Vine Street Market

I have an awful confession: I don’t really care about buying local.

Like, I think buying local is great in an abstract sense – objectively, the cup of coffee or growler of beer or whatever I’m spending money on has a lot more impact when it’s going to a company that’s staffed by a couple dozen people, let alone a couple dozen people that that are in the same city as me.

But it’s never really something that explicitly goes into my decision-making. Like I’ll buy Seattle microbrews if they’re delicious 1 and I’ll grab my morning caffeine drip from Uptown Espresso if the line on the way to work is reasonable, but I still spend an inordinate amount of money on the Pabsts, Starbucks 2, and Chipotles of the world. There’s nothing exactly artisanal about these choices – I find them good enough, though, and consistent, especially compared to some local choices.

There’s one exception I make here, though, and that’s Vine Street Market.

Vine Street Market is a beer shop the size of a somewhat large closet on the corner of 5th and Vine, right across the street from my apartment. I discovered it by accident: I wanted to grab a six-pack and my bodega closed early for the day, so Google Maps sent me there. (Previously I thought it was a coffee-shop. I was mistaken.) Seriously – not counting shelving, this place is maybe a hundred square feet max. The space allotted of beer outnumbers the amount of space not allotted for beer.

Every time I’ve stopped by, there’s been a maximum of one or two other people there: which makes sense partly because, as far as I can tell, it’s pretty much hidden from the public eye, and also there is only room to fit maybe six people max.

The owner, Jae, is perhaps the kindest and most cheerful person I have ever met. I honestly can’t tell whether or not she actually recognizes me (I’ve been there enough that it’s probably the former), but every time I visit she greets me with the sweetest recitation of Hello, neighbor! that I’ve ever heard. The woman has a straight-up encyclopedic knowledge of her wares – describe a taste or a beer you like and she’ll either recommend a half-dozen similar beers or offer to order one.

And, of course, the selection is excellent; there’s a great distribution of PNW microbrews and out-of-state staples, plus a wonderfully curated rotation of kegs on tap. (She’ll let you have all the keg samples you want.)

The place has its downsides: the non-keg prices are higher than other stores around the area, and none of the bottles are refrigerated (to cut down on costs). But even though I could go a block away and get my Old Rasputin fix for a buck cheaper, I keep coming back to Vine Street Market.

Why? I’m not sure, and that’s probably the reason I’m writing this as a blog post and not as the most saccharine Yelp review of all time. When I started this, in my mind it was a thesis about the inherent value of buying local when those local experiences are more personal and magical than the mainstream alternative. Or maybe a sheepish admission that I’m tailoring my life to be as Wes Anderson-esque as possible 3, either subconsciously or consciously.

But, I mean, I’m trying very hard to become the kind of person who stops assigning undue amounts of profundity to the place I buy my stouts. I shop at Vine Street Market because it makes me happy. (You should, too – at least, if you’re in Seattle.)


  1. And, oh man, they are. [return]
  2. Which I guess technically qualifies as local? [return]
  3. Because, come on, nothing screams artful whimsy like a tiny Korean lady running the best beer shop in Seattle. [return]
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Justin Duke is a writer and developer in Seattle.
He likes good, practical things.
(And writing in the third person, I guess.)


@justinmduke
me@jmduke.com