Exotic Treasures No More To Be Found Here, Matey -- Landmark Trident Imports To Close Soon -- New Owners For Pier 56, Space At Pier 55

Trident Imports, the canary-yellow store selling exotic knickknacks and a longtime Seattle waterfront landmark, will close at the end of April.

The import store is one of the first buildings a ferry-going traveler notices when arriving or departing from the Colman Dock, just south of the pier that Trident has occupied since the World's Fair in 1962.

"Trident has been the constant around all the other changes" along the downtown waterfront, said Mary Vinson, who has worked at the retailer since 1964, when she was 16.

Pier 56, where the Trident warehouse now stands, and other retail space at neighboring Pier 55 recently was sold to Consolidated Restaurants owner Ron Cohn and investors at Martin Smith Real Estate Services for $6.6 million.

The combined piers include 69,000 square feet of space and house such businesses as the Waterfront Landmark gift shop and Argosy Cruises, which arranges tours to Tillicum Village on Blake Island.

But the focal point of the property has been the cavernous Trident on Pier 56.

"I still think it's the nicest development on the waterfront, and I think it set a standard for waterfront development," said Cheryl Merlino, daughter of Trident's late owner and civic activist, Charles Peterson.

Peterson bought the import shop in 1964 and traveled the world to handpick the merchandise he sold there.

Between 1964 and his death in 1990, he stood as one of the waterfront's biggest champions, leading the development of the plaza between Piers 55 and 56, both of which he owned, and actively supporting the acquisition of the waterfront trolley.

After his death, three of his daughters, who'd worked at the store since childhood, took over the business. They made an effort to continue Peterson's support of "tasteful," people-friendly waterfront development, Merlino said.

"Dad was a real visionary down here," said Merlino, who owned the property with her sisters, Karen Fitzmaurice and Jil Breidis.

"The interest hasn't always been at the water's edge," she added, noting a spate of new developments along the central waterfront, including the Bell Street Pier completed last year, the Waterfront Landings condominium complex that's still in progress and the planned expansion of the Colman Dock.

Merlino said the recent decision to sell the property was made by the whole family and did not involve financial concerns.

"Everybody has different lives and plans and dreams, and this is my dad's dream," she said. "Everything has its time. "Far from a distress situation, we're probably doing better than ever," Merlino said of the business.

Even though Trident is leaving, the other dozen or so tenants on Piers 55 and 56 are expected to remain, said co-owner Cohn, whose family has run Elliott's Oyster House and Steamer's Seafood Cafe on Pier 56 since the early 1970s.

So far no new tenant has been found for the Trident space. There are no immediate plans to redevelop the property, although it's a possibility, Cohn said.

Mark Hewitt, president of the Tillicum Village resort and chairman of the Seattle Waterfront Neighborhood Business Improvement Area, said the waterfront as a whole is moving in the right direction.

"A few years ago, we had piers falling into the bay," he said, referring to Piers 64 and 65, which were part of the Port of Seattle's redevelopment efforts.