Fresh Chapters

Marcus Lalario and Ben Kirschner Will Take Over the London Plane Space

The project in Pioneer Square doesn't yet have a confirmed name. But it does have sneakers, streetwear, and pasta by Jason Stratton.

By Allecia Vermillion March 14, 2023

The former London Plane is in charismatic new hands. One of Seattle’s coolest spaces, and an anchor of its oldest neighborhood, has sat dark for the past few months. Now multi-hyphenate entrepreneur Marcus Lalario and footwear designer Ben Kirschner—who blazed an influential trail at Nike—will remake the space.

The name for this project isn’t yet finalized, but it will essentially combine a flagship sneaker store with a quick-service Italian cafe powered by Mezzanotte, Lalario’s Italian restaurant in Georgetown. Which is to say, Mezzanotte chef Jason Stratton will be the guy behind the menu of pasta and focaccia sandwiches.

This is Lalario’s biggest project to date, and the first time he’s united the food and retail sides of his professional life in any permanent capacity. The notion began, he says, “with my love of sneakers and pasta.”

The duo spent the past few years looking at spaces, kicking the idea around, but things shifted into “fast, fast forward” once London Plane’s owners announced they were closing. “We knew Seattle needed a new cultural hub—for sneakers, at least," says Lalario.

These guys make a lot of sense as collaborators. Lalario is a busy restaurateur (Lil Woody’s, Mezzanotte, Ciudad, Fat’s Chicken and Waffles) but also a force in streetwear retail, with the likes of Alive and Well and Can’t Blame the Youth. He's also a prolific collaborator, be it retail pop-ups or Lil Woody's cavalcade of specialty burgers.

Kirschner is a Bellevue and Seattle native who parlayed a sneakerhead youth into a career designing footwear at Nike. He spent more than a decade with the Portland-based shoe giant, commanding attention with styles like Special Field Air Force 1 and Air Jordan Future. The two met when Kirschner was still a student at the University of Washington, working at a sneaker store next door to Sal’s Barbershop, a former Lalario business on Capitol Hill.

But for this joint effort they eyed Pioneer Square and Chinatown–International District. “It’s always been one of the coolest parts of Seattle,” says Lalario of Pioneer Square. “It feels kind of underserved for my community and my people. We want to try to re-energize, and bring some youth and some excitement down there.” Tom Kundig—as in the influential architect himself, not just his firm—will help re-imagine the space from its current classical white-walled grace into something more streetwear-appropriate.

Lalario vows the restaurant is as important as the sneakers: “Some stores have little cafes attached. We’re going all the way.” In addition to quick-service pasta and focaccia sandwiches (“real Italian ones, not paninis and shit”), the space will have a full coffee program, not to mention a full bar.

The restaurant space will have “a ton of seating,” says Lalario. “We want people to be able to come and hang out, take meetings, have coffee. We want people to chill.”

This new iteration of 300 Occidental Avenue South is slated to open this summer (of course, these timelines remain fluid right up to opening day). Lalario and Kirschner also took over the art gallery next door; it will become a place to show work by artists they think merit more attention. Lalario also says a few notable Seattle athletes might become involved in the overall project, though like the establishment's name, it’s too early to divulge specifics.

When doors finally open, the space will likely look markedly different from the London Plane days. But the mission of this bi-level, brick-wall landmark sounds almost like a continuation of the cafe, flower shop, and bakery that presided here for a decade: Food in the company of local craftsmanship, plus the desire to uphold, and uplift, Pioneer Square. Two noble goals that only get better with pasta.

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