Photo by Anna Erickson
Norma Allison, owner of Ballard Hair Salon, will be losing her lease at the end of April after 22 years of business in her shop on N.W. Market Street.

Increased rent drives longtime Ballard business out

By Anna Erickson

Within the past few months, increased rent prices in Ballard have forced tenants out of their homes along with local businesses.  

By the end of April, Ballard Hair Salon (1708 N.W. Market St.) will be moving out of their Northwest Market Street location and won’t be reopening at another location.

The 71-year-old owner of the salon, Norma Allison, said she is devastated to lose her shop after 22 years. This May would have marked the salon’s 23rd anniversary.

“I never dreamed I would go out this way,” said Allison. “I was looking forward to another couple of years.”

Allison rents the salon space from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Ballard-Alki Lodge #170, and said she found out about the rent increase in December. Property taxes and utility fees that weren’t originally part of her lease were also going to be added.

The news came at an especially trying time for Allison as she was undergoing surgeries for breast cancer treatment.

“I felt like it really knocked me down,” said Allison. “I could handle the physical pain of the surgeries, but emotionally, hearing this news really affected my healing process.”

Part of the “Oddfellowship” that the Ballard-Alki Lodge includes on their website is that members “extend sympathy and aid to those in need.” When Allison opened her business in the Odd Fellows Lodge building, she was attracted to the idea of a charity-based organization and decided to become a member herself.

Allison said she was willing to pay a portion of the increased rent, but ultimately could not afford the amount the landlords requested.

Nora Carria, the Noble Grand (official representative) of the Ballard-Alki Odd Fellows Lodge expressed via email that they have tried to raise the rent reasonably for Allison in relation to the current market.

“The fact that she is a member has been taken into consideration for the entire length of her tenancy.  Economic realities made it necessary for us to bring rents up to the low end of market rate, which she could not meet,” said Carria.

Bob Duniway, a trustee and the current treasurer of the Odd Fellows, said the organization has been operating with a deficit for the past few years and needs to rent the space to a more profitable business in order to sustain the building.

Both Carria and Duniway indicated that they’re apologetic the business relationship with one of their own members couldn’t continue, but felt they needed to be financially responsible as officers of the lodge.

Allison is most upset that she won’t be able to retire and sell the business as she had planned. She said when she first opened the salon she put $25,000 into fixing it up and putting in new floors.

“Let me be the one to decide how and when I’m going to go,” Allison said. “Let me have the dignity at least.”

Janice Craigen of Everett, a client of Allison’s, has been coming to the salon for the 22 years it’s been open.

“I was very heartbroken that Norma lost her lease. She’s put a lot of work into this place and a lot of years,” said Craigen.

Allison and her co-worker, Char Kostanich, who has also been with the salon since the opening, both plan on working at different salons in the Ballard area starting in May.

Duniway says the space occupied by the salon is currently up for lease and will most likely be rented for other storefronts.

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