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Amid SLU boom, some small businesses decide to leave

The high-rise construction boom in South Lake Union is intensifying and some long-time small businesses are on their way out.
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SEATTLE -- The high-rise construction boom in South Lake Union is intensifying and some longtime small businesses are on their way out.

Gordy Jarnig pay the bills at A-One Ornamental Iron Works much the same way as his dad did when he ran the place 50 years ago.

"Why change something when it's done so good?" he said while punching the buttons on a manual adding machine.

The company opened in 1938 along what was a sleepy 9th Avenue in South Lake Union.

"You could sit here and watch people walk by all day and you could probably count between 10 and 20. Now I can count about three to four hundred walk by every day," he said.

In recent years, A-One has had plenty of business making parts for the elevator industry. With so many new towers in Seattle, there's no shortage of work, but along with that rise came the realization that perhaps they don't belong there anymore.

"You know it's hard to let go, but sometimes you know everything has to change, just through time," said Jarnig.

A developer recently made them an offer they simply couldn't refuse. It's a similar story at the neighborhood hardware shop just down the street. Their days are numbered. And remember Antique Liquidators on Westlake Avenue? They just sold their space and relocated to SoDo.

"It's the evolution of Seattle and it's the evolution of all cities. You have to look at the excitement of a city and what makes a city thrive and that's opportunity and interest and we're seeing it here," said Mike McQuaid, president of the South Lake Union Community Council.

He says the changes are unprecedented, not just for Seattle, but really any U.S city.

And he points out there are a lot of new storefronts, which might better reflect the wants and needs of the people who live in South Lake Union.

Although A-One's dusty shop is going away, the business won't. Rob Finlon, who's worked there since 1986, plans to take over in a new location.

"Our little building here is kind of the oddball now, so we're feeling the squeeze," he said.