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Retailer Digs In, While Restaurateur Succumbs To Declining Business

Spokane retailer Martha Cummings dislikes negative talk about the central business district, which she calls “downtown bashing.”

The owner of Dill Pickle Maternity Fashions, N212 Howard, phoned following a recent column of mine on her next door neighbor, Vic Quarve (Kwar-vee).

Quarve plans to move his outdoors clothing specialty store, Traders & Trappers, to Oregon because, he says, shopping has fallen off so badly downtown. “These days,” he said, “there’s no local traffic to speak of past my front door.”

But Cummings said there’s another side to the story that needs to be told, which is, “The Dill Pickle’s view of life as a retailer on Howard Street.”

And as she sees it, “The foot traffic’s great!”


Something doesn’t square here.

Up the street a couple doors in the same block, Brooks Clothiers, a downtown institution for generations, closed its doors last spring, and the space remains empty.

And even as Cummings and I spoke, at the other end of her block, a fine dining favorite of restaurant reviewers made ready to serve its last supper.

Au Croissant, a long-popular breakfast and lunch place which lately offered classy white-tablecloth dinner service, served its final evening meal the Saturday before last. For many, myself included, this is a great disappointment.

For Iranian refugees Ahmad and Fereshteh Haghighi it may be the beginning of the end. Already they had lost breakfast, a concession to dwindling drop-in trade.

In an effort to recoup, they began staying open at night a year and a half ago, setting out to win the hearts of gourmets with classical continental cuisine, spiced with a dash of the Middle East.

Devotees raved about the food.

“I knew we had to do something entirely different to draw new traffic, a new class,” says Haghighi. “People would not come down at night for just another restaurant. It had to be special.”

It was special.

But that wasn’t enough.

“How many nights my staff and I sat here,” a weary Haghighi sighs, “and not even a single person came.

“But it wasn’t us. Others with high hopes - restaurants, small shops - are not surviving. We just don’t get the foot traffic anymore,” he said.

“When you have good food. Good atmosphere. Good service. And still people don’t come,” said the restaurateur, “it must be location.”


“I tried not to believe it or admit it for a long time,” says Haghighi, “but I’ll tell you the truth now - downtown is not a good place to be at night.”


Some weeks ago, in a final desperation effort to turn their dinner trade around, the couple renamed the restaurant Fery’s after Fereshteh, which means angel. They wanted to get away from the lunch and breakfast image that was synonymous with Au Croissant for 15 years.

So now they are back to just lunch again.

And if that fails now as well?

“I don’t know,” said Haghighi. “We never had the time to think about ourselves and retirement.

“From early in the morning until late at night, we put our lives into the business.”

That and raising three children, who now are grown and on their own.

“We will have to begin again,” said Haghighi. “We have some prospects in Portland. Or maybe Seattle. But we don’t know.”

Their family, their friends and their roots are here now.

In Iran, Haghighi was a mining engineer.

Cummings taught kindergarten before she bought the Dill Pickle. It has been in the same location 50 years, she said, under different owners. She acquired the shop in 1983.

Yes, business is slow. “But it’s slow all over town,” she said.

So, is she’s going to remain open downtown?

“Well, I hope so.”

Sounds a little tentative to me. But I certainly hope the store stays put. It’s exactly the sort of locally owned, destination-type, specialty shop that is perfect for downtown.

Her parting exhortation to me: “Say only good things about downtown.”

Then she added, “I’m sorry about Fery’s,” Cummings said, “but, you know …”

Yeah, I know.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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