Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

‘Shocked and heartbroken’: Woodinville garden store Molbak’s to close

After 67 years, Molbak’s Home + Garden, a mainstay just across the county line, will cease operations early next year.

WOODINVILLE — Molbak’s Garden + Home, a lush retail oasis of greenery and a Woodinville favorite for nearly 70 years, will close.

The family-owned garden store, just across the Snohomish County line, has long been a destination for gardeners and homeowners in Snohomish and King counties.

The sprawling garden center announced Monday it plans to shut down early next year after it was unable to reach an agreement with its landlord Green Partners, a local developer.

“Molbak’s and Green Partners, our landlord and the developer of The Gardens District, recently met with a mediator,” Molbak’s CEO Julie Kouhia said. “It was not successful.”

Molbak’s has been called a Woodinville mainstay.

“It’s a sad day for Woodinville and its employees,” Woodinville Mayor Mike Millman told Northwest Newsradio.

A new Molbak’s was expected to be a centerpiece of The Gardens District, a privately funded Woodinville residential and retail development in a garden setting under consideration since 2008. In November, Molbak’s learned it had been cut from the 19-acre project.

“We’re all struggling to understand what has happened,” Kouhia said. “People are confused, shocked and heartbroken.”

Snohomish County residents expressed dismay on social media.

“Wow! I just did not see this coming. We’ve gone there for so many year,” one customer wrote. “It’s really sad to lose such a wonderful landscaping resource.”

A Mill Creek resident wrote that Molbak’s “has been my place of healing, joy and hope.”

Many called the store’s impending closure a “devastating loss” for Woodinville and the Pacific Northwest.

Molbak’s believed The Gardens District development, a project overseen by Green Partners, was the best plan for its future and its opportunity to remain, Kouhia said.

Earlier this month, Green Partners said it was pausing the project due to higher interest rates and rising construction costs. Green Partners is associated with Cascade Investment, a holding company controlled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to come to an agreement with Green Partners that would allow us to stay in our current location in Woodinville,” Kouhia said.

Quiche and soup at Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington. Photographed in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Quiche and soup at Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington. Photographed in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

She added: “Unfortunately, this means there are no financially viable options that will allow Molbak’s to keep operating as the kind of company and community resource we want to be. After considering many different possibilities and a great deal of discussion with the Molbak family, we’ve determined that we no longer have a path forward.”

Molbak’s employs more than 70 full-time and 45 part-time and seasonal employees at the Woodinville store.

Besides plants, flowers and foliage, the garden center also offered art, clothing and furniture. Molbak’s was also the site of garden shows, seminars and contests.

Shoppers who wanted to linger for hours among the flora could grab a bite at The Garden Cafe.

The store was established in 1956 by Egon and Laina Molbak, who immigrated to rural Woodinville from Denmark that same year. They brought with them a passion for gardening and the dream of launching their own business.

On Tuesday, Molbak family members, including founder Egon Molbak, now 98, posted a letter on the company website thanking the community for its support.

“We can’t say enough about the amazing Molbak’s team, our loyal customers, our supportive vendors and the many community partnerships we’ve made over the years,” the family wrote.

The letter continued: “Family businesses are special. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share the passion for horticulture, floriculture and community that Egon and Laina began in 1956 and nurtured and grew in Woodinville for 67 years.”

Kouhia said the store’s main goal now is to “close down with integrity and in a way that respects our employees, vendors and customers.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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