If you want to watch a movie, shop for vintage clothes, eat classic diner fare or try your hand at improv comedy, pay a visit to Spokane’s Garland District.
Tucked within the North Hill neighborhood, the Garland District began to take shape in the late 1920s, not long after the installation of a streetcar system. It’s now a popular shopping destination, with bars, restaurants, thrift stores, music stores and entertainment venues all within a few blocks. Some still have original neon signs dating back to the 1950s.
Julie Shepard-Hall, who runs an insurance company on North Post Street and a women’s clothing store, ZipperZ, on Garland Avenue, said the past several years have been a period of “revitalization” for the Garland District, with investors swooping in to restore and revamp old buildings like the Masonic Temple, built in 1922.
“We’re very fortunate to have some really great property owners that are willing to invest and upgrade the buildings that are here,” said Shepard-Hall, who is also the director of the Garland Business District, a nonprofit created in 2007 to promote economic development.
Parts of the Garland District have been featured in three movies: the 1985 coming-of-age drama “Vision Quest,” the 1980 comedy “Why Would I Lie?” and 1993’s “Benny & Joon,” starring Johnny Depp. The area is home to several of Spokane’s iconic businesses, including the Garland Theater, a discount cinema at the corner of Garland and Monroe Street that screens both vintage and almost-new movies.
The theater, established in 1945, got a makeover in 2013 and won approval to serve beer and wine in its two screening rooms. Drink orders are filled at the Bon Bon, a bar just off the main lobby that also serves sandwiches and appetizers. Just down the street is the Blue Door Theatre, which offers improv comedy shows as well as improv classes for children and adults.
Then there’s Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, a diner at the corner of Garland and Post known for its housemade ice cream and bottle-shaped exterior. Built around 1933 as part of the Benewah Creamery Chain, the Milk Bottle was nearly destroyed in a fire in late 2011 but reopened the following summer after extensive repairs. Beside it is another retro diner, Ferguson’s Cafe, which also had to rebuild after the fire.
If you’re in the mood for something else to eat, there’s Kim’s Teriyaki and the Garland Sandwich Shoppe, among other options. Bars include the Garland Drinkery, Beerocracy, Rick’s Ringside Pub and the Brown Derby.
The Garland Business District also hosts two annual events: the Garland Street Fair in August and “Art on Garland” in May, which features live mural painting and other forms of street art.
As the area grows and changes, Shepard-Hall said businesses have worked to preserve the Garland District’s “quaint” feel and accessibility to the surrounding neighborhood.
“It’s important to feel that commonness with your neighbors,” she said, “so they feel like they belong.”
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