The strip of businesses at 19th and Mercer is becoming remarkable for not containing a single misstep, including Kingfish Cafe, Monsoon, Fuel, Vios, Tallulah’s, and, more recently, Hello Robin and Cone & Steiner. There are few places in the city where one can find so much quality in a row, uninterrupted by a Radio Shack or one of those convenience stores where half of the shelves are empty (really sorry, Radio Shack).
Cone & Steiner is not your grandpa’s general store, mainly because it doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to Dani Cone of Fuel and Josh Henderson of Skillet and the Huxley Wallace family, along with Jon Milazzo and Lori Pomeranz of Retrofit Home (once again, I’ve been left out).
The general store concept is an interesting one. When I picture general stores, I imagine a hitching post for my horse, and a man sitting outside in a rocking chair, chewing on a piece of hay. Inside, I picture phosphates and feed containers and somebody always sweeping. Since that business model is no longer sustainable, however, Cone & Steiner has given the template new life.
Patrons are privy to an efficient selection of meats, produce, cheeses, baked goods, grains, and eggs, as well as gourmet prepared meals to go, in case you’re too lazy to put any of those other items together. Many of the products are “local” and “organic” and “artisan” and all those other buzzwords that activate pleasure zones in your brain.
Like a good general store, Cone & Steiner offers a small supply of those things that you need at the last minute, like basic tools, cooking utensils, glassware, greeting cards, and candy. Technically, you could do all of your Christmas shopping here, especially if you don’t care about your family that much. But the selection is smart and thoughtful, and very useful for new residents who are too timid to borrow something from their neighbors.
For the beer lovers among you (I’m strictly bourbon), Cone & Steiner can fill growlers with a nice selection of local beers. To be honest, I only recently learned what the word “growler” meant. When I first heard it, I thought that it was a small furry animal, or perhaps some sort of wind instrument. In any case, Cone & Steiner will fill yours up.
Whereas most convenience stores charge more to penalize their customers for lazily not walking the extra block to a grocery store (as they should), Cone & Steiner at least does so while offering unique upscale goods, many of which aren’t available at Safeway or QFC or wherever you have a club card. And because studies have shown that eliminating consumer choices reduces anxiety for shoppers, Cone & Steiner is basically doing you a favor with their limited selection, if you want to look at it like that.
As a general store or bodega or mercantile or whatever name fits, Cone & Steiner fills a local need, but is original enough to draw others from around the area, so they can pretend like they too live near such a place. With a new location opening in Pioneer Square in the fall, it remains to be seen whether Cone & Steiner will become the new 7-Eleven.
Of course, that’s probably not what they’re going for. I didn’t see a slushie machine.