While working to restore a late 19th century building in downtown Sultan, Jim Tinney and his daughter Michelle Tinney uncovered an advertisement for the Black Bear Brand, an early 1900s company that made clothing for loggers and craftsmen. Jim and Michelle are currently working with the Sky Valley Arts Council to determine the future of the old sign. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

While working to restore a late 19th century building in downtown Sultan, Jim Tinney and his daughter Michelle Tinney uncovered an advertisement for the Black Bear Brand, an early 1900s company that made clothing for loggers and craftsmen. Jim and Michelle are currently working with the Sky Valley Arts Council to determine the future of the old sign. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Work on 1892 Sultan building reveals old clothing company ad

SULTAN — They chose the building for its 19th century history. They were looking for old stories.

Jim Tinney and his daughter, Michelle, purchased the Sultan property at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in July. They are converting the 1892-vintage building into a coffee shop and bookstore. Jim Tinney plans to fill the shelves with his personal collection of about 10,000 books.

As a kid, Jim Tinney dreamed of reading his way through his town’s library. He almost did it, too.

Michelle Tinney would jokingly threaten to call an intervention when her father bought new books. He would promise to open a bookstore one day to share his collection.

After a successful fight against leukemia, Jim Tinney decided to follow through on his promise, which brought him to Sultan.

The building’s renovation is extensive. The Tinneys pulled up six layers of flooring. They eventually recovered the original Douglas fir floors marked with boot scuffs, which they will keep.

The layers of flooring were reminiscent of the building’s past lives. It’s been a brothel, a post office, a butcher shop.

One of the walls was weak and leaned toward the street. Jim Tinney feared it might collapse.

They pried the turquoise-painted cedar shakes from the wall with a shovel to begin repairs. The plan was to paint a mural of their logo on the wall after it was fixed up.

Beneath a cedar shake, they saw the letter “g” in once-vibrant orange paint.

With a gentler touch, they removed each wooden piece by hand. What emerged was an oversized painted advertisement for the Black Bear Brand, a clothing company from the early 1900s. Its symbol, the silhouette of a black bear, was once well-known in Washington.

The Black Bear Brand followed Americans west more than a century ago. It ultimately made its headquarters in Seattle. It manufactured clothing for loggers, builders and craftsmen.

The founder, George Black, thought the products fit in among the evergreen trees and coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

The company was successful for awhile making work wear and overalls, said Black Bear Brand curator Josh Sirlin. Eventually, the company faltered and closed in 1998.

Sirlin saw an opportunity. He wants to revive the brand he loves.

Sirlin owns several Black Bear Brand originals, including an unworn pair of wax canvas pants made in the 1920s. The original paper tags are still attached.

Over the past few years, Sirlin has expanded the brand into new markets, such as action sports. His goal is to make the brand relevant again.

“Less people are doing a lot of what this brand originally supported. It’s not less important, just less common,” he said.

Sirlin aims to appeal to the surfers, motorcyclists, artists and mountain climbers, in addition to builders.

Despite the recent changes, the brand still boasts the same black bear logo that appears on the side of the building in Sultan.

Since the mural was uncovered, people in Sultan have been stopping to ask the Tinneys questions. They want to know where it came from and what its future may be. Most say they want the mural to stick around.

“It’s actually iconic and very Northwest. It’s extremely relevant to the community and the area,” Jim Tinney said.

According to his research, he believes the mural was painted sometime between 1915 and 1930.

Jim and Michelle Tinney have coordinated with the Sky Valley Arts Council to raise money to preserve the painting. Last week, $725 was donated. They estimate it will cost around $8,000 to $10,000 to preserve the mural. Some say that’s conservative.

There’s a lot of competition for funding in Sultan, and Jim Tinney said he doesn’t “want to take a big piece of a very small pie.”

Flecks of yellow, orange and black paint from the mural continue to fall on the sidewalk. Jim Tinney worries about winter. His project this week is to construct an awning and a plastic cover to provide some protection.

In the meantime, he said he is holding out hope for the building’s next chapter.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Lynnwood man arrested, released on $25K bond after road rage shooting

Deputies arrested the suspect, 20, for investigation of first-degree assault on Tuesday.

Mt. Baker visible from the summit of Mt. Dickerman on a late summer day in 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Hornets pester hikers on popular Mountain Loop trails

“You cannot out run the stings,” one hiker wrote in a trip report. The Forest Service has posted alerts at two trailheads.

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

Most Read