After one meeting with the Columbia City Business Association, Joe Fugere knew this was the place for him.
Fugere grew up on Beacon Hill and has deep ties to South Seattle. He had more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, and he was looking for the right spot to open a pizza place. Some people told him to stay away from Columbia City, which was still struggling with a bad reputation, but Fugere saw the tide turning. Residents and business owners were pulling together to turn things around, and he wanted to be a part of that.
On Jan. 2, 2004, Fugere opened Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, and the line of customers soon stretched down the block, he said.
“There was always a really big soul here,” Fugere said. “It just had to be nurtured.”
His success in Columbia City nurtured Fugere, who is preparing to open his fifth location: at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue.
The business community gets a lot of credit for the neighborhood's resurgence. The efforts go back to 1978, when Columbia City became a landmark historic district. Today the Columbia City Business Association has more than 110 dues-paying members, and more than half of them show up at most meetings.