The Unicorn in White Center will remain mythical for some time to come
By Patrick Robinson
Adam Heimstadt is a modern day visionary.
But even visionaries have to live in the real world.
He and his wife Kaileigh Wilson are co-owners of The Unicorn and Narwhal restaurant/bars on Capitol Hill. The twin bars sit atop one another and are a "carnival punk rock party bar" said Heimstadt. But when the pandemic shut everything down things looked dire. "That business funds everything else. Then thinking we weren't going to catch a break, we were concerned."
The Unicorn is an experience style bar with a friendly edge. Wildly colorful, the space is visually dazzling so without the experience the to-go business (comprised primarily of carnival/circus style foods) suffered too.
But back in 2018, business was excellent, with a loyal crowd and new customers coming to see the carnifolk wonderland everyone was talking about. Heimstadt saw an opportunity in White Center when the La Camera building became available. But that was a big bite.
Its 15,000 square feet of main space, when complete will make it the largest restaurant/bar/event space in White Center by far. As if that wasn't enough the building spans the entire block between 16th and 17th SW.
As it turns out, that size has proven to be a life saver.
Along 16th SW in the 9800 block are spaces for rent that have been occupied by businesses who while they had struggled during COVID, still paid rent. That meant he could make his loan payments and stay afloat. More on those businesses below. The Unicorn itself, when complete, will face west at 9832 17th SW.
With time on his hands, a motorized lift, carnival, church and circus decor pieces he "picked" from several trips to America's heartland and a seemingly endless supply of paint, he set his task.
He's an obsessive painter of tremendous detail. What first seems like visual cacophony soon sharpens into the realization that all of it is a reflection of his genuine love and embrace of the colors of memory. He's creating a permanent version of something most of us only see for a few hours.
The County told him his roof needed to be replaced and insulation added. He put the insulation on top and roofed over it but what he did inside is stunning. The ceiling is curved measuring thousands of square feet. Like Michelangelo, he spent 8 hours day, for four months and painted it all.
Psychedelic peonies pop off the black lacquer background and even the sprinkler pipes are in blue and gold.
Around the space hundreds of hand painted art pieces are stacked, ready to be attached to the bar, walls and other fixtures. A rear area, nearly the same size at the front. will have games, and more event space.
But the question of when remains open. His plans remain ambitious. "It's a carnival, punk rock, birthday, happy place, everybody bar. That's what Capitol Hill is too. It's not a gay bar, it's not a straight bar, it's an everybody bar," he said.
They have to pay off their existing debt before they can start construction again. "I can't put a date or time on this," he said. He's hopeful that he can resume building it out again perhaps in a year. In the meantime, he's still painting and working on more plans.
"It's a good feeling to feel like we are coming back from almost losing everything."
In the rest of the building
The tenants in the La Camera building all in a row on 16th SW however are busy operating and each of them reports they are doing well. Heimstadt was involved in helping some of them with their own build outs. The spaces you can see there are as unique as each of the people are.
Ashley Leffler with LadyWolf Studio is there in a well appointed space offering cosmetic tattoos. She's an esthetician and does microblading a procedure that involves hundreds of tiny strokes that build a texture that looks like your own eyebrow hair. Microblading results can last 12-18 months. She also offers tooth gems, eyebrow tints and even freckles. At the moment she is not accepting new clients but plans to next fall. She shares the space with three other artists offering lash services, facials and tattoos.
The Lariat Bar is a 80's/90's wrestling themed bar just now being built out after being delayed by the pandemic. They plan on opening by September with booth seating, full cocktail bar and concession stand style food, supplemented by a revolving array of food trucks. "It will have a feel of pop culture, blending in other things. We have an artist for example who does punk rock album covers. There's another larger story about The Lariat coming up soon.
Business is getting better at Church Tattoo says owner Joey McChan who also owns Alaska Street Tattoo in the West Seattle Junction."It was a little touch and go over the last winter," he said, "but I think that was because people were more focused on trying to survive. But now that things are back to normal-ish it's getting better. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we're the only shop in the neighborhood now since Rat City Tat2 burned down. They offer every kind of tattoo but one. "We won't do portraits because that's so specific." They are open every day from 11am to 7pm Cal them at 206-913-2315.
Just next door is Barberellas Barber Shop at 9823 16th SW.
Their website says, "Our aim is to bring back the classic barbershop environment. Where the community comes together and leave looking and feeling great! Holding down white center one haircut at a time."
Owner Amanda Mayer has been working professionally for a decade and she's joined by stylists, Leah Stang, Heather Peterman, Alycen Moussette, and Kellie Gregerson.
You can get a regular haircut, skin fade, precision long haircut, buzzcut, beard sculpting or trim and even a straight razor shave in the classic hot towel style. Call them at 206-659-0027 for an appointment. They are open from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday.
The last business in the row is Altar of Nails, another business run by Kaileigh Wilson and her business partner Erika Kriegsheim. This is a pink and green altar to nail art. The nail techs at Altar of Nails offer different services. For example: you can book a pedicure with one tech and acrylics with another. You can even book extensions with one tech and art with another. Make sure you are not booking them for the same start time however. They advise that you have a color scheme in mind to save time and then let your imagination take over. Be sure to take a look at the custom hand painted mural in the back.
They offer everything from a basic manicure or pedicure to gels, acrylics, repairs and multiple levels of nail art.