nearly vacant property in the heart of Lakewood.
For the property’s lone remaining tenant, however — a beloved bagel shop that’s persevered while the building it occupies has crumbled around it — the same questions remain.
What does the future hold for Cascade Bagel — which locals will tell you is one of the only places in Pierce County where you can get a legit bagel?
Longtime owner Bob Bringer, 74, still has no idea. For Bringer, uncertainty persists, much like the rain water seeping through his leaky roof.
That might soon change. Whether that change will bring good news or bad for Bringer remains to be seen.
As The News Tribune’s Debbie Cockrell reported, last week brought new owners to the Lakewood strip mall — once anchored by a QFC — that Bringer’s shop has long called home.
On Sept. 5, an entity under the name Emmert Lakewood Center LLC — led by Terry Emmert, an Oregon-based businessman who made his name and money in the rigging and hauling business — purchased the strip mall and the 7 acres it occupies. After taxes, closing costs and recording fees, the total price tag was $2.5 million.
Emmert is a character, to say the least. The Willamette Week once described him as “the Dog the Bounty Hunter of moving stuff.”
That’s because Emmert’s company, Emmert International, specializes in transporting gigantic things. We’re talking about space shuttle fuel tanks, bridge spans, hotels and — yes — the Spruce Goose.
Emmert — who over the years has owned an arena football team and an international basketball league team in Portland — is accustomed to accomplishing the unlikely, in other words.
So, in some ways, he appears well-suited for turning a long-festering Lakewood eyesore into something more.
“We love challenges,” Emmert told The News Tribune this week, both of his entrepreneurial past and his redevelopment future in Lakewood.
“I love to see something that is a little rag doll turned into ... a winner.”
That’s all well and good, of course, but Emmert’s new property comes with some tricky strings attached.
One of those strings is tied to Cascade Bagel.
As I wrote last month, the city of Lakewood has compiled a long, extensive list of issues at the building Emmert just bought, where Cascade Bagel occupies a corner storefront. According to city inspectors, the roof is faulty, there’s water damage and the plumbing, heating and cooling systems all need significant work.
All of this is why the building’s previous owners, Westwood Financial, was facing an ultimatum from the city: Fix up the place or tear it down.
According to Dave Bugher, Lakewood’s assistant city manager, that directive still stands.
“They have to deal with this,” Bugher said flatly, noting that, despite the new owners, an appeal hearing on the fate of the building scheduled for next week will go on as planned.
Bugher believes tearing down the building and redeveloping the land might be the best option, but he also acknowledges it’s not his decision to make.
“We’ll see what happens,” Bugher said. “It depends on them.”
Emmert and business partner Jerry Reeves seem to have a different view of the building they now own.
In separate interviews with The News Tribune, both expressed confidence that it’s structurally sound and salvageable.
“We’ve gone through the building, and we’re very happy. Why it sat there so long beats the heck out of me,” Emmert said. “In my opinion, it should have been utilized because it’s a good building.”
According to Reeves, he and Emmert still are evaluating their options. Since they’re the “new kids on the block,” they may ask the hearing examiner for an extension next week, he said.
Meanwhile, in a revelation that will shock almost no one who follows such things, Reeves expressed interest in turning the building and surrounding property into a mixed-use development, including housing and retail.
Whatever happens, the only certainty seems to be that it will take time.
All of this brings us back to Bringer and his lonely bagel shop, where word of the new ownership arrived this week.
Bringer said he’s not sure what to make of it, in large part because he has yet to hear from his new landlords.
(Emmert and Reeves told The News Tribune they hope to meet with Bringer the next time they’re in the area.)
Bringer might sell the business to a buyer who would relocate it, he said, or he might simply retire soon. He’s not sure.
In a perfect world, he’d find a way to work with the building’s new owners and stay where he is — however unlikely that still appears.
“We’ve been here for 20 some years, and my customers want it to stay right here,” Bringer said.
“I kind of agree with that, because the customers really take care of us.”
For Cascade Bagel and those who care about it, that’s a long way of saying stay tuned.