The last time a palm was read in the 111-year-old “palmistry” building on East Sprague Avenue, the future probably looked dim.
A curse put on the city by the family that owned the building and East Sprague’s diminished fortunes didn’t really foretell better times.
But with plans to turn the building into a restaurant and bar, called the Union Tavern in documents filed with the city, the future looks a bit tastier, and perhaps a little tipsy.
Once home to Pete Seeberger’s barbershop, the building was more recently owned by the Marks family, who are best known for their battle with City Hall over a botched police raid in 1986 that seized $1.6 million in cash and $160,000 in jewelry from the family.
Following his father’s death, the head of the so-called “Gypsy” family of Spokane, Jimmy Marks, stopped his father’s funeral procession in front of City Hall in 1997, invited his father’s spirit to inhabit the government building and put a curse on the city.
Two miles east of City Hall, the “palmistry” building was surrounded by a different curse, one that sucked the vitality out of East Sprague and gave it a reputation of vice and crime.
But with millions of dollars in public and private investment plowed into the historic business district, East Sprague is seeing new construction and the purchase and development of old buildings.
The change in fortunes has reached the palmistry, at 1914 East Sprague.
Dale and Ann Kleist have filed plans for partial demolition and renovation of the building, which was constructed in 1907.
The Kleists are not new to the dining business. Dale owned downtown’s Fast Eddie’s bar until 2011.
In 2010, he and Mark Starr, owner of David’s Pizza, opened Famous Ed’s restaurant near 57th and Regal on the South Hill, which was closed last year when Rock City Grill moved into the space and purchased kitchen equipment and furniture from Kleist and Starr.
Kleist could not be reached for comment.
In January, the Kleists purchased the East Sprague building for $150,000 from Dan and Brenda Overhauser, who own a number of buildings in East Central. They bought the building from the Marks family in 2015 for $25,000, according to county property data.
Plans filed with the city show the street-facing front of the building being preserved, with 1,000-square-feet of kitchen space added to the building’s rear.
A restaurant and bar will occupy the building, with space for 99 occupants.
LaVerne Biel, who owns Unified Access Networks on East Sprague and is currently president of the East Sprague Business Association, said she welcomed the new restaurant.
“We need some other eateries,” she said. “That is one of the things we need down here.”
Biel pointed to a number of promising developments on the street following its reopening in the fall after a complete renovation, including the opening of new vintage furniture places and the demolition of an old Safeway grocery store. But said she is reserving judgment on Sprague’s transformation until summer, when she can see how much change has occurred.
“We’re starting to see a lot more interest in the area,” she said. “People wondering if there’s a place to start a new business.”
Count the palmistry building out. Though it doubled as a residence over the last decade or so, the Marks family curse didn’t extend to the building, which is located in a prime location and sextupled its purchase price in three years.
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