by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--Longtime resident and local icon Gene Mack personally put the finishing touches on the city's reconstruction of the intersection at the corner of Woodinville-Duvall Road and 168th Avenue NE, sinking his hands into the new cement sidewalk as a personal signature and seal of approval.
When asked what the handprints will tell later generations, he replied, "Just that I was here, I guess."
The 80-year-old Mack started the corner store with his wife, Marie, 48 years ago, putting a gas station, grocery, and hardware store in the middle of a 9-mile stretch of nothing between Woodinville and Duvall. The store, which now houses an antique store and an espresso stand, sits on six acres north of Woodinville-Duvall Road. After 35 years as a neighborhood business under King County, the store is grandfathered in by the city, though the surrounding uses are residential.
The facelift of the intersection allows safer access and a much-needed left-turn lane eastbound on Woodinville-Duvall Road, as well as a signal for Mack Elementary, a Bellevue Christian school built on 10 acres south of the intersection.
"We've been waiting 20 years for this intersection," said Mack. "They've done a real nice job."
New pizza place also opens
But the intersection isn't the only change at Mack's Corner. A gourmet pizza takeout and delivery establishment called "Safari's Pizza at Mack's Corner" opened its doors over the weekend. The west half of the building, which used to house the hunting and fishing equipment of the hardware and grocery store, now contains a kitchen with large ovens for baking pizzas and prepared food.
Joe Haynowski, the chef in the operation, has lived in the area for five years and has a daughter at Leota, a son at East Ridge, a 5-year-old daughter, and an 8-month-old son. He is excited about the opportunity to do business in his community.
"We've got a lot of community support," said Haynowski, who has owned and operated a pizza store in the area before. "It will be gourmet pizza for gourmet people."
The restaurant will also feature a menu of traditional pizzas, pasta, bread sticks, salads, and drive-up pizza by the slice during lunch via the espresso stand.
Having participated in school fundraisers before, Haynowski is also overflowing with fundraising ideas and partnerships with sports teams and clubs, and encourages area students and parents to stop by once the restaurant gets rolling.
Don Hartleben, the owner of Safari's, has spent the past few weeks putting the finishing touches on the restaurant and is looking forward to opening the doors.
Mack, who lives in the cottage up behind the store, has insisted on being the first customer at Safari's, and plans on buying the first pizza that comes out of the oven.