Somewhere past the semitrucks parked on the crest of I-90, before the Summit Pancake House's retro diner menu, and near the Chevron that hawks both gas and homemade tamales, a gourmet grocer has emerged at Snoqualmie Pass. The weird thing? The vegan coconut curry and artfully bundled radishes are a perfect fit for Interstate Exit 52.
Laconia Market lives in a giant wooden structure on the west end of Snoqualmie Pass, the state's main east-west gateway. The big windows that front the newly renovated building make sense; the 100-year-old structure was originally the local fire station. After a full rehab headed up by Evo founder Bryce Phillips, his outdoor store took over one half of the ground floor for high-end ski rentals and sports retail. A U.S. Forest Service visitor center camps out in one section, and work spaces spread across the second floor.
Laconia fills in the rest. Kirsten Van Swearingen and her husband, Garret, had worked at Loge Camps, a series of funky, outdoorsy hotels, before moving to the mountains—and her family roots reach far back into the history of Snoqualmie ski hills. But the Van Swearingens had lived at the pass long enough to miss a real grocery store. (That gas station has plenty of snacks, but no fresh kale.)
Partnering with Katie Marconi, a veteran of Macrina Bakery, they built a place that sells both raw veggies and ready-to-eat fish broth from Leavenworth's Yodelin Broth. The eggs come from a farm in Thorp, just east down the interstate, and the granola hails from North Bend. Marconi bakes rich desserts and other treats. Open 7am to 7pm daily, Laconia catches both morning coffee drinkers and early dinner shoppers; the name is from the old train station that served the area back in the logging days.
Old-timers can recall when Snoqualmie Pass was made up of a few A-frame cabins and little independent ski hills called Ski Acres and Milwaukee Ski Bowl. Today the ski resorts are a collective known as Summit West, Summit Central, and Summit East, plus Alpental (owners jokingly claim thay'll rename the latter "Summit North", but one vintage name remains). Condos have flourished. Dru Bru brewery has become an après-ski staple, with Commonwealth restaurant down the block and the free Washington Ski and Snowboard Museum in between.
Laconia certainly fills the empty space between pancakes and porters, though the quality is still hit or miss. Ready-made sandwiches are an easy post-ski snack, but while the brie on a Snoqualmonix baguette aptly recalls the Alps town of Chamonix it's named for, the Dolomite Italian overwhelms with enough tapenade to drown out its meats and Mama Lil's peppers. The shelves are stocked with indie brands and healthy sodas—Cheetos and Diet Coke belong down at the Chevron.
Part-time residents still outnumber full-timers at Snoqualmie Pass, but the rise of remote work has kept second homers up at the Pass more and more. When the snow melts, Pacific Crest Trail hikers begin to trickle through the region, and a newly constructed mountain bike park could keep the lifts spinning even through summer. As a growing settlement halfway between North Bend and Cle Elum, Snoqualmie Pass isn't quite a booming town unto itself yet; with Laconia, it's getting closer.
Travel time from Seattle: 55 minutes