WITH HIS TUGBOAT-CAPTAIN BEARD and Mr. Peanut top hat, Michael Yaeger has the right look for a market mayor, an honorary title bestowed upon him by then state governor (but, like, real governor) Mike Lowry. Yaeger lives in Poulsbo, but ferries across the Sound daily to keep an eye on his beloved Market and hang out with his daughter Mercedes, a Pike Place lifer who took over Market Ghost Tours, the Post Alley–based business that leads guests through Market haunts.
Yaeger remembers walking among the stalls as a 10-year-old, when his French-immigrant grandparents brought him on a grocery-shopping trip. “We touched everything, like you do in France,” recalls Yaeger. “And I remember my grandma talking to the vendors in her broken French-English.” He fell instantly for the piled-high charm of Pike Place, and when he and his wife, a watercolorist, moved to Seattle in 1979, they opened Studio Solstone in the atrium to showcase her art. In the 1980s, Yaeger worked closely with Peter Steinbrueck in the famous fight against New York Investment company Urban Group. When Urban Group finally accepted a buyout and gave up rights to Market property, Yaeger remembers, Steinbrueck celebrated with a massive wingding at Il Bistro restaurant. “All I remember is getting honestly sloshed,” he said.
You can spot Yaeger at his favorite places around Pike Place Market, including Crepe de France and the nook of booths behind the bar at Lowell’s. “That’s where artist Mark Tobey did his sketches that were used to raise money when Pike Place was struggling,” explained the mayor. “You can look down on the whole Market.”