The 425 has a slew of iconic businesses and people that make us proud to call the Eastside home. Of course, the list includes Bill and his gaggle of friends over at Microsoft, but did you know that Pictionary creator Rob Angel calls the 425 his home, too? We rounded up some of the most famous and globally known icons on our side of Lake Washington (and some local icons, as well) to remind you of some of the great companies and people we get to rub shoulders with.
Why: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s … not Superman; it really is a plane. Odds are it’s a Boeing plane, too. The world’s largest aerospace company, valued at more than $95 billion, may have partially flown the coop to Chicago in 2001, but Boeing will forever have its roots in Washington. (Raise your hand if your senior prom was at the Museum of Flight!)
Why: George Washington was a gem of a president, but we can all agree that it’s about time to change our state flag from his mean-mugging face to the Microsoft logo. On the surface it may look like Microsoft excels only at computers, but Bill Gates and his team opened our eyes and gave us windows to the soul. For them, we’ve opened our pocketbooks — Microsoft’s fiscal 2015 revenue was $93.6 billion.
Bill and Melinda Gates
Why: You can’t mention Microsoft without Bill, and you can’t have Bill without Melinda. The dynamic duo are trying to save the world (yo, Marvel, we’d actually want to see that superhero movie) with their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The nonprofit was created in 1997 and since has distributed $33.5 billion in grants to help people worldwide. The foundation focuses on improved access to health care and the opportunity for every child to go to school. We’re glad the richest people in the world are this generous and kind.
Why: The folks behind Paccar just keep on trucking. The company is a leader in designing and manufacturing light-, medium-, and heavy-duty truck parts and reaches customers in 224 countries. Much of its success can be chalked up to producing the monster triple-threat of Kenworth, Peterbilt, and DAF trucks from its Renton assembly plants.
Why: “You know it’s going to be good” when multiple people want to claim ownership of founding one the one most well-known grocery stores in the Northwest. That’s the interesting case with QFC. According to QFC, founder Jack Croco left Albertsons and his own grocery store in Bellevue in 1963 to launch the chain that has since expanded to 64 locations on the West Coast. But according to Brittany Barker, QFC actually was founded in 1955 by her grandfather, L.H. “Vern” Fortin, and his father-in-law, Lloyd Mitchell, and Croco initially was an employee of theirs. Regardless, QFC locations are open 24 hours, a nice perk when a craving for cold cuts strikes at 2 a.m. QFC has been acquired by Kroger, but the iconic yellow signs still stand like a beacon for locals seeking a classic supermarket they know and love.
Why: The life of an Eastsider is a busy one. Most days are spent finding new ways to avoid 405 traffic, watching Bellevue High School’s football team win another state championship, and scoring reservations at the latest John Howie restaurant. With such a full plate, who has the time to hassle over poor cellphone coverage? Good thing Eastsiders and millions of other Americans have been able to rely on 4G wireless communication giant T-Mobile. Last year, the company’s revenue grew by 13.1 percent.
Why: Overheard: “OMG, Emily, awesome flannel shirt. Where’d you get it?”
“Wow Uncle Jay, nice zip-away waterproof exploration khakis. Where’d you get them?”
“That quilted down coat looks like it can withstand whatever weather rolls in. Where’d you get it, Ben?”
Why: Remember digging into your pockets for a few coins only to lose at the claw-machine game at the front of the grocery store? Yeah, that game sucked. (We didn’t want that stuffed monkey anyway … ) Now, thanks to Outerwall, machines at the front of grocery stores are far better. Coinstar takes all those loose pennies and helps turn them into bigger denominations you can actually use, perhaps to rent movies from one of the 35,000 super-convenient RedBox kiosks, which Outerwall created as well.
Why: While other video game creators were busy slipping on banana peels, Bungie was busy taking the galaxy by storm with the first-person shooter Halo. According to Bungie, gamers logged a total of 235,182 years of play from 2000 to 2012. In that time, one traveling at the speed of light could’ve crossed the Milky Way and back.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Why: Hey! Which one of you finished off the bottle of 2013 Indian Wells chardonnay without sharing? That’s awfully rude considering 61-year-old Chateau Ste. Michelle has turned all Washingtonians into wine enthusiasts. (Boone’s Farm just can’t keep up with our refined palates.) Like the products it sells, the oldest winery in the state keeps getting better with age. But seriously, who drank the rest of the bottle? Fine, you’re forgiven, because nobody buys just one bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Why: As Microsoft’s CEO from 2000 to 2014, Steve Ballmer is credited with launching Microsoft’s .NET framework and helping usher Microsoft Office and Windows onto virtually every PC. After resigning as CEO, Ballmer balled out and bought the L.A. Clippers for a whopping $2 billion. Now he gets to yell, scream, and display his enthusiastic personality courtside at the basketball games and no one can tell him to stop sticking his tongue out.
Why: On a treasure map, “X” marks the spot, and Microsoft certainly struck gold with its game console, Xbox. Since the release of the original console, Microsoft has gone on to create two other treasures in the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, which have kept the loot rolling in for the company.
Why: The Northwest is spoiled by the excellent customer service at Nordstrom stores. When Swede John W. Nordstrom founded the retail juggernaut with a Yukon gold-digging pal, little did he know his $13,000 investment in a single shoe store would turn into 116 full-line stores, 167 Nordstrom Racks, and two Jeffrey boutiques in 38 states. Or maybe he had a hunch as he watched his grandson, Bruce, learn the ropes from the ground up. And the company might be headquartered in Seattle, but enough of the Nordstrom clan has settled on the Eastside to justify our claiming them.
Where: North Bend
Why: Thanks to David Lynch’s cult hit TV show, Twin Peaks, Twedes Café will go down in history for having “a damn fine cup o’ coffee” and, of course, a killer slice of cherry pie. The café, built by Roy Thompson and still owned by his family, has become a must-see for fans of the show, travelers and locals alike. If cherry pie isn’t your thing, the café also has burgers, big breakfasts, and every other diner delight one might crave.
Why: A worldwide company with offices in Europe, Asia, and Australia, Concur is headquartered in Bellevue and occupies one of the most recognizable buildings in downtown. In December 2014, SAP acquired the company for $8.3 billion. Concur has 4,600 employees and continues to grow, and it has become a top provider for travel and expense-management services and software.
Wizards of the Coast
Why: Where would millions of fantasy-game enthusiasts be without Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, or Pokémon cards? Certainly not in the huge gaming community that Wizards of the Coast has cultivated over 25 years. The popularity of these sci-fi and fantasy games has gone global, epitomized at the annual Gen Con tabletop game convention, property of Wizards CEO Peter Adkison. Hasbro acquired the company in 1999, but Wizards remains an iconic business that countless self-proclaimed geeks have to thank for countless hours of gaming fun.
Why: Wallace Properties buildings are scattered throughout the Eastside. Since 1977, when Wallace started his commercial real estate firm, he has served as chair on the Puget Sound Air Transportation Commission, Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue Downtown Association, and the Bellevue Rotary Club. Oh, and Wallace and his wife of 48 years, Joan, were instrumental in the creation of Overlake Hospital.
Why: In February 2014, Satya Nadella was named CEO of Microsoft, after having been with the company since 1992. Already in his short tenure as head honcho, Nadella — who definitely wants women to ask for a raise if they deserve one — has ushered in a new wave of cloud-based technology at Microsoft. The poetry and cricket lover born in Hyderabad, India, resides in Bellevue with his wife and three kids.
Why: Paul Allen is the poster child for the lofty notion of dropping out of school to pursue a dream. Since dropping out after his second year at Washington State University, Allen, who hails from Mercer Island, cofounded Microsoft; has donated millions to charity; founded real estate powerhouse Vulcan; purchased the Seahawks, Sounders, and Portland Trail Blazers; and has funded numerous scientific expeditions. Not bad for a dropout, huh?
Kemper Freeman Jr.
Why: Kemper is the Oprah of the Eastside. Both he and Oprah have empires designed around finding your favorite things (Oprah tells you what to get, and Kemper and his family provide the 1.3-million-square-foot Bellevue Collection to get them at). And look: We haven’t mentioned either of their last names, yet you know exactly whom we’re talking about. (Psst, Kemper — please let us know when you plan to go on your own “YOU GET A CAR! YOU GET A CAR! EVERYONE GETS A CAR!” spree. We’d like to be there.)
Why: Imagine a world where Arnold Schwarzenegger is puny. We’d all be goners, having been destroyed by evil robots. The moral is that some things (and people) are better in bulk. Costco agrees. The warehouse club headquartered in the Northwest since 1983 has more than 672 locations supplying red-blooded humans with all the pickles and paper towels one could need should an alien robot invasion occur. Costco had $112.6 billion in revenue in 2014. Obviously, humans have clearly declared, “I’ll be back!” after each visit.
Why: It’s little wonder why Columbia Winery has taken the competition to school. Six of the 10 founding friends of Columbia Winery were professors at the University of Washington. Its wine, sold nationally, is made with grapes grown on south-facing slopes. All together, Columbia is a large part of the $15 billion economic impact that the state’s wine industry produces.
Boehms Candies and Chocolates
Why: The founder of Boehm’s Candies and Chocolates, Julius Boehm, was one sweet dude. Before moving to the Northwest, he ran in the 400-meter relay during the 1924 Paris Olympic Games for his native Austrian team. Fleeing Hitler’s tyranny in 1940, he came to the U.S. and created the historic confection chalet that has since turned out 150 products made the European way, employing more than 1,000 Issaquah teens in the process. For all his donations and service to Issaquah, the city named Aug. 15, 1978, Julius Boehm day.
Why: Expedia started at Microsoft and then, in 1999, spun off to become a multibillion-dollar company, because that’s how we do it on the Eastside. One day you’re working for Mr. Gates, and the next you’re booking a flight on a solo adventure to become one of the biggest online travel companies, raking in $5.9 billion in revenue, and employing more than 18,000 people internationally.
Why: The McCaws are quite the entrepreneurial family. Craig founded McCaw Wireless in 1987, which he sold to AT&T in 1994 for $12.6 billion, and Clearwire Wireless, which merged with Sprint in 2008. With him during most of these deals were his brothers, Bruce, John, and Keith. It’s a quaint story of brothers working together, except instead of lemonade stands, Bruce’s side project was cofounding Horizon Air, and John had ownership stakes in the Vancouver Canucks and Grizzlies.
When: 1889 (founded)
Why: Whether it was a Gameboy, Gamecube, Wii, an N64, or even Pokémon cards, most of us have owned or played with a Nintendo gaming product. Though it is a Japanese company, Nintendo has become widely successful across the U.S., and its American operations have been headquartered in Redmond since 1982. Over the years, Nintendo’s games and characters have become popular classics, with Pokémon, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros. all remaining top game picks. With adorable characters like Luigi, Donkey Kong, and Pikachu, who could resist?
Triple XXX Root Beer Drive-In
When: 1895 (founded)
Why: During the 1920s, Triple XXX was a nationwide bottling company with more than 150 bottlers and 100 “thirst stations” for customers to sip on something sweet and bubbly. But, with the rise of the Pepsico and Coca-Cola soda empires, Triple XXX dwindled down to two stores. One is in Indiana; the other has belonged to Issaquah since 1968. Owner Jose Enciso has deviated slightly from Triple XXX’s roots — his shop uses Coca-Cola syrup to create nifty ’50s-style root beer floats. Triple XXX also hosts a multitude of car shows throughout the year to keep the classics rolling in and the poodle skirts twirling.
Why: Pictionary. Yup, the dude who created your favorite party game lives on the Eastside. He launched Pictionary in 1985 and hasn’t had to wait tables since. For a guy who created the game by spending countless hours flipping through a dictionary, he’s the life of the party. Angel has run with the bulls in Spain, climbed glaciers in South America, and been known to throw a mean Seafair party. Quick, now draw all those things in stick figures in 60 seconds without numbers or letters, and NO GESTURES!
Note: A version of the story appeared in the September 2015 issue. It has been edited to reflect the fuller history of QFC.