For more than 30 years, the nondescript, one-story industrial building located at 24007-56th Ave. W. in Mountlake Terrace housed a printing and office supplies business. About seven years ago, Kings Press closed and the space sat vacant — until now. A young, first-generation Vietnamese business owner is cooking up a new future for the building.
Chris Lee, owner of two sandwich shops in the Puget Sound area, has opened bakery operations and a café in the 6,824 square-foot former Kings Press building. “We want to bake our own bread for the sandwich shops and take our businesses to the next level,” he explained.
Lee has spent 11 months and about $700,000 to upgrade the large warehouse space into an industrial bakery and convert the southwest corner of the building into an inviting café/coffee shop. Two new walk-in coolers, two walk-in freezers, a floor-to-ceiling baking oven and an assortment of other kitchen and baking equipment was installed, the roof was repaired and the entire building was repainted as part of the remodel.
On Sunday, Lee invited city officials and friends and family members to check out the building, enjoy an espresso drink and taste some of Lee’s baked offerings. About 100 people showed up for the celebration.
Many in Lee’s family helped with getting the building prepared for its new life. Lee’s parents and seven brothers came to the United States from Vietnam in 1980.
After trying a variety of jobs in marketing and administration, Lee ventured into owning his own business six years ago when he opened Yeh Yeh’s Vietnamese Sandwiches in Lynnwood. Four years later, he opened a second sandwich shop with the same name in Bellevue.
“I had done all these other things and got bored,” Lee said. “I needed a challenge.”
Taking over the former Kings Press space was a business opportunity that Lee couldn’t pass on. “I have a former real estate background and am always looking at investment opportunities,” he noted. Lee explained how the space will enable him to try new business ideas and get a foothold in the new Town Center District growth he sees coming to Mountlake Terrace.
While the new retail space in the building will begin selling espresso drinks and baked goods to the general public on Monday, March 24, Lee stresses it is still a work in progress. “It’s a soft opening,” he explained. “We don’t really know what we’re doing yet and we want to take the time to get it perfect. Maybe in a month we’ll get a sign up outside.”
When a sign does go up outside the café, it will read “Chez Grand Pére,” roughly translated from French “Grandpa’s Place.” The family inspiration of the café name copies the naming of Lee’s two sandwich shops – Yeh Yeh, translated from Vietnamese, means “Grandpa.”
Among those attending the Sunday sneak peek was Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith. “It’s a new business in the city, in a building that has sat vacant for seven years,” he said. “That’s good for Mountlake Terrace.”
— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski